Flower Among Reeds, Okavango Delta (Photo by Shanee Stepakoff, 1986)

I have taught at the postgraduate, graduate, and undergraduate levels. From Sept 2020 to the present, I have taught in the Department of English at the University of Rhode Island, where I am pursuing a PhD in English. At URI I was a Teaching Assistant for Intro to Shakespeare and am the Instructor of Record for The Short Story. In April 2019 I was the recipient of the National Association for Poetry Therapy’s Outstanding Educator Award for leadership in advanced training programs and academic graduate studies in poetry therapy.

From 2015 to 2020, I was adjunct professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies, where I taught graduate courses in trauma treatment and poetry therapy, both within the Master’s program in expressive arts therapy. Since 2016, I have been a member of the Teaching Faculty at the Kint Institute Postgraduate Certificate Program in the Arts and Trauma Treatment, in New York City, where I teach courses and workshops in therapeutic writing and the use of poetry and literary arts in mental health care. (Click for information about Kint Institute.)

At the University of Maine at Farmington I taught psychopathology, psychology of dreams, and an interdisciplinary honors seminar in travel literature. From 2004-2007, I served on the doctoral committees of Lesley University’s first PhD candidates in poetry therapy.  From 2002 to 2007, I was adjunct senior instructor at Lesley University, where I taught Master’s students in expressive therapies, women’s studies, and interdisciplinary studies.  Courses included poetry, holistic approaches to pain and stress, professional ethics, group dynamics, advanced clinical skills, Jungian (“imaginal”) psychology, and expressive arts in holistic psychology.

I have given invited special guest lectures in several academic settings: The National Music Conservatory in Amman, Jordan (music therapy), The University of Jordan (for MA students in psychology, BA students in physical therapy, and law students at the School of Law), Al-Quds University in Jerusalem (Master’s program in community mental health), the University of Sierra Leone (certificate program in social work and psychological care), the University of Maryland (women’s studies), the New York branch of Pacifica Graduate Institute (Jungian psychology), and The City University of New York (human rights).

Most of my work as an educator, however, has not been in traditional academic settings.  Rather, I have designed and conducted trainings for a wide variety of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) internationally, as well as for a range of programs in the United States.  I am a professional member of the NTL (“National Training Laboratories”) Institute.  NTL is a highly selective organization of trainers, consultants, group facilitators, and OD (organization development) practitioners.  I began participating in NTL’s programs in 1990, and was elected to professional membership in 2002.  Thus, for over a quarter of a century I have studied and applied the theory and practice of experience-based learning.

(Click for more information about NTL.)

In 1986, I was selected for the Most Innovative Use of Organization Development Award, given by the Organization Development Institute.  I have been an author or co-author of several training-related publications in peer-reviewed journals.  These include:

Lippert, K., Ritvo, R., Banwell E., & Stepakoff, S. (2007).  Human relations training in post-war Sierra Leone: Implications for trainers and consultants. Organization Development Practitioner – Special Issue on Diversity and Multiculturalism, 39.

Stepakoff, S., & Bowleg, L. (1998). Sexual identity in sociocultural context: Clinical implications of multiple marginalization. In R. A. Javier & W. G. Herron (Eds.), Mental health, mental illness and personality development in a diverse society (pp. 618-653). Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.

Stepakoff, S. (1987). Using Organization Development with youth gangs. Organization Development Journal, 5, 70-75

Please visit the “Human Rights” page of this website to learn more about my presentations and publications on the training of human rights workers. 

Below is a partial list of trainings that I have designed and conducted as a solo practitioner or in partnership with professional colleagues.

South Africa

Coordinator of the Sigrid-Rausing Roundtable Dialogues, Bloemfontein, South Africa
(Dec. 2012-Jan. 2013).  Recruited by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, PhD, Senior Research Professor in Trauma, Memory, and Forgiveness at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein.

  • Recruited and trained a team of facilitators to conduct roundtable dialogues on ethnopolitical violence
  • Designed and coordinated a series of dialogues between trauma survivors and counselors seeking to learn about resilience and innovative therapeutic approaches
  • Evaluated the intervention and prepared a detailed program report

Strategic Utilization of Poetry and Popular Music for Personal and Community Empowerment.  For community and religious leaders affiliated with Wilgespruit Fellowship Centre (an ecumenical social justice organization near Johannesburg) Aug 1995


Amman, Jordan (photo by Shanee Stepakoff, 2009)

Working with Dreams and Nightmares in Counseling. Workshop for 15 counselors of the Amman and Irbid centers of the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) – Jordan.  Jan. 2010

Intensive Training in Counseling Skills, Trauma Treatment, and Group FacilitationFor 12 counselors of the Center for Victims of Torture (Amman).  1-wk intensive.  Conducted a second time, in modified form, for 5 new counselors, October 2009.  Also conducted internal staff trainings on a variety of additional topics subsequently, including: Models of Trauma Recovery, Advanced Group Facilitation Skills, Professional Ethics.  May 2009.

The Utilization of Poems, Proverbs, Stories, and Expressive Writing in Counseling with Iraqi Survivors of Torture and War.  For 35 staff of a variety of NGOs providing mental health care and psychosocial support for Iraqi refugees in Amman. July 2009


Counseling Vulnerable Witnesses in a War Crimes Tribunal.  For staff of the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO) Community Mental Health Program. Jan. 2006

Psychosocial Support for Witnesses and Victims in a War Crimes Tribunal.  Sponsored by the Open Society Justice Initiative, for civil society organizations preparing for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, Dec. 2005


Solutions for Common Challenges Faced by NGO Partners in Efforts to Refer Refugees for Resettlement in the United States. United States Refugee Resettlement Program NGO Conference, Overseas Processing Entity, Church World Service, May 2006 (invited presentation)

Shanee with Psychosocial Counselor Trainees, Gbarnga, Liberia 2005

The Role of NGO Partners in the Resettlement Referral Process, United States Refugee Resettlement Program NGO Conference, Overseas Processing Entity, Church World Service, Feb. 2006 (invited presentation)


Intensive Training in Individual Counseling, Torture Treatment, Gender-Based Violence, Expressive Therapies, & Group Facilitation.  For 8 new & 10 advanced counselors, Center for Victims of Torture (Monrovia & Gbarnga programs).  2 wks.  Aug. 2005


Working with Traumatized Students: Understanding the Effects of War on Learning and Classroom Participation, and Developing Strategies for More Effective Classroom Management.
For teachers in the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) refugee schools.  Two half-days.  March 2005.

Understanding and Working with Traumatized Patients in Health-Care Settings.
For clinical/medical staff of the American Refugee Committee’s (ARC) health posts in refugee camps. (1 day) March 2005

Supervision Skills.  For CVT Training Supervisors, 2 hrs per week, Jan-March 2005.

Working with Traumatized Children (specific topics included Childhood Trauma, Psychosocial Effects of War, Talking With Children and Teens About Difficult Topics, and Family Interventions (2 full days). For 30 Intermediate Animators of Enfants Réfugiés du Monde (ERM) (Refugee Children of the World) Jan. 2005

Group Facilitation Skills.  For CVT Counselors (full day) Dec. 2004

Psychosocial Counseling Trainees, Guinea, 2004

Grief and Loss in the Context of War.  For CVT Counselors (half-day) Dec. 2004

Introduction to Trauma Counseling.  For CVT Counselors (half-day) Dec. 2004

Empathy: The Foundation of Counseling.  For CVT Counselors (half-day) Dec. 2004

Resilience and Coping.  For CVT Counselors (half-day) Dec. 2004

Interventions with War-Traumatized Parents and Caretakers For CVT Counselors (half-day) Dec. 2004

Ethics/Secondary Trauma/Self-Care and Communication Skills, For CVT Counselors, Dec. 2004

The Emotional Impact of Torture and War.  For grassroots cultural workers. (2 days) Nov. 2004

The Use of Cultural Stories in Trauma Counseling.  For CVT Counselors.  (full day) Nov. 2004

Becoming a More Skillful Advocate.  For legal advocates from the American Refugee Committee’s (ARC) Legal Aid Clinic.  (2 days)  Nov. 2004

Designing and Conducting Community Sensitizations.  For CVT Counselors, Dec. 2004

Communication SkillsFor CVT Counselors.  Dec. 2004

Recognizing Errors in Thinking That Interfere with Effective Coping and Contribute to Stress and Depression.  (half-day)  For CVT administrative staff, Oct. 2004

Principles of Trauma Treatment.  For CVT Counselors.  (full-day)  Aug. 2004

Clinical Guidelines for Trauma Counseling Groups.  For CVT Counselors (full-day) Aug. 2004

The Use of Songs in Trauma Counseling.  For CVT Counselors.  (full day) June 2004

Grief and Loss in the Context of War.  For 60 religious and community leaders in the Albadaria-region refugee camps.  (Provided as one segment of a full-day, team-led workshop on The Role of Religious and Community Leaders in Healing Traumatized Communities.)  May 2004

Sierra Leone

Introduction to Expressive TherapiesFor 20 counselors from the Center for Victims of Torture, Kenema. 2 full days.  Jan. 2007

Creative Counseling and Counselor Supervision.  For 20 counseling supervisors from the Mending Hearts Program/Sierra Leone Council of Churches/Christian Health Alliance of Sierra Leone.  5 days.  Feb. 2007.

Effects of Psychological Trauma on Individuals, Families, and Communities.  Designed/taught class at the University of Sierra Leone, for students in IPAM Certificate Program in Social Work, Dec 2005

Theory & Practice of Trauma Treatment, Grief Counseling, Suicide Prevention, Working with Survivors of Gender-Based Violence, & Parent-Child Counseling.  For senior supervisory staff of Mending Hearts Program/Sierra Leone Council of Churches/Christian Health Alliance of Sierra Leone.  4 days.  Dec. 2005

Multiple trainings at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (attorneys, investigators, interpreters, counselors) 2005-2007 (as part of regular professional responsibilities as the psychologist for the Witness & Victims Section)

United States

Co-designed and co-facilitated a 2-day training intensive on Creative Arts Therapies with Traumatized Populations, New York City, June 2014

Co-designed and co-facilitated a 2-day training intensive on Creative Arts Therapies and Trauma Treatment, at the Third Annual Expressive Therapies Summit, New York City, Nov. 2012

Directed a Training Program in Poetry Therapy, Cambridge, Mass. National Association for Poetry Therapy (NAPT) approved program for candidates seeking to become Certified or Registered Poetry Therapists. Responsible for curriculum design, instruction, peer-group facilitation and clinical supervision. Sept. 2002-April 2004

Designed and Conducted Training Series on Using Poetry, Writing, & Expressive Arts (Music, Art, Drama, Dance) to Enhance Psychotherapy w/ Survivors of Terrorism, Trauma Center, Boston, Spring 2002.

Designed and Conducted Biweekly Staff Trainings on Child Development, Clayton Foundation Early HeadStart, Denver, Colorado, Sept. 1999-Sept. 2000.

Attending to Issues of Race, Class, Gender, and Culture in Poetry Therapy. Invited workshop for poetry therapy certificate candidates, Wordsworth Center Poetry Therapy, Intensive Seminar, Loveland, Colorado, March 1999

Poetry Therapy with Diverse Populations. Invited workshop for poetry therapy certificate candidates, Poetry Therapy Training Institute, Washington, DC. Full-day. August 1998

Poetry Therapy for Enhanced Appreciation of Gay and Lesbian Lives: A Workshop for People of All Sexual Orientations. 17th Annual Conference of the National Association for Poetry Therapy, Columbia, Maryland. May 1997. (Please visit my separate website, www.graphopoetic.com, to learn more about my work using poetry in LGBT awareness training.)

Poetry Therapy for Group Exploration of Feelings About HIV/AIDS. Workshop at the 10th Annual Clinical Conference of the Institute for Human Identity, New York. March 1996. (Please visit my separate website, www.graphopoetic.com, to learn more about my work using poetry in HIV/AIDS awareness training.)

Poetry Therapy for Raising Awareness of Racism. Workshop at the 15th Annual Conference of the National Association for Poetry Therapy, Baltimore, Maryland. May 1995. (Please visit my separate website, www.graphopoetic.com, to learn more about my work using poetry in anti-racism training.)

If you would like to discuss your visions and needs for experience-based training, please contact me by telephone or e-mail.

If you are specifically interested in my graphopoetic process trainings, which focus on the development of skills for using poetry and other imaginative literature, in combination with creative/expressive writing, to foster more supportive communities and organizations, and to build bridges across differences of race, ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation, social class, religion, and other dimensions of identity, please visit my separate website, www.graphopoetic.com.