Students and Alumni

Students and Alumni of the EXA Program

Student Profiles

Students of the Expressive Arts Therapy program hail from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds. Some students have degrees in psychology and/or a background working in the mental health field. Others have professional training in the arts or come from business, organizational consulting, law, or social activism, and have no formal involvement with either psychology or the arts.

All students, however, share a deep intuition about the healing power of the arts, a dedication to helping others, and a sense that there is a spiritual dimension to life. Among our students and alumni:

George BraisGeorge Brais is a multi-disciplined artist who draws upon all modalities in his expression. He established and is currently facilitating a creative process he calls ‘Euphorah' that utilizes drama, music, imaginal language, movement, video, and visual art simultaneously within an inspiring collaborative group space that ultimately culminates in a live witnessed performance. Having experienced first hand the healing power of the arts, Brais decided to further his education in psychology and join the EXA program through which he envisions combining his passion of the arts and his natural shamanic healing abilities in the therapeutic space.


Aradhna SinghAradhna Singh is both a spiritual healer and an artist. Originally from Calcutta India, Aradhna holds a BA in studio Art & an MFA in Electronic Art from the University of Cincinnati. She also pursued undergraduate courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology (NYC) as well as graduate courses in Electronic Visualization at Mississippi State University. Although she has dabbled with a variety of mediums, her favorite forms of expression are painting, video installation & motion capture. Over a decade ago, she started a company called Hue ‘n' I and has been conducting a series of expressive arts & energy healing workshops for people of all ages in India.


Alumni Profiles

Kelly BaasKelly Baas (2009) has a background heavily rooted in theatre. She studied theatre performance as an undergrad and has been a member of a few theatre companies. After working for a few years with children on the autistic spectrum and with others in the disability community, Kelly saw first-hand how arts and advocacy could strengthen each other. She decided to search for a field of study that would utilize the arts for development, necessary change, and personal and creative growth.


Merideth Bowen ShamszadMerideth Bowen Shamszad MFT (2008), in addition to being a licensced marriage and family therapist is also a licensed physical therapist with a certificate in complementary medicine from the Institute for Health and Healing. She is an experienced clinician with many years in clinic, hospital and hospice settings. She has provided psychotherapy, expressive arts and guided imagery to a wide variety of patients and groups with chronic and acute medical and psychological conditions including cancer, trauma, depression, anxiety and end-of-life transition.


Peter Brown PhotoPeter A. Brown (2008) brings a variety of experience to the field of psychology.  He is a West Point grad (Class of 1996), former Army Captain, and combat veteran with extensive personnel, operations, and planning experience spanning a decade of uniformed service. He also completed an MBA in Europe where he published a consultancy piece on the development of world-class project management and internal marketing for a German-International conglomerate.


Linda Goldstein PhotoLinda Bencangey Goldstein MA, MFT, REAT (1995) is a Registered Expressive Arts Therapist with IEATA (International Expressive Arts Therapy Association) and has a psychotherapy private practice since 1997. She graduated with a Certificate in EXA in 1995 from CIIS. Linda previously was on the Board of IEATA and REACH (Reaching with Expressive Arts for Creativity and Healing) and currently is a member of IEATA. She also was President of the Creative Arts Student Association at San Francisco State University for 2 years.


Zoe EdmundsZoë Edmonds (2007) brings her experience as multidisciplinary artist, arts educator, and expressive arts therapist to help people tap into their creativity to use as a source for inspiration, growth and transformation. Having studied and performed in a variety of arts fields in her home town of NYC, including: acting & improvisation, filmmaking, writing, dance, and music, Zoë brings a diverse professional background in the arts to her work. As an educator, Zoë has taught creative writing, visual arts, filmmaking and acting to children and adults in the Bay Area and Baja.


Julia EllisJulia Ellis (2011) arrived at the EXA program after working in the non-profit education world for nearly ten years. She brought with her a love of all of the arts and a special passion for accessing the body through movement and voice. Julia served as trainee on the Sutter Hospice Bereavement team where she facilitated grief work using the expressive arts, provided music therapy to bed-bound Hospice patients, and co-facilitated EXA & Grief groups. Julia also has extensive experience volunteering abroad in India and Israel.


Maia HuangMaia Huang MFT, REAT (2004) has been a psychotherapist since 2003 and has worked in the helping professions for the past nineteen years as a counselor and community advocate. She is the founder of Healing Arts Psychotherapy and she specializes in working with individuals, couples, and groups from diverse backgrounds and lifestyles.  In addition to holistic psychotherapy, her interests in guided imagery and the arts sets the stage for a creative space of healing.


Elena Beth HullElena Beth Hull MA, LMFT, LCAT (2004) is a licensed Psychotherapist and Creative Arts Therapist who's personal and professional paths have led her to integrate creativity and healing. She offers individual in-depth psychotherapy, couples therapy, and expressive arts groups and retreats. She has also created and facilitated Heal the Healers retreats through The Joyful Heart Foundation and developed the Darkness to Light Conference for therapists, offering them an integrative model for working with adult survivors of sexual trauma.


Jacqueline GuatierJacqueline Gautier, MA, RCC (2006) is a Registered Clinical Counsellor in the province of British Columbia. She holds Certificates in Integrated Health & Healing and in Hospice Care from the California Pacific Medical Centre.  Her life journey has been eclectic. Early in her career she worked for ten years as a senior administrator in the fertilizer industry in Saskatchewan, BC. This work afforded her the opportunity to travel extensively, managing financial operations in thirteen developing countries. In 1990 she was the recipient of CIDA's Professional Development Scholarship and used the award to create a documentary film on Farm Women in Indonesia.


Brima JahBrima Jah (2010) immigrated to the United States from Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. The former dancer first discovered the expressive arts when, as a boy, he became fascinated with imaginative play. Brima has since become enchanted with sketching, voice, dance, and theatre. Brima has worked with children and families, queer teens and foster youth. As an EXA student at CIIS, he has harnessed the arts to facilitate growth and healing, both for himself and for others. He is now a marriage and family therapy trainee, providing both individual and group therapy services for the LGBTQQI community.


Nicki KoethnerNicki Koethner MA, MFT (2003) is a Multimedia Artist and Expressive Arts Therapist specializing in spirituality, creativity, sexuality, attachment, trauma, and parenting. She is a modern-day mystic who facilitates creative experiences such as mask-making for soul connection and cathartic storytelling through movement. She has led Expressive Arts workshops and performances in the US and internationally. She is one of the Executive Co-Chairs of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association, overall coordinator for the Northern California Dance Collective (NCDC), communications director and priestess at Terra's Temple, and is on the board of Body Tales.


Francisca LizanaFrancisca Lizana MFTI (2010) A Chilean/American graduate of EXA started her training in the therapeutic use of the arts at the Institute for Arts in Therapy and Education in London in 2001. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Chile and an MA in Design & Media Arts in England. She has worked in the addiction recovery field in London, San Francisco, and Santiago, Chile since 2003. In 2004 she began offering strength-based and culturally competent EXA approaches in Spanish and English to adults and children in a variety of community settings. In 2011 she was invited to work with refugee & migrants in Chile where she also set up her private practice.


Susan MercurSusan Mercur (2011) draws upon many years of arts experience. Having once been a professional violinist, she also works as an instructor at The Cedars of Marin, a program for developmentally disabled adults, where she shares her multifaceted arts disciplines with the clients. Susan looks forward to beginning her practicum in September with the Women's Therapy Center where she will focus on integrating their two-year intensive psychodynamic training with expressive arts interventions.


Ali Joy SideroffAli Joy Sideroff MA, MFT (2009) has worked in the field of social services for ten years. She received undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Gender Studies with an emphasis in social justice issues and her previous areas of experience include natural health, yoga, research, marketing, education, and program development in the areas of domestic violence, LGBTQQI communities and other underserved and marginalized populations.  Ali provides therapy to individual clients and couples of diverse ages and backgrounds in San Francisco through New Perspectives Center for Counseling.


Eric SubidoEric Subido MFTI (2010) has been working with children, youth and families for over ten years in San Francisco. He received his undergraduate degree in Child and Adolescent Development which created his passion for working with highly disadvantaged youth and school teachers. He has created an expressive arts program called Dance Your Art Out which provides movement-based social learning experiences for children and adults through art, play and the creative process.


Beja TinsleyBeja (Rebecca) Tinsley (2008) has a background in science, theatre, and activism and is passionate about radical mental health and developing strategies to counteract colonization and oppression. She worked for many years as a scenic artist and stage manager, did one to one work with transitional age autistic folks and taught art to at-risk middle school students before embarking on the path of self-discovery as an expressive arts therapist. Since graduation, Beja has been pursuing her passion as a visual artist and ecstatic dancer while working full-time in the community mental health field.


Karin von DalerKarin von Daler, MFT, REAT, (2002) is in full time private practice in Copenhagen as a psychologist, EXA therapist, and student supervisor. She is also the co-founder of the creative and body oriented psychotherapy center Nyt Anastasis. In addition she is core faculty at the Danish Art Therapy Institute where she teaches intermodal and depth oriented expressive arts. Karin plays in harp in an ensemble with harpist Helen Davies, performing mostly in Denmark. She is working on a new online gallery Evoarte for Expressive Artists worldwide, where she will also be showing her own visual art pieces.


Alexander WarnowAlexander Warnow (2010) has been busy starting sf:Springboard, a 3-month long workshop designed to help people finish their creative projects. While at CIIS he created "I Love You Because . . .", a collaborative photo project exploring love, and found the process - and product - transformative.  Additionally, he's gathering hours towards licensure by working at a small agency counseling adolescents with emotional and substance abuse problems.


Lisbeth WhiteLisbeth White, MA, LMFT (2007) is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and expressive arts therapist. A dancer since the age of 6, she received her BA with a dual-degree in Creative Writing and Sociology, which inspired her to integrate both sociocultural contexts and the creative process into her art and work with children in crisis shelters. Needless to say, she felt like she hit the jackpot when coming across the EXA program at CIIS!


Marlena ZahmMarlena E. Zahm (2011), Originally for Massachusetts, has twenty-five years of experience as a dancer.  She was part of the first graduating class of the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter High School. She moved to San Francisco in 2008 to pursue graduate work in mental health. Currently Marlena works as a dance educator and theater director ad Kids 'n' Dance. She has integrated her passion for dance and education in expressive arts to facilitate self-expression through the modalities of dance and theater.


Mena ZaminskyMena ZaminskyLMFT (1999) is an expressive arts therapist, a trained sensory motor psychotherapist with a focus on trauma, and a certified addictions treatment counselor (CATC). Mena served as the director of outpatient services at Walden House and also has a psychotherapy private practice.  She is adjunct faculty in the City College of San Francisco Drug and Alcohol Studies program, where she has taught a variety of classes, including Introduction to Drug and Alcohol Studies, Co-Occurring Disorders, Group Facilitation, and Motivational Counseling.