Shoshana Simons

Shoshana Simons

Program Chair and Professor
Expressive Art Therapy

Associate Professor
Transformative Inquiry

CIIS Main Building
6th Floor
1453 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Shoshana Simons PhD, RDT is Chair of CIIS's Expressive Arts Therapy Program. Shoshana has a rich background in integrating performance and expressive arts structures into multiple contexts of work with children and adults in educational, therapeutic and larger systems. She has a particular interest in the integration of the arts into spiritual practice and socio-emotional development. She is passionate about using the performance and expressive arts as catalysts for healing and social change. Over the last several years, Shoshana has focused on developing an expressive arts-centered approach to narrative therapy. In particular, she has co-developed an innovative narrative collective practice with EXA faculty member, Danielle Drake Burnette called "Laundry of Life" which they have been using locally and globally with groups and communities facing serious life issues and challenges.

Shoshana is a graduate of the Omega Transpersonal Drama Therapy Program, Boston, MA. In addition to professional therapy training, she has an MA in Sociology & Social Policy from London Metropolitan University, an MA in Human Development from The Fielding Institute, CA and a Ph.D. in Human and Organizational Systems from The Fielding Institute, CA. Shoshana has published in the areas of couples therapy, narrative approaches to leadership and systems change, sustainable leadership and the role of spirituality in children's social and emotional development. She has also presented extensively at conferences nationally and internationally on expressive arts-based approaches to creative and academic writing, queer studies and the role of expressive arts in social and organizational development. 

Shoshana, born and raised in London, UK, spent the first part of her career integrating creative arts into her work as a play leader, community worker and counselor, primarily with homeless women and children, refugees and survivors of domestic violence from all corners of the globe. She ran a successful psychotherapy practice in London for many years, specializing in working with individuals and couples in same-gender relationships. Her training in the UK included studies at The Tavistock Institute for Marital Studies and The Institute for Group Analysis. Shoshana was also a workshop leader for several years at the London Women's Therapy Centre, Group Work Trainer at the London Jewish Marriage Council and an independent trainer in anti-oppression work. In the mid 1980's she pioneered an innovative long-term anti-oppression program for social workers across differences in the London Borough of Camden called "Listening Across the Barricades."

Shoshana moved to the USA in 1990 to gain training in relational-cultural therapy at The Stone Center Counseling Service, Wellesley College, MA where she remained for an additional year as a Clinical Associate. She then moved to Vermont where she had a private psychotherapy practice for several years while teaching in Goddard College's MA Program in Counseling & Psychology. She also taught as an adjunct in the MSW Program at the University of Vermont and in Lesley University's MA Program in Counseling Psychology. Additionally, Shoshana taught Intercultural Helping Skills for eight years in Lesley University's MA in Intercultural Relations Program.

Shoshana returned to The Stone Center in 1999 to become the Training Director and then Director of Special Projects at the Open Circle Program, a nationally-recognized social and emotional learning program, where her work included promoting socioemotional learning skills in elementary school systems, integrating improvisational and expressive arts and mindfulness practices into programming and in running creative multicultural awareness programs for teachers and school leaders. She won a CAJE grant in 2004 to support innovative curriculum development linking Jewish ethical teachings with the Open Circle Curriculum.

In addition to her special interest and training in relational-cultural approaches to psychotherapy, Shoshana has a background in narrative and constructionist therapies and their application in work with individuals, couples, families, groups and organizations. She spent a year at the Family Institute of Cambridge in Massachusetts as Director of Organizational Development where she was also a member of the Narrative Therapy Study Group. The focus of her dissertation was the development of a narrative approach to leadership development and systemic change.

Shoshana's current interests include: narrative expressive arts therapy practices, the use of expressive arts modalities for promoting and maintaining mental health for therapists and human service workers, the role of expressive arts in leadership & social change, and arts-based research methods, especially Cooperative Inquiry methodology. Her personal arts practices include improvisational theater, sacred chanting, creative writing and poetry. She's currently learning to play the didgeridoo. She is particularly interested in creating opportunities for students in the Expressive Arts Therapy program to be of joyful, creative service to under-served populations in the San Francisco Bay Area.



May, 2004
Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA
Opening the Circle of Empathy - co-presentation with Pamela Seigle & Janice Yelland

July 2005
Family Institute of Cambridge, Watertown, MA
"Relationship Drama" - drama therapy-based workshop, co-led with actor Margie Zohn

Cambridge Women's Center, Cambridge, MA
White Women & Race Privilege
Workshop integrating expressive arts into exploration of white privilege and its effects

May 2007
Prescott College, Prescott, AZ
Diversity Awareness Training integrating expressive arts for all Prescott faculty co-led with Dr. Urusa Fahim

October 2007
Performing the World Conference, New York
Let the Body Listen, Let the Body Speak!
Workshop on embodied writing - co-led with Nika Quirk, MBA

February 2008
Goshen College, Goshen, IND
Roy Umble Memorial Lecture
Voice & Body in the Academy, Keynote performative lecture
Experimental, embodied academic presentation
Taught series of master classes in improvisational skills for theater, and communication depts. Co-presented with Nika Quirk, MBA

October 2008
Queer Bodies in Psychotherapy Conference, San Francisco, CA
When As-If Becomes As-is: Cultural, Cross-cultural and Lived Perspectives on the Queer Body (presentation/experiential)
Co-led with Dr. Matthew Bronson, MA Program in Social and Cultural Anthropology, CIIS

May 2008
Fourth International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, U. of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana
Cooperative Inquiry and the Politics of Evidence: Reports from an Online Learning Experience
Co-led with panel of PhD Transformative inquiry students

November 2008
National Association of Dramatherapy, San Francisco, CA
Transpersonal Dramatherapy with Children
Co-presented with colleagues from Omega Transpersonal Dramatherapy Program, Boston. MA

July 2009
International Expressive Arts Therapy Conference, Lesley University, Cambridge, MA
Move On! Using Expressive Arts to Transform Social Paralysis into Social Action
Co-led with Dr. Urusa Fahim, Transformative Inquiry Dept, CIIS

February 2010
Expanding the Circle: LGBTQII in Higher Education, San Francisco
Terms of EnQueerment: Expanding the Circle in Curriculum and Classroom Practice
Panel presentation With Dr. Matthew Bronson, CIIS and Dr. Terri Davis, JFK University

March 2010
Integral Consciousness Conference, CIIS, San Francisco, CA
Sexuality & Language
Presentation With Dr. Matthew Bronson, CIIS

October 2010
Performing the World, NYC, NY
Moving through fractured whole(s): re-membering the world together.
Performance and workshop co-led with CIIS faculty members Anne Bluethenthal, Denise Boston, Arisika Razak and Sonya Shah

Simons, S (1990) Couple therapy with lesbians in Couples Therapy Handbook, Ed. Dryden, W. UK: Open University Press

Simons, S (1997) Power, control and organizational silence: using team inquiry to engender multilogue (part 1, part 2) in Human Systems: Journal of Systemic Management and Consultation. (Vol 8, (3-4) pp. 289-310

Simons, S (1998) Searching for fritada in Sephardi and Mizrachi Women Write About Their Lives. Bridges(1) Vol 7

Simons, S & E. Abell (2000) How much can you bend before you break? an experience of using constructionist consulting as a tool for organizational learning in the corporate world European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology. 9(2). 159-175

Seigle, P, Sankowski, L & Simons, S (2003) How can we foster respect within school communities? Opening the circle in Perspectives. Massachusetts Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development: Boston, MA

Simons, S. (2008) Transforming paralysis into action using dramatherapy Dramascope Vol 29, No. 2

Simons, S The Heart of Hearing: A Story of Transformative Leadership & Sustainable Development in a Small New England City in ReVision: Special Issue on Transformative Leadership pp 63-69 Winter 2010 Vol30 (3 & 4)

Simons, S. Ripples across the pond: In honor of the Pink Practice 20 years on.

In Context October 2010 No. 11

Simons, S & R. Gafni (2013) Fine-Tuning the Listening Heart in Social, Emotional, and Spiritual Issues in Jewish Education ed. Kress, Jeffrey. NYC: URJ Press

Simons, S (2013) Temenos in the Tenderloin in The Heart and Soul of Psychotherapy: A Transpersonal Approach Through Theater Arts ed. Linden, Saphira. Bloomington, IN:Trafford Press


Forthcoming Publications

Simons, S & R. Gafni (Spring 2011) Fine tuning the listening heart: weaving together the teaching of Jewish ethics & socioemotional learning in Social, Emotional, and Spiritual Issues in Jewish Education ed. Kress, Jeffrey. NYC: URJ Press