Episode #40: Sophia Saad
Sophia Saad is a New York City-based licensed art therapist and special educator with over 10 years of experience in special education and emotional development. A true believer in addressing “the whole child,” Sophia actively researches and studies methods to help children confidently address social, emotional, and cognitive challenges. She started the art therapy program for the Early Childhood Division at Stephen Gaynor School, a private, special education school in Manhattan, while simultaneously working as a head teacher. Currently, she works part-time at Stephen Gaynor School as an art therapist and art specialist, while focusing on her private practice, Saad Art Therapy. Saad Art Therapy is an art therapy-based approach to emotional and cognitive growth dedicated to helping children and young adolescents find confidence, emotional, and mental clarity.
When Sophia Saad was younger, learning wasn’t especially fun for her. She loved being at school, but she felt left behind in some ways. She couldn’t read quickly, and she found it hard to articulate herself on paper. Years later, as a teacher and art therapist, Sophia had the chance to provide students with learning opportunities that she didn’t have. Working with special education students to help them develop emotional intelligence, conflict resolution and compromise skills, and beyond, Sophia found her calling in the classroom. On today’s episode, we talk about her experience as a teacher and her transition to a private art therapy practice, the role art plays in her own life, and why her practice is ultimately about process, and not a finished work of art.
Here are some of the things Sophia and I chatted about:
How her family members’ experiences sparked her initial interest in special education
Meeting her relative in Israel with Down syndrome, and the impact that moment had on her
Turning her desire to work with kids, specifically kids with special needs, into a career
The teaching philosophy at Stephen Gaynor School, and why it resonated so deeply with her
Her realization that she was using a lot of art therapy techniques and ideas in her classroom
Teaching therapeutic art at her school, and the different skills students learn in these classes
Giving students the chance to share what they liked about class, but also what they didn’t like
The various art techniques she uses, from painting to stop-motion art to creative movement
How working with clients in a private art therapy practice differs from teaching in a school
Her decision to leave teaching, despite her love for it, and focus on her own practice
Seeing clients grow their confidence, both when it comes to learning and managing emotions
The personal growth she herself experienced, thanks to therapists who helped her open up
Discovering that painting was therapeutic for her, and how she integrates it into her life today
How art therapy helps people, especially those who feel vulnerable talking about issues
Just like in talk therapy, why it’s important to find an art therapist who is a good fit for you
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