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Meet Dr. Lori Baudino

Dance therapist inspires patients with movement

Dr. Lori Baudino - Dance & Movement TherapistAs a clinical psychologist and dance/movement therapist, Lori Baudino helps patients at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA to turn their emotions into motion.

What is dance therapy?
Dance/movement therapy is an expressive psychotherapy that combines the theories of psychoanalysis and early child development to facilitate and foster positive psychological and emotional growth for an individual. This therapeutic approach incorporates movement expression into everyday action to provide a place for self-exploration, self-awareness and overall well-being. The wonderful thing about dance therapy is that you don't need to speak the same language because movement reveals so much without words.

What do you do as a dance therapist?
I conduct 15- to 30-minute sessions with children from 2 to 18 years old, all enduring long-term hospitalization, heightened pain or anxiety. I meet the children, join them in their current activity, whether they are lying down in their room or playing in the playroom. I typically start with a warm-up to get their bodies moving based on how they are feeling in that moment - jumping around or just deep breathing - it doesn't necessarily have to be dancing. I just try to make my interactions very non-intrusive and find that my play-based and fun approach really helps children open up and express themselves. Sometimes it's hard for children to express themselves verbally, to try to find the right words to communicate and articulate their feelings. By analyzing their most basic body movements, I can get a full range of their feelings and they can feel supported, as there is no wrong way of moving.

How did you get connected with Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA?
I have bachelor's degrees in psychology and dance, and a master's degree in creative art therapy, specializing in dance/movement therapy, and a doctorate in clinical psychology. I've always been a dancer and have always believed that our body language helps us express how we feel emotionally and psychologically. As the West Coast dance therapist for the Andrea Rizzo Foundation (Dréa's Dreams), which provides grants that exclusively fund dance therapy/expressive movement programming for children with cancer and special needs, I approached Amy Bullock, director of Child Life/Child Development Services, and talked about the program we wanted to provide to the pediatric patients at Mattel. Since November 2008, my time here has grown from one hour a month to six hours a month.

Is there a particularly memorable experience you've had?
Every time I come to UCLA, I leave with happy memories. I recently met with a 7-year-old patient who was in his room with his family, where no one was interacting. I started a movement exploration with him and we ended up in imaginary play, with the child taking us to his favorite store and to his house. Through movement, the child explored walking, flying and moving his body in ways he was unable to physically accomplish. He was able to explore and express his needs and wants to his family, and he discovered appropriate coping strategies and skills for maintaining his stay in the hospital. The child and his parents began to share stories and past memories and everyone laughed. The boy really livened up, and the nurse joined us and was amazed by how much he expressed himself in that short time. The family connected with each other, and through this experience, the boy was able to share with us his feelings of missing home. This was a way he could visit, while still being in the hospital.

What do you find most challenging about being a dance therapist?
People are unsure of what dance therapy is, and it's challenging teaching and educating them. It's usually easier to have people observe and participate in order to understand and support their child's individual challenges, finding ways to express their every need and want in a place of acceptance and understanding through movement.

What are your personal hobbies?
I love to travel, spend time with family and friends, hike and to dance for fun. I've been a therapist for more than seven years and have had the opportunity to travel around the world to work with children. I've lived and worked in Australia, Africa, Ecuador, Washington, D.C., New York and now California.