From A Chorus Line’s, “What I Did for Love” to Tosca’s,“Vissi D’arte,” I live for art, performers know why they perform.

Yet, to be a performing artist can be one of the world’s most emotionally, mentally and spiritually challenging professions.

Many actors, dancers, musicians and vocal artists speak about how psychologically edgy performing is. Placido Domingo believes that performing must involve danger. Two time Oscar-winner Sally Field says she takes a psychological razor to her insides every time she performs. The great Martha Graham maintained that that a life of performing was one of “Blessed unrest.”

How can it not be when five professional constants are:

  • Employment uncertainty
  • Geographic relocations
  • Situation relationships
  • Fluctuating time schedules
  • Financial insecurity

Any one of these circumstances can understandably cause even the most psychologically stable performer to experience anxiety, depression, spiritual ennui, become self-involved or resort to self-numbing behaviors.

With these five constants come the expectations that artists perform with full concentration – NO distractions – with exquisite mindfulness, complete emotional vulnerability, heightened self-expression and self-exposure and, all this while recreating the works of others, under the direction of others.

Is it any wonder that so many artists also feel out of control, invisible, creatively empty, unmotivated, uninspired, heartbroken…thinking about leaving the profession and wondering were has all my love gone?

To learn more about Stage Fright, click here.

To learn more about Performance Anxiety, click here.


Thirty years ago, Elma Linz Kanefield, LCSW, CPC, PLLC, developed a specialization in the psychology of the performing artist. As creator and Founding Director of The Counseling Services at The Juilliard School and in her private psychotherapy practice, Ms. Kanefield has worked exclusively with performers from all over the world and from all ages and stages of their careers.

Ms. Kanefield conceived of Performing Arts Therapy to help them overcome and surmount their often traumatic and troublesome histories that continually intruded into their personal and professional lives and intensified painful psychological states and self-defeating reactions to challenges and experiences that naturally surface and increase in their work.

With Performing Arts Therapy

artists gain insight and understanding about themselves and their worlds

to find the success they want in their personal lives and in the profession they love.


…their business is self-serving, addictive and unstable

…their public is fickle and relishes a good fall from grace

…the box office holds more import than the quality of their character

…their friends are their competition

… showmance may be as normal as family life

… your AGE and your BODY feel like your enemy

… “you’re only as good as your last performance”

…too loud, not enough, too old, already cast, and “NO” are their most frequently heard words

… and… the most beloved fable is The Myth of the Starving Artist