‘I think it’s really important young people have support’

Psychologist Sjaña Holloway, coordinator of the Care & Advise team

‘Keep breathing!’ That is the basic tip psychologist Sjaña Holloway gives students to help alleviate stress and anxiety. Since September 2020 she has been working as coordinator of the Care & Advise team. She supports both staff and students in these stressful covid-19 times. Who is Sjaña and what help does she offer? ‘I hope even more students will find me.’

You are from the great city of New York. What brought you to the ‘village’ of Amsterdam?
‘I came to the Netherlands as an international student to study psychology. I still maintain a good group of friends from my university days and I made the Netherlands my second home. Since 2016, I am based in Amsterdam as a licensed GZ psychologist, coach and corporate trainer. New York is indeed amazing and whenever I can, I go back for a visit.’

What important lesson did you yourself learn as a student?
‘The lesson that still serves me today is the importance of understanding: who am I and where am I. When you know who you are and where you are, you can use your energy to make and take actions for your future. As a student, you have the golden opportunity to explore, discover and take note of your personal development. That is very important.’

What do you like about working with young artists?
‘I think we need several channels of communication in this world. Artist create the spaces and bridges we need to explore aspects of our emotions, spirit, intellect, and physicality. I love that! The intersectionality of all of our identities brings us together to create amazing new processes and we need to keep our lines of communication as open as possible. As educators, our language, teaching tools and information need to be refreshed more often than ever. In this there is a wonderful exchange and we are all learning together in a way. I think it’s so important that young people have support to push past what exists now.’

Since September you have a walk-in consultation hour as a student psychologist. Did students manage to find you during covid times?
‘Yes, some students found me because another student had a good experience, others were referred from their artistic directors, mentors or coaches. You can have a consultation with me for approximately 30 minutes and for up to four sessions. Most consults were about difficulties students experience related to study and educational demands. Also, I got questions about stress, covid-19 and basic existential issues. As the ATD isn’t a medical facility we are limited in the depth and scope of our consultations. If students feel they need it, I refer them to their general practitioner for referrals to get more help.’

What was surprising for you in talking to the students?
‘All the students I met were resilient people who were effected by a global pandemic. I consider it a sign of strength they reach out to me in these difficult times. I am grateful to play a supporting roll in their development process.’

Is there a basic tip you often give to students?
‘Keep breathing! Deep breathing is the easiest thing we can do to exchange carbon dioxide for fresh oxygen in the body. Slow exhalation does wonders for lowering your heart rate and stabilizing blood pressure. It’s a tool you can use anytime and anywhere to help alleviate stress and anxiety. Also, feeding the body good food and getting a good night’s rest will do wonders for your overall self-care routine!’

Can you give some other examples of what you’ve been working on at ATD?
‘A lot! We now offer mindfulness training to students at a greatly reduced rate. We’ve started a pilot with a student care coordinator at the NBA preparatory course, Hilda Kandil. We are working on an improved communication strategy together with students and the Expertise Centre for Inclusion and Diversity (ECHO). We’re also updating and putting into practice the Code of Conduct for Social Safety. Furthermore, we’ve installed a prayer and silence room for students and consultation room for coaches on the fourth floor. At this moment we are considering more programs on- and off-line to provide study tips and help boost student wellbeing as it pertains to student life in general.’

As coordinator of the Care & Advice team, you are also supporting staff. What does this role entail?
‘My goal is to develop a comprehensive care system for students. This also means I work with staff, artistic directors, teachers, coaches, mentors and student leaders to identify specific professionalization needs. To this end I create trainings to support them so they can more effectively support the students. I think it is important to support educators, so they can aim at prevention. By providing educators with tools, they can help in enlarging the capacity of their students to find solutions to study demands.’

What kind of questions can staff seek help or advice from you?
‘As an example, staff can seek help for things like better interactions between staff members and interactions with students. Thus far many of the questions have been about how to work on boundaries and supporting students especially during this time’.

Consultation hours for students at the Academy of Theatre and Dance

Do you want to consult with Sjaña?
Walk-in time for students are on Tuesdays 10:00 - 12:00, on the 8th floor, room 8.46.

More information about the Care & Advice Team?
Have a look on Myahk at: