The purpose of this project is to provide a collection of transcriptions from the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. This project seeks to give a platform to all parts of the vocal performing arts to better understand the lived experiences and mentality of those professionals. In collecting stories from the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Alexandra Stratyner, psychologist, joined me to discuss her work with the Freelance Performers and Mental Health group. Not only is this a fascinating topic in mental health, but a real look into how the pandemic is and will be a factor for performers.
Alexandra Stratyner, Ph.D.
Interviewed April 28, 2020 and May 1, 2020
TB: First off, I always like to start these interviews on a positive note. So, what’s the best thing that’s happened to you in the last week?
AS: The best thing that’s happened to me in the last week? Oh, this is actually an easy question for me to answer! On Friday, our Freelance Performers and Mental Health group that I started with my co-creator, Hannah Ludwig, held our first Zoom support group. It was a completely inspirational and moving experience, where we were able to gather a lot of people digitally to talk about what we’re all going through right now—and to normalize those experiences, to find some connection—and to share resources and support. I was so honored to be able to be a part of that and to be able to facilitate it. It was truly phenomenal, really uplifting, and an empowering experience.
TB: Which is one of the reasons why you and I connected as well. I’d really like it if you could tell me a little bit about your background and about where you are in your career right now, please?
AS: Professionally, I’m a psychologist. I typically practice in Manhattan and in private practice. I’m also on the adjunct faculty at NYU [New York University]. I work with many different individuals. I certainly work with a lot of people who are in the performing arts or are performers in various ways, but also with individuals who do not identify in that way. I work with a lot of people who have what we refer to as substance use and co-occuring disorders, which is to say that they have some level of substance misuse that’s often a way of self-medicating. I also work with many individuals who have anxiety and depression, trauma experiences, and other kinds of mental health and social concerns. In psychology, you do clinical work from the beginning of your training, but I have officially been licensed since 2017. However, [I] worked for many years before that; nearly a decade at this point, in all different kinds of circumstances, with people across the lifespan, and people from many different backgrounds.
In terms of my non-professional background, I think a lot of people have curiosity about, “Why are you interested in helping performers at this time?” So, I’ll share a little bit about my performance background. For me, I have a musical theater background. Also, I haven’t in many years, but I played instruments, such as piano and clarinet. Back even further, my family has always had a connection to performance. My grandfather was a CPA or an accountant, who worked predominantly with entertainers and individuals in jazz. Some of our closest family friends were people who he worked with, and of course, when you work in this field, it becomes like a family. It’s work but it’s family. So some of the people who are like family to me and to my family are people like Dizzy Gillespie, who was actually my dad’s godfather. So for me, working with performers is part of my heritage and my culture. It’s something that feels deeply personal.
TB: Thank you for that. So, before we talk about the impact of mental health on the arts community, I’d like to acknowledge your story in dealing with the pandemic as well. Can you provide a bit of the recent history and describe where you were and how you first realized that this pandemic was going to have such an effect on your life?
AS: That’s such an interesting question. Part of the reason I’m so fascinated by that question is when we think about the psychology of memory, people often have photographic memories about where they were, for example, when you found out about the news of September 11. For others, the Kennedy Assassination, things like that. The pandemic being not an isolated event, I find myself not having the level of clarity that I do around something like September 11. So, where was I when I realized this?
I’m not sure that this is accurate, but one of the things that’s coming to mind for me is when announcements started coming out of New York that we were going to close restaurants and that we were going to have a ‘pause order’ [New York State On PAUSE], as I believe it is being called in New York. That gyms were going to close and that really any kind of establishment was going to be closed. I remember the weekend before when people saw it coming. They were still going out and I vividly remember that, but I’m not sure that that was really the moment. I had already started doing telemedicine with people by that point, so I don’t know. It’s a really interesting question.
I do remember there were a few days where—before I started doing telemedicine from home—I was coming into my office. There were a couple of days there where the building was otherwise shut down, so I was opening and closing the building. I was the only person in it, [though] doing telemedicine. I did it so that I had a space and could preserve what people are used to seeing.
TB: Eventually, you left New York City, right? Could you talk a little bit about why that was the right decision for you?
AS: Well, I think we left New York City for a very different reason than a lot of other people who I know have left. We left the city to stay elsewhere, in part because we have a small apartment in the city. And pragmatically, it was in the interest of my practice. To be able to see people in a confidential space, I needed somewhere where I could spread out more. My husband also teaches undergraduates at Columbia [University], and so he’s doing digital teaching. I’m doing both teaching and therapy, as well as various other services digitally. For us, it was really more of a space concern in many respects.
I will say, one of the things I’m very personally cognizant of (and have heard from people that I work with) being a psychologist in New York—as most of the people I work with are based here. There’s a mourning process that is going on around the idea that the DNA of the city may change. People who live in New York (I don’t think) live in New York because they get a great apartment. They live in New York because your home is the city. Your home is the little mom and pop restaurants that you frequent. Admittedly, that’s already been dwindling in New York, but it’s the culture that’s your home. Nobody moves to the city because they think that the rent is reasonable and they get a lot of space for it.
Also, there is a fear that even people who were there [in New York City], when we come back will it be what we remember? That goes especially for people in the arts because frankly, so many people who work in the arts in New York also have a side hustle or survival gig—often in the restaurant industry. It’s not displacing the fact that there’s a pandemic and an emergency, but a big thing that I’m seeing secondary to that is, “What’s my home going to be like when I come back? Will this be the place that I loved?” Broadway is closed. Who can remember the last time Broadway was closed? All of Broadway has been closed for over a month or two months now? It doesn’t bear resemblance to the reason that we all moved to this place.
TB: Let’s dive into this subject, because one of the biggest concerns for a lot of us in the field is mental health. We’re dealing with the entire world shifting, which leads to this feeling of uncertainty. So what kind of a role does that play for an individual as they’re going through this pandemic?
AS: I think this discussion of uncertainty is the single biggest factor that I hear, in so many ways; uncertainty about employment, uncertainty about health and the health of our family members, and uncertainty about ‘will life look the same’, as I was saying before. I think it’s having a profound impact. Uncertainty tends to cause different responses in people, but the biggest one is anxiety. And appropriate anxiety; when you fear that you don’t know whether you’ll ever have your career back or you don’t know whether your family’s going to make it through this, there’s so much uncertainty, fear, and anxiety that comes along with it. I think it’s profound. Right now, we’re dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, but I think that the pandemic that underlies this will be one of profound mental health disturbance related to the collective trauma that we’re all experiencing.
TB: Collective trauma is a really interesting way of putting it, because that implies a sense of community about this. One of the fears of going forward and one of the things that you’re combating is the isolation that this creates, is that correct?
AS: Absolutely. It’s interesting in certain ways. I think that the pandemic is, or has the possibility to bring people together. In the midst of a lot of uncertainty, if we’re fortunate, the things that matter come into clarity. But at the same time, we’re all extremely isolated. Whether we’re isolated with a partner, family members, or for many people—truly a lot of the people that I speak with—[we] are isolated entirely by ourselves. Isolation has a profound impact on mental health. For example, we think about some of the touchstones of depression, anxiety, or really any kind of mental illness or substance misuse, being in isolation absolutely exacerbates the manifestation and impact of these mental health concerns. In some instances isolation can be a catalyst for them, and can bring about depression, anxiety, and things like these.
TB: What are some things that we can look at now that may help us in the future? Within performance, but also within the larger industry of the vocal performing arts. Because I think that for a lot of people the uncertainty is making the situation difficult. So, what are some things that we can do now that may help us feel as though we’re more in control?
AS: Speaking specifically of performers, one of the things that I have been saying [from] very early on to people I’ve been reaching—through The Freelance Performers and Mental Health Resource Network that myself and my co-creator, Hannah [Ludwig] developed—is because of the financial anxiety, anxiety around career trajectory, and how this may halt things, there’s been a fear that there’s this need to be ‘on’. People [feel the] need to be creating and putting videos on YouTube, and need to be working on projects. A big way that I’ve been encouraging people to empower themselves is to allow themselves to make their own decisions around these things. Most of the projects that people are working on are not things that they will see income for, although that’s not true across the board. But in so many instances, people are doing these things, because they want to get themselves out there. I think there’s a desire to bring joy to people, which is what makes it more than just a career. It’s life sustaining to perform, create, and make art.
Essentially, what I’ve been saying is you have a right to have agency over the decisions you make here. Do not feel as though you have to be creating all the time. Don’t feel that this is coming out of a sense of obligation or fear-based creating. That’s one way I’ve been encouraging people to take back some power for themselves.
The other thing I would say is in cognitive therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy, we have this idea of cognitive restructuring or reframing. The idea behind that is that the way in which we choose to think about things can impact our experiences of those things, and in some respects, the way that we choose to think about things is a choice. I never want to force this on anybody, because everybody has a right to mourn and has a right to their feelings (and all those feelings are valid right now). But, one thing I would say is, we can look at the rubble and mourn or feel angry. We can feel angry for how the world is treating the arts right now and I think that’s very valid. However, we can also look at it and say, “Alright, if this has all been burnt down, perhaps we get to have some agency in deciding how it gets rebuilt.” Maybe we can create a form that better serves the artists. Maybe there’s a way that we come back from this and we create something that’s more meaningful; that’s more caring; that is more performer centered, as opposed to revenue centered.
TB: One of the things that we talked about before was grief. So, could you talk a little bit about what you’re seeing. From all sides of the industry, jobs are drying up, so ways that they can mourn for this situation?
AS: Sure, speaking more anthropologically for a moment, when we think about mourning and grief, we can think about that as an individual process. We can think about that psychologically, but a very big and important part of the way that we all experience bereavement is through cultural rituals. A big part of those rituals takes place within a collective or community-based experience. So, maybe one of the ways that we can grieve right now is by feeling connected and being honest about the sadness, the fear, and the grief that we’re experiencing. As a psychologist, one way I’ve sought to create spaces like that—both spaces that can be positive and uplifting, but also spaces that acknowledge the very real grief that people are experiencing—is through creating support groups, where performers can talk about their experiences. When we experience things together, we know that we don’t have to be alone in it. When we discover that grief is universal, in many ways it can be a profound and (even in the midst of sadness) very uplifting experience to find togetherness.
TB: What would you say are the hardest lessons that you’re seeing performers learn through this situation?
AS: Well, I’m not sure that this is something that performers are only learning now. But, I will say one of the things that I’ve observed and that I think a lot of performers are once again learning, is how disrespected the arts are in our country. We’ve certainly seen that with the lack of funding for music and arts programs in school systems. The fact is that these are viewed as extracurricular pursuits, as opposed to valuable skills that are meaningful and vital for our culture; that are the heartbeat of our culture.
I remember thinking to myself and talking with friends saying, “What’s honestly keeping people going right now? It’s the arts.” We are getting by on YouTube, listening to music, watching television and films, so that we can have collective cultural experiences that bring us some joy, and that also speaks to what we are experiencing. Yet, there’s a question about funding the arts and it’s treated as this silly thing. I found that so invalidating. And I saw some other people writing things about that. So, I was at least happy to see that some people spoke up. Unfortunately, I think that’s one of the things that performers are learning.
There are discussions—a lot of discussions—about post-traumatic stress, but there are also a lot of researchers who talk about post-traumatic growth. Maybe performers might be discovering—this would be different for different people—there’s an opportunity to discover your strength in the midst of challenge. I have certainly seen a lot of that among the performers that I’ve been interacting with in the freelance performers group. An ability to be of support to one another through difficult times, to provide resources to one another, to lift each other up as a way of finding our own strength, I think can be a really empowering, meaningful, and insight building experience. I hope what performers are learning from this is not simply that we live in a country where, I think, the arts are disrespected—hopefully that will change—but I also hope they’re learning about their own capabilities through this.
TB: Could you talk a little bit about the psychology behind the “arts as a collective experience’ during the pandemic?
AS: Sure, and I think we have to talk about the internet when we talk about the arts as a collective experience during the pandemic. Pre-internet, none of us would have been connecting in the way that we are in the midst of this pandemic. Certainly one of the things that I have observed is that there’s so much connection through the arts and through sharing things. Yesterday, I was watching the all-Zoom-based 90th birthday celebration for Stephen Sondheim, and it was absolutely beautiful. I’m a huge Sondheim fan. Everybody you can think of who’s ever been on Broadway was in this thing. It’s incredible. It brought me so much joy, and what did I do when I felt joy? I shared it with people. I reached out to all my friends, who love theater—and even to some of my patients, who love theater—and sent links. I said, “You should watch this. It brought me a lot of joy. I hope it will do the same for you.”
I’m a psychologist, I spend all my days having conversations with people. But there are times where people get—especially now, in the midst of all of these Zoom calls—almost to a nonverbal place, where it’s hard to talk about it anymore. Because we’re talking about the same thing over and over. Yet, we can share something. We don’t even have to really speak about it. And by sharing a link to a performance, for example, we can experience something together. That’s a really profound way of feeling connected.
There’s a lot of discussion about the role of the arts in creating a cathartic experience in psychology. This idea of emotional catharsis, this emotional unloading, where you watch a tragedy and you cry but through crying you actually experience an emotional release that feels good and feels healing. In being able to share these things digitally right now, we can experience that positive emotion and catharsis connection in a really profound way. Sometimes art taps into something that’s not quite verbal.
TB: One of the things that you’re alluding to, then, is the fact that not only should artists view themselves as valid and integral to humanity, but also very useful during a pandemic?
AS: Absolutely. Absolutely, I think artists are more than useful. Artists are essential, to use a word that is discussed a lot right now. Artists are essential. They are essential workers. As a culture, as a world, and as a country, we need artists. The arts have been really critical in how people are getting through this moment.
TB: Are there other trends that you would like to talk about in terms of the vocal performing arts?
AS: The flip side of a lot of the optimism that we’re talking about here is that there are a lot of people who are, again, feeling very anxious, fearful and demoralized. As a result of that, are falling into a depression and experiencing things, such as suicidal ideation, increase in substance misuse, or returning to substance abuse. I’ve been seeing a lot of discussion of that, and unfortunately, in some instances normalization of those behaviors.
That concerns me, because, if we talk about artists as being essential, and then we see artists feeling hopeless or scared, and perhaps taking actions that are life threatening, then it concerns me for the safety of all of these wonderful human beings. I want people to know that they don’t have to be alone, if they’re experiencing that. Mental health emergencies are just as important as other kinds of medical emergencies. They should not hesitate to reach out to various resources; whether it’s their own mental health professionals, calling 911, or the national suicide hotline. I would certainly encourage you in your project to share some resources so that people have some support.
TB: Yes, we will make sure those are here. [Links to resources can be found at the end of the interview]
[Interview continued May 1, 2020]
TB: So reflecting back on the pandemic experience and how we’re going to move forward, the question we left on was, how different was your life eight weeks ago?
AS: In certain ways, I think for psychologists life looks very different right now and in certain ways it looks very much the same, probably more similar than it does for other people. As a psychologist, I’ve done some telemedicine in the past. For example, sometimes if people are unable to make it into my office, I’ll meet with them over telemedicine. It was certainly more the exception rather than the rule.
One of the ways in which my life looks profoundly different now is, I’m used to seeing people in person. No one lies down on my couch, but they sit on my couch and we’re in an office. And I see people face to face. If you were to look at my appointment book, the hours that I keep look very much the same, but it’s all happening over telemedicine services, and that makes things quite different. Increasingly, we’re realizing for all people trying to provide services—or even just connect with people over video conferencing—it feels quite different.
Of course, the other way in which this is quite different is that I’m not speaking with people from my office. There was a point in which I was going into my office to do telemedicine, but because I work in Manhattan, that was no longer safe in terms of public transit. Then I started doing my sessions from a private space that I had created within the home that I’m staying in and so now people are seeing a lot more of my life than they’re used to seeing of their psychologist. One of the ways in which that’s true… I’ll just shift over a little bit. [A dog looks over Dr. Stratyner’s shoulder] This little fluffy co-therapist is not usually in my office. She has taken up residence on the back of my chair and is now a very big part of my sessions with people and they’ve gotten to know her. So, it’s actually a nice benefit.
TB: Oh that’s wonderful! As we’re video chatting versus being in a live setting, one of the things that you brought up was the idea of it feeling different. That’s something we should talk a little bit about, as I hear that a lot from performers. Because they look forward to having that live interaction with the audience. So could you talk a little bit more about what you’re feeling? Because I think that there’s a degree of empathy there.
AS: Absolutely. In many ways, the experiences of performers, psychologists, and other mental health professionals actually have a lot of similarities right now. Our work happens in person, although there’s television and film, but even there, the work of the actors on film happens based on a real in-person connection. The theory that’s coming out—there’s a little bit of research—is that these sort of endless interactions over various kinds of video conferencing services seem to leave people feeling, in some ways, more disconnected (even compared to telephone) and also more exhausted. It’s hard for me to separate whether that is the pandemic and people feeling exhausted because we’re spending way more time inside. We’re not going about our day to day. We’re scared. And all those things. Or if it’s actually and specifically the video conferencing. It’s a confound that you can’t really rule out.
One of the ways it does seem—at least preliminary research seems to suggest that video conferencing might be a little bit different—is that there’s probably a dissonance reaction that is had when you’re talking to somebody over a screen. Due to the way encryption software works—lagging internet connections, and the fact that you’re interacting with somebody in an interpersonal way—valuable nonverbal information that we get when we’re sitting in the presence of another person that illuminates that interpersonal interaction is lost and condensed. At least subjectively, it seems to leave people feeling very confused. We’re sort of tricking ourselves into believing that we’re connecting with people, but our bodies know that that connection doesn’t feel quite the same. There’s something about that that’s really disorienting.
TB: Even sharing the process of these interviews, I noticed that before, I would take notes and look down. That really caused the person to stop talking. So, that’s really interesting to hear that you have the same type of reaction and reasoning with video conferencing.
AS: That’s something I would want people to know: for whatever reason that you’re using these video conferencing services, if you’re feeling more exhausted or just having strange experiences around it, it’s absolutely not just you. It’s increasingly being reported by many, many people. I was thinking about it in the context of a theatrical perspective because of our discussion. It’s a weird way of thinking about the fourth wall.
I teach on Zoom right now and I’m a very conversational teacher teaching graduate students. It’s an engaging and dynamic class, even though it’s a lecture. But right now, because everybody’s learned that the polite way of using Zoom is to put yourself on mute, I don’t get any reaction. So, I’ll make a joke and then there’s no laughter, there’s nothing. If I’m looking at the right person on the screen when I make the joke, maybe I’ll see a response. But it’s like watching a silent film. So, it’s very strange.
I would imagine that that’s true for performers. To go back to the idea of the fourth wall, there’s no live audience, yet at the same time, there is a live audience. You can see them better than you probably could from a stage, if you’re a performer who worked on stage. It’s very interesting. I think people will be talking about the odd experiences of this for a long time to come.
I’ve heard from a lot of performers who don’t think it really preserves the experience of live performance and they think it takes some of the beauty out of it. So, for me as a mental health professional, I say, “Well, the benefits of people being able to access mental health services definitely outweighs the downside.” But for performers, I’m hearing a lot of people saying I’m happy to post live archival footage of myself doing a vocal performance, but doing something over screen with my shoddy, tinny sounding microphone from my laptop loses some of the beauty. It loses some of the beauty of the arts.
TB: There is a cost/benefit to the use of online social media as well. Would you want to talk about dependence on social media too?
AS: It’s so interesting to think about in the moment that we’re in, because there’s probably some benefit to that comfort with it for this moment in time. I know that this is a project talking to the vocal performing arts, and anybody who has worked in the theater or done live performance knows there’s a real difference in the way in which we connect when we’re in person. There’s not necessarily research behind this, but I think—as any of us who have an arts background knows—it is a different feeling for both the artists and the audience. The sort of emotional release that comes with watching a live performance feels different than it does when you are watching a television show. The cathartic process feels different.
I think one of the ways I see this manifesting in the pandemic, is increasingly all of our awareness that this doesn’t feel the same. Perhaps if there is a silver lining—I never want to force a silver lining—but maybe if there is one, what I’ve been reflecting on lately is we will all have a newfound appreciation for even the small interpersonal interactions that we used to take for granted. For those who work in office spaces, for example, [not taking for granted] the little moments catching up with coworkers, who maybe used to be frustrating for people. My hope is that perhaps a pandemic—as much as we need technology—also is a way of reminding us why we also need the things that in this technology-consumed age, we take for granted.
TB: In thinking about the students, undergraduate and masters, do you think that this is going to have an effect on the next generation of musicians? And, what do you think it will be?
AS: This is not my area of expertise, but as a social scientist, I would expect that there may be a push to provide more training on how to pandemic-proof your career in the arts; in fact, in psychology as well. Most psychology training programs don’t talk a lot about running a practice. I would hope there will be a lot more focus on—now knowing this new need exists, and could exist again in the future—how do we prepare ourselves to support people? Whether it is the patrons of the arts or our patients, how do we prepare ourselves for something like this? I think that could be one big effect and I feel a few different ways on that.
We have to be prepared, but of course, it could feel painful and sad to have to have those kinds of discussions. Also, I want to hope because I think there’s so much fear right now that nobody knows what the arts are going to look like… How do we even begin to build back from this? This feels horrible to say but, my hope is that perhaps if the arts have been burnt down and they’re unrecognizable that there’s an opportunity in that to build back up in a way that better serves the needs of the performance community. To reclaim and empower artists and performers, to create a culture of the arts in the US and abroad that embraces the arts more effectively.
TB: So, what would your advice to musicians be to best prepare themselves for when we do come out of this?
AS: There’s so many different kinds of advice that are needed in this moment. As a mental health professional, the first thing that I think of right off the bat as you say, “When we come out of this,” is that for everybody there’s going to be some shock that may come along with it. I think a lot of people want to minimize the trauma that we’re all experiencing right now. I see a lot of jokes about, “Your grandparents went off to war and all you have to do is sit on your couch.” But the reality is, there’s no way around it, sitting on your couch and turning on your phone (if you are like me) to a stream of stories about the rampant death occurring in the city that you call home… I’m sorry to be graphic here and feel free to cut this out—but yesterday I opened my phone and saw countless stories about a funeral home that was keeping bodies in a U-Haul truck. I have to experience this by myself. Having not been out in the world, that is traumatizing. There’s no way around the fact that watching and listening to stories of death from afar is traumatizing.
Now, does that mean that we’re all going to get diagnosed with PTSD [Post-traumatic Stress Disorder]? No, in fact, witnessing things from afar is not necessarily considered a criteria for trauma in the official DSM sense [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders], which is the manual by which we make diagnoses of mental health disorders. That came out of revisions made after 9/11, when a lot of people were saying that they thought they’d experienced PTSD from watching video footage. But they hadn’t been first responders, they’d seen things on the news. I wonder if that will change, honestly. I think we are all experiencing a collective trauma.
How do you recover from trauma, when you can go outside again? I think it’s a very complicated question, and I think the first thing I would say is please be gentle with yourself. It may be scary to leave. It may feel strange. It may feel anxiety-provoking. One of the things I always say to people about grief and trauma, “There is no wrong reaction. Any reaction is valid and understandable.” Just be understanding of yourself right now; whatever you experience, whatever you will experience, and whatever you experience when this is over, just approach it with some compassion. I think that’s very important.
For artists, specifically, a lot of what I said applies not only when it comes to broadly being a human being, but for artists, you may have strange, unusual, and scary reactions to returning to performance spaces. That may not be the case. You may feel such joy and gratitude to be able to return to those spaces. But you may have reactions that you don’t expect and can’t predict. What I want people to know is that all of those things are okay. Just allow yourself to be gentle with them and don’t hesitate to talk. Talk about it. Talk about it in your community of artists. Talk about it with a mental health professional. If you need to talk about it with people who aren’t artists, [consider] your loved ones, or your support system. Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it. Don’t hide. Whatever you’re feeling is valid. Make some space for it.
TB: That’s great advice. So closing up here, what is your video binge for the pandemic?
AS: I’ve worked through a lot. There’s been a lot of television watching in this household. I’m currently watching Veronica Mars. Fantastic, I love it. It’s been funny, I think I have now habituated to seeing people on TV do things that you can’t do right now, so that I no longer go, “No, don’t touch them.” I had that for a little while. [Laughter] I was just watching television, I would suddenly get filled with dread because I saw two people hug and I was like, “Wait, that happened three years ago.” Funny enough, I don’t know why this is a pandemic thing, but so many people I know have been watching Criminal Minds. I honestly want to do a study on it. I don’t know what to make of the fact that everybody has decided to watch Criminal Minds in quarantine, but I’m hearing a lot of that. Of course, I watched Tiger King.
TB: Well, thank you so much for your time and all of the wonderful advice that you have been able to give our community.
Dr. Stratyner’s recommendation for mental health resources:
New York State Office of Mental Health: Mental health resources during an emergency
Freelance Performers and Mental Health
Dr. Alexandra Stratyner
About Dr. Alexandra Stratyner
Dr. Alexandra Stratyner is a licensed counseling psychologist who provides individual, couples, family and group therapy and assessment services in Manhattan alongside her father, Dr. Harris Stratyner, at Stratyner & Associates, a private practice known for its compassionate and expert approach to care. Dr. Stratyner received her Ph.D. from Seton Hall University and completed her internship in clinical psychology at Mt. Sinai St. Luke’s and Mt. Sinai West Hospitals in New York. She has worked with individuals across the lifespan and in a diverse range of settings. She has also worked internationally in Trinidad and Tobago.
As a researcher, Dr. Stratyner has authored research on the role of clinicians’ personal experience in clinical decision-making, and previously worked at Weill Cornell Medical College’s Institute of Geriatric Psychiatry. More recently, Dr. Stratyner was published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice on complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
Dr. Stratyner has been a contributor to multiple national and local news programs, including WNBC’s News 4 NY and ABC’s Good Morning America, and has been an invited speaker at New York State Senate hearings.
Dr. Stratyner is an adjunct faculty member at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and a faculty member for Caron Treatment Center’s New York Pediatric Addiction Training Program, in which she provides pediatrics residents with training on substance use disorders and motivational interviewing. Dr. Stratyner is also an elected member of the New York State Psychological Association’s voting council.
Along with mezzo-soprano Hannah Ludwig, Dr. Stratyner is the co-founder of the Freelance Performers and Mental Health Resource Network, an organization that provides web-based mental health resources for those in the performing arts who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Dr. Stratyner now spends her days teaching and doing therapy, she also has personal experience in the performing arts. She is a trained pianist and clarinetist, and performed in theater and musical theater productions throughout her high school and college years. She continues to be an avid supporter of the arts, and provides therapy to many musicians, actors and other performers and individuals in the arts and entertainment industry in her practice. Dr. Stratyner’s family also has its ties to the entertainment industry; her grandfather was the CPA to many famous musicians, including jazz trumpeter and founding father of bebop Dizzy Gillespie and famed jazz saxophonist Stan Getz, among others.