There is a powerful connection between the mind and the body. 

Joining me this week is clinical psychologist and dance and movement therapist, Dr Lori Baudino. We’ll discuss how physicality can be a tool for connection, ways you can shift your perception of your child’s physical movement to make it feel less personal when they are aggressive, how movement offers a unique opportunity for expression that may not be able to be communicated in words, and what a typical dance and movement therapy session looks like.

Dr. Lori (00:00):

If we’re gonna be working on emotions and psychology everything is felt in the body and expressed through movement. All of our experiences happen again in our bodies and express through movement. So what better way to support individuals.

Dr. Sarah (00:17):

Do your child’s tantrums make you see red? When a child is melting down their brain and their body are dysregulated. And unfortunately for us, that dysregulation is contagious. But here’s the good news. Just like dysregulation is contagious, regulation, our calm nervous system, is contagious too. And sharing this calm a process called co-regulation is one of the most effective tools for helping a child move through a tantrum. But in order for co-regulation to work, we have to actually and authentically calm first. In my brand new workshop, Be the calm in your child’s storm, I’ll to teach you simple but powerful steps to change the way that your brain and your body interpret your child’s dysregulation and arm you with the tools you need to stay cool in the heat of the moment. Head to drsarahbren.com and click the workshops tab to register for this live 60 minute workshop and 30 minute Q&A session. I really hope to see you there.

Dr. Sarah (01:30):

There is a powerful connection between the mind and the body, and especially for children whose brains are still developing movement can be a very valuable vehicle for unlocking emotional experiences and addressing regulation and behavioral issues. Joining me today to discuss this is clinical psychologist and board certified dance and movement therapist, Dr. Lori Baudino. We’ll talk about what exactly dance and movement therapy is, and also how all parents can utilize movement to help them connect with their child.

Dr. Sarah (02:07):

Hi, I’m Dr. Sarah Bren, a clinical psychologist and mom of two. In this podcast, I’ve taken all of my clinical experience, current research on brain science and child psychology and the insights I’ve gained on my own parenting journey and distilled everything down to easy to understand and actionable parenting insights. So you can tune out the noise and tune into your own authentic parenting voice with confidence and calm. This is Securely Attached.

Dr. Sarah (02:40):

Hello. I’m so excited to have a really, really new and exciting type of guest on today. I’ve never had this particular type of therapist on the show. This is Dr. Lori Baudino. Thank you so much for coming on.

Dr. Lori (02:54):

Thanks for having me.

Dr. Sarah (02:56):

Yeah. So you are a dance and movement therapist. You’re a clinical psychologist, who also does dance and movement therapy. And I’m so interested in this because I think we have, there’s so many parallels to our work, but it’s very different. So can you, we’re gonna get all into dance and movement therapy, but can you tell us a little bit, like how you got into it.

Dr. Lori (03:17):

Absolutely, yes. So I am also a mom too. I always wanna throw that in. So I’m right here with everybody listening in learning as we go. So I was always interested in psychology and to me, learning and emotions were felt in the body. And so from a very young age, I was a dancer as well. I played sports. But as I say, those that know me, I tap danced my book reports. I played basketball to learn math. I always was expressing big, big feelings about everything and I wasn’t afraid to have feelings. I thought feelings were really important. And, you know, I had to figure that out as I went along. And so fortunately in my schooling, in my undergrad, I was fortunate to be in a dance program where you could learn dance theory and more about kinesiology and anatomy, and really understand this dynamic of like how movement in the body, how dance is therapeutic. And so I just kept, you know, sailing into that course of this makes sense to me that if we’re gonna be working on emotions and psychology every thing is felt in the body and expressed through movement. All of our experiences happen again in our bodies and express through movement. So what better way than to support individuals. And then I always had a passion for working with children. I’ve worked with a full range of populations from dual diagnosis to geriatric, to trauma and adolescence. And I always come back to children. But I do love collaborating with parents. I think that we’re all a team. I love being a part of that team. And so to me, it was just not just talking from the top down, which I’ve definitely over the years started to really love. I love neuroscience. I, I love learning more about it, but I always had this bottom up understanding of like, Hey, this body and what’s held in our body is so important. So it’s been really fun to embody these experiences and help things feel even more integrated than just talking.

Dr. Sarah (05:13):

Yes, I fully agree. And it’s funny because like my background is in talk therapy, but I feel like most of my work lives in the body and it’s so different. Like, it’s, it’s so different than a traditional talk therapy approach where we’re just like, kind of living in our heads and you know, whether I’m working with parents or with kids, I think we get into this trap of over intellectualizing. And, and like moving into the body, moving into the nervous system, figuring out how to like, feel grounded and emotionally regulated. Like that’s like the task for most parents. And most like, especially when we’re talking about like parent child relationship stuff and like development, like kids, one of their hugest developmental tasks is to learn how to regulate their bodies. Absolutely. It’s a hard thing to learn.

Dr. Lori (06:06):

Yeah. And they live in their bodies. Right. Like everything they’re doing is so physical. And, you know, I could say this as a parent and as a professional, it’s like, how often do we know something, but we can’t embody it. Right. Like, we’re like, ah, I knew that, or it takes us the hundred and one time to realize like, oh, that’s what they were talking about. And you know, it does because our body has these beautiful ways of knowing the truth. But our mind also does this beautiful job of protecting us. So sometimes we build those walls up or, you know, we to kind of sift through what we’re thinking about and why we’re doing something, but our body is, just, I like to say, it’s not that quicker is better, but sometimes that integration makes things move faster. And that’s, that’s what happens in the work with, with the body. Is it just, you kind of see things clicking a little, a little nicer.

Dr. Sarah (06:55):

And I think it’s a very accessible modality especially with young kids. You know, I, I get a lot of parents who come to me with very young children who want them to come, you know, come to therapy and I’m, and I usually say, wonderful, I’ll start working with you and we’ll treat your child. Like we, the work is more the talk therapy that I do, I tend to do with parents. Um and often I refer out young, very young children, if there’s a very specific thing that we wanna help them do that I can’t do through parenting support. I either do family therapy or parent infant dyadic work, or I refer a lot to OT, occupational therapists. But I’m, I’m starting to rethink my options cuz now I’m like dance and movement therapy really actually could really solve for that as well. And, and I’m curious, like what, what are the types of patients that you see and work with?

Dr. Lori (07:52):

Yeah, so I, I do say I see zero, zero to 18. I do specialize with children. And by zero, I just mean, you know, infant, baby work with parents. That attachment work and understanding that you’re carrying this little one in, in your belly and in experiencing your connection through the body. But majority of the kids that come in are the four to six range, like they’re like kind of going into preschool, you’re starting to see their interactions with other kids. You’re starting to separate maybe for the first times. And you know, you might notice uniqueness of differences, regulation, like you mentioned, emotional regulation, physicality coming up. And then I also see that transition into third grade, you know, a lot of the eight, nine year olds and the 12 year olds. So you get a big social changes happening, bigger expectations with school happening. So some very common themes that I feel like most clinical psychologists. See. but what I, I tend to look at is really like what’s happening in the body, whether it’s an adolescent coming into this new body that’s ever forever changing or this little one, that’s like, whoa, I’m gonna use my body on my own, out in the world without my parents next to me, like there’s so much to do. And then I’ve gotta come home and then have more experiences with my parents and I have to transition. So I certainly do also believe and collaborate with parents because I definitely want to fade myself out that, that kind of, like I said, collaborator with the parents, but then really give them that observation tools, being able to understand and read their child. But by working with all these different age range, the commonality is that the body, like you mentioned, occupational therapy, understanding how the sensory system affects their, their interactions, how we have, we have certain tendencies of how we move. Some kids are like quick, like they’re like, you know, Tigger the tiger, Tigger from Winnie The Pooh and they’re bouncing around and going everywhere. And then other kids are more like the Eeyores. They’re like kind of like plumping around and other kids are like, you know, ready for the exploration. They’re like the little Pooh Bears. Right. So I, you know, heard this from, from OTs and it’s really nice to have that added lens. When we’re looking at these little kids.

Dr. Sarah (10:02):

That’s really interesting. Yeah. I never thought of like hyper and hypo arousal talked about through like Winnie the Pooh and I absolutely love that visual cause it’s totally spot on.

Dr. Lori (10:11):

I love it when I was told that I was like, absolutely. But you know, what’s so cool about the dance and therapy lenses, it’s a little challenging because you hear this word dance and everyone’s like, you’re gonna teach my kid to dance. And it really doesn’t have, I mean, there are dance therapists that teach dancing and they’re exploring through dance. And there’s so many gifts that dance gives us in terms of socializing and flexibility and coordination. But dance to me is a movement of communication. So right now you and I are dancing, right? We are, there’s a back and forth. There’s a flow there’s, who’s leading, who’s following. And certainly in a parent child relationship or in a child to teacher relationship and a child to child relationship, siblings it’s a dance and there has to be that regulation and that coordination that flow right. That synchronicity and that attunement. So that dance is something that we’re constantly doing and understanding just how to organize and co-regulate with one another.

Dr. Sarah (11:06):

That’s so interesting cuz I actually use the dance. I’ve never quite put it like this, cuz I’ve used the dance metaphor a lot. When I talk to parents about, for example, if like you let’s say your child does something that like feels a little provocative to you. Like let’s say they pull your hair or they like, they’re pushing a button. Right. And you have a really big reaction. Now all of a sudden, it’s not about the thing that they did, but now you’re in a dance with one another. Now your child is saying, Ooh, that got her hot. Like that shook her up a little bit. I wonder, wait, I made her do that. Like, I’m more powerful than her, my protector like, wait, hold on. Now what’s gonna happen if I do this. Right. And wait now. Oh, okay, well what’s gonna happen if I do this. So it’s almost like it like prompts this like call and response dance. That like is actually an anxiety response. Like it’s actually, like, I think a lot of people misread a child’s what they’ll often refer to as like attention seeking behavior or button pushing behavior or limit testing behavior. I actually think it’s safety checking behavior. It’s just a way to say, I’m just need to see who’s in charge here. I hope it’s you. I don’t wanna be more in charge than you.

Dr. Lori (12:29):

Absolutely. Yeah. I love that. I love that. And, and when you’re talking about that, I’m, I’m noticing about like, I often say it’s not personal, it’s physical. So rather than putting labels on it of like your child is aggressive when they’re pulling your hair, let’s say they’re just moving quick, direct and strong. Quick, direct, strong. Like they’re just like reaching forward. And so you can change that or embrace that. Right. We can either say awesome quick and direct and strong is a great skill when you are doing, you know, a certain sport let’s say, or when you really have to move away from something that’s like dangerous, but Quick’s direct and strong. Doesn’t always work when you’re like one foot away for one inch, you know, away from each other and mommy’s trying to work right. Or mommy’s cooking or daddy’s doing this. But if we, if we don’t take it personally as like you are aggressive and it’s just a quality of movement, we can again increase it. Or we can say, let’s switch it. Let’s be indirect. Meaning like, don’t go straight towards mommy’s hair. But like, Hey, how about if you look at my whole head of hair and what if we move that quickness? And instead we slow down and we use softness, you’re playing with mommy’s hair. You know, what does that look like? Right. So we have just, again, there’s just more, more lens of like options and we don’t take it personally. And when we don’t take personally that, that, like you said, that like call and response doesn’t happen because the child is safe to explore, but doesn’t feel threatened to explore.

Dr. Sarah (13:52):

Yeah. You’ve contained it and moved it to a different space. I love that. So what would like a dance therapy session or dance and movement therapy session look like?

Dr. Lori (14:04):

So it’s such a it’s, it’s one of those things that it has been misunderstood because it can look like so many different things. And I am aware that over the years, so many people want like that direct science, like you do this and this is what happens. But to me it actually makes it more valid and more accessible to everyone because the sessions are unique to that child in front of you. So some of the things that are like the through line in every session is that from the second the child is on screen, whether it’s a virtual session or they’re walking into the room, their body is being observed. They are being recognized and noticed. And nothing they’re doing is being judged as like, it needs to stop, but it actually instead needs to be joined. So whether we are joining them, like actually like moving like them, like physically getting embodied, we hear this a lot in therapy of like mirroring the child, but this can look like mirroring can look like I’m just kind of noticing my posture and how I’m moving. It also can look like just my narration could be my body narrating. So I could be saying what I’m seeing. And to me that is also part of movement. But I’m looking at the quality and I’m bringing them to awareness. Some of the things I, we can actually put it into an acronym of the word DANCE. So the D is for differentiate. So you’re gonna notice the movements you see, and you’re gonna separate them. So you’re kinda looking at them how they go separate, then you’re gonna link them together. Oh, I see. You’re walking over to the pillow and now you’ve thrown on the ground. You’ve kind of connected the movement. And now let’s say you’re joining it, you’re bringing it to the, that’s the D and the a. And then you’re narrating. You’re like bringing words to it. And that brings it to consciousness, which is the C. And then the E is for that engagement or empathy where we’re joining it and expanding on it. Right. So every session brings an observation. Every session that I do brings in communicating, like what I’m noticing they’re doing. Every session has some spontaneous factor, whether we are doing a, an actual board game or a game, or we’re putting on music and we’re moving around to see like where that’s child is. And it’s amazing. I can’t make this stuff up, when I am joining them in this movement that they’re choosing to do, whether they’re even just like flopping on the ground and we’re laying on the ground, or if we’re actually like we have like body socks that they get into that you might see in some OTs, but like you can stretch and move and feel resistance and have full control in whether we’re doing a trust game with a parent where we’re like holding one another and seeing who can hold the other. And there’s always just a way to experience. So like, if we’re talking about something I’m gonna then say, Hey, let’s see what that would look like if we moved it, what if we like stood up and we like showed, what did that look like when you’re talking about mom responding that way, what did she look like? What did, where did you feel that in your body? What did you notice? Right. So it’s a lot of that somatic understanding. And then oftentimes I’m bringing in that mindfulness practices, whether we’re doing some type of breathing or alignment work, really getting into the body exploring through the senses. I love, I call ’em sensory superpowers. So helping kids tap into how their sensory system is their superpower, like how many things we hear, what can we smell? What can we see? What can we touch? How do we feel sensation? So that’s a lot of the regulation. And then certainly, you know, the sessions come back into talking like, kind of overall, like a, you know, clinical psychology session of like, what just happened, what do we do? And giving them strategies to work on throughout their day. So, you know, and then each session’s unique, it depends on who’s in front of me. Yeah, it’s really nice. Cuz then you know, that the session is tailored to your child. It’s not like I’m just cookie cutter-ing you know what to do.

Dr. Sarah (17:50):

Right. Yeah. And I think the amount of attunement that you’re modeling and mirroring, right? Like you move, I move. Right. I see you. I notice you. I feel you. And then I kind of reflect back to you what I’m observing through my own movement. Like, that’s a very like, you know what’s the word like enacted version of what we try to do in parenting, right? Like, I know. Oh, whoa. You wanted to hit there. I see that you wanted to move your body really fast. I’m gonna, I’m gonna block your hand here. Not gonna let you hit. I think you’re angry right now. You know, like I’m noticing, I’m observing, I’m reflecting back to them. I’m intervening. I’m joining with them. I’m offering them alternative. Like, I don’t know. Like I think there is a dance to…

Dr. Lori (18:42):

There is. That’s why this all makes so much sense. Yes. And you know, another part that I have to share with that, cuz I don’t want it to be minimized to just mirroring. Because oftentimes I’m finding myself, especially I work with children that are twice exceptional or that have sensory differences and you might have some like, really big discrepancies between what they know and how they present. And that can feel really frustrating to parents cuz you’re like, how can you know this, but you’re not doing it? Right. but I always say it’s even more hard for the child to like know something and actually not be able to integrate it yet. So another, another part of the, the lens that, that we use is like really knowing that you can amplify something. So I tend to use the analogy of like the ocean. So like they’re riding the wave and they’re going up and down. And sometimes as we have to be as big as the whale to be like, Hey, I see you. And so we’re not, we’re not yelling and coming from a place of anger as a parent, but we’re actually amplifying ourselves to be like, I’m just as aroused as you are. So you can see the big whale or sometimes we have to minimize ourselves and make ourselves even smaller than the child, which is up not mirroring. And we have to be so small, like just like that little tiny shell. So they’re like, they’re in that wave. And they’re like, wait, I see something. And they’re like, oh, I found a starfish. Right? Like they found that like nugget. So just finding those balances of how to engage your child and regulate them. Isn’t always about staying calm. And I think what’s so great about the lens of dance movement therapy. Is it gives you that, that movement mobility of like going up really high or going down really low.

Dr. Sarah (20:20):

Yes. I mean, it makes me think of like marked mirroring, which is like this idea. If you’re not listening, you’re not familiar with this concept. It’s this idea like, so when we mirror something back to our child, we typically modulate it to some degree. We mark it. We don’t just, if our baby’s crying, to empathize with they’re crying, we don’t cry back at them. Or if our child’s screaming, we don’t scream back at them. Sometimes we do cuz we’re human. But like the idea is if we’re trying to co-regulate we don’t meet them exactly, we don’t just show them exactly what they’re showing us. We mark it in some way. We either make it really small and make it more digestible and present it back to them in a smaller space. Or maybe like you’re saying with the whale, maybe we get bigger, but not in a, our own dysregulation, but in a, Hey I really see you. This is big. You’re really upset right now. Like I think a lot of times parents get stuck when like, you know, they’re like hearing a lot of talk about like this co-regulation and, or like gentle parenting or responsive parenting. And they’re like, oh, we just have to sort of say these words really softly and kindly and it should work. And often I’m like, no, you gotta like, let your kid know you see them. So if your kid is really upset, you want your affect to kind of match that. I’m not saying that I want you to get as upset as your kid, but you might need to let them know. Wow. You are really upset. Yeah. I see that. So you get big, you use your face. You, you might even like, and sometimes they’re like, they’re a little surprised by how big we get and then they get still for a second.

Dr. Lori (21:57):

Right. You become animated. Right, right.

Dr. Sarah (21:59):

Right. Not scaring them though. It’s a difference. I think our kids get really still when we scare the crap out of them, cuz we lose it, which also happens. But I think there’s such a big difference between being the whale in your metaphor and losing it with your kids.

Dr. Lori (22:14):

Right. Right. Because it’s not like there’s a storm happening. You’re like intentionally…

Dr. Sarah (22:17):

Right. You’re not joining them as the way in the wave you are saying, I’m this whale, I’m gonna show you just how big I see this is.

Dr. Lori (22:24):

Yeah. Yeah. And then you know, there’s this parallel, there’s this parallel process that happens in the body and with movement in terms of how we show up in the world mirrors are kind of, again, that parallels our experiences of our emotions. So we all know what it feels like to feel stressed and you know, your shoulders rise or you have it in your body somewhere. We all have our ways. And what’s so great about it. Not being an exact science is like, yes, there are some commonalities. We tend to make similar postures as our friends or loved ones. But in general we have it unique to ourselves. Like there’s a certain way that I move my body when I’m talking about a certain topic, right. That whether it’s difficult or really joyful and children have these and we all have these qualities of how we move. And so when see a child moving, there’s this whole lens of looking at the qualities of how we move and kind of building that child’s profile of like how do they move in the world? And when there is a conflict, it usually is a conflict within the movement. Meaning if you have a child who’s really strong in their movements, but you have a parent that’s really passive. That’s not like a judgment. One’s good and one’s bad, but hey, there’s gonna be a challenge there. Or if you have two opposing like strong, you know, so, so really just seeing how we can, again, strip away the labels and look at like, Hey, this is just a dynamic of how you all are moving. One of my favorite things is like, just to make it more clear, like timing is a measurement of movement and that quickness or that sustainment moving really slow can be everything that defines whether you get out the door or not. And you can have these, you know, how many, how many parents have conflicts of like, I can’t even get my child out the door. Yes. And it feels really hard. And there are so many beautiful strategies, right? There’s so many things we can tell you and work on. And I, I do that as well, but we also can look at it as just like, they’re moving slow, you’re moving fast. How can we speed this up? What do we need to do? How do we like slow down to then speed up? Do we need music? Do we need, you know, do we need to practice rhythm? Do we need to see? So there’s just all these pieces that we can add to it. And of course we wanna know more about the dynamic and what’s going on and you know, are they avoiding something or is it really hard to transition or organize, but movement can be just another lens to really help understand it and take away that personal partner.

Dr. Sarah (24:41):

And a tool, a tool for parents, right? Like I’m picturing like, you know, if you are doing this inventory of your movement and your child’s movement and you’re saying, well, we’re really outta sync. Well, that’s actually something that you, as the parent can then have easy access to say, okay, I’m not, I don’t wanna go as slow as them because that’s not gonna work, but I don’t, this sort of rushed, hurried, anxious, pace that I’m moving at, it might be actually counter to what my goal is, which is to get outta the house. So how can I sync back up with my kid and allow them to get into that rhythm with me? And then like you said, move them faster through that connection.

Dr. Lori (25:21):

Yeah. And give us some time to learn, right. Cuz we’re not gonna go from being someone that is really sustained and kind of indulgent in their way of being. And then all of a sudden be really fast. That that would be hard. It’s gonna take some practice. And so then again, we can take away the judgment of like, you should know better. You should be able to move fast when maybe that’s just never been them. That’s who they are. And we might be able to, you know, accept it and think it’s beautiful, but we also can practice it. I love taking the, the, the challenge and the hardness out of parenting and children and making things don’t have to feel so hard. They can be really predictable. Like this is who you are. And it’s so beautiful. Like, I didn’t know I was gonna mention this, but in my intake I ask about their birth story and how they come into the world really is this parallel to who they are. And these qualities have always been there. It doesn’t mean we have to be again permissive and say, they always have to be like this and it’s only the child leading everything. But we can get a little bit more perspective of like, oh, this is my child. And I don’t have to be shocked every time they do this, I can feel like, oh, it’s predictable. And I feel like with predictability, the frustration goes away.

Dr. Sarah (26:29):

Yeah. And trust grows. Like you trust your child…

Dr. Lori (26:35):

Yeah, they’re predictable

Dr. Sarah (26:36):

To figure it out. Right. And also that, like, I think if we see it as like, why are you always doing this?

Dr. Lori (26:42):

Yes. All that. Why, why?

Dr. Sarah (26:44):

It’s not, you’re really not trusting your kid to do it the way that works for them. And if, instead you could say like, well, what are you showing me? What you’re doing? This, what are you communicating to me? I can trust that you’re actually doing something for a reason. Like, let’s try to figure out what that reason is. Yeah. so beautiful. Then you’re on same team looking together at the problem. Like versus it being like your child is the problem or you are the problem, like thinking like I’m doing it wrong. What’s wrong with me. Or what’s wrong with my child.

Dr. Lori (27:14):

Yeah, absolutely. And we, we all do that. Right. We all think like something has to be fixed, but yeah. So this is just another beautiful way to just take out. It’s not personal, it’s just physical. It’s just movement and yes. And we can keep, we can keep exploring, obviously there’s all these layers. And it’s fun. It’s fun to know our children and it’s fun. It’s really helpful to be embodied in this work and you feel it, you feel these experiences and it’s such, it’s such a beautiful way to, you know, remember like, have I connected to my child and not just through my words or my judgments, but like, have we, are we moving? Are we dancing together through these experiences?

Dr. Sarah (27:55):

Yeah. So do you work primarily with parents in the sessions?

Dr. Lori (28:00):

So it changes. I would say yes at some point in the session a parent is there. But I certainly do have kids where it’s just, you know, us for a while. But it’s really important to make that, that dance happen between the parent and child, because I’m not in their lives, you know, I’m not in their homes. And I do love supporting parents and child in the moment when actual experiences are. So I do sessions in the home or I, I encourage parents to call me when there is that quote, challenge moment or a really blessed moment where it’s like, everything’s working really well, you know, to like really embody it versus just like talking about it in theory of like, this happened last week. It’s like when it’s happening, noticing cuz as me as like kind of the fly on the wall and kind of one of the gifts about virtual is like, I can actually be on a screen and kind of watch what’s happening and saying to them, oh, what have you slowed down? Or, oh mom, can you be taller? Can you, like lower your body? Oh, what’s happening in your posturing. And, and just noticing like how much shifts when we like just kind of explore different movements together. And you know, I don’t wanna minimize the strategies too. So like the explanations of the nervous system and the brain and the, and the education around how we express our emotions and where these things are coming from. And even having a place to, to talk about what’s happened to us. Or what we’re fearful of is really important too. And then it’s just like embodying it. So I say like, it’s really, it, it’s easier to say, like, I know what assertive means. I know I’ve read about assertive. I can name people that are assertive, but until I walk up and say, excuse me, that’s my coffee, not yours. Like, we don’t know how to be assertive. So it’s really like, I gotta like practice it too.

Dr. Sarah (29:46):

Right. And it’s interesting, you bring up assertiveness. And it’s just funny, cuz I’m like literally dealing with this with my own daughter right now. But like, so I it’s fresh in my mind, but this idea that like, I think a lot of times as parents, we see aggression in children and we, we don’t go towards assertiveness as the solution. Cause we’re like, cuz I think people in our society have kind of like, we are a little confused between aggression and assertiveness in our world. And so I think they get lumped together and people kind of are like, we want to, the opposite of aggression is like, you know, peacefulness. Right. but I actually think an antidote to aggression is assertiveness, and like full disclosure. Like I have a two and a half year old she’s been hitting at school. Like it happens even for like people who do this work. And what I’ve been working on with my daughter lately has been saying, please stop that I don’t like it, or something. Like, you know, giving her words where she can assert. I want to use that. Can I have it when you’re done. Or no, I’m using that right now. You can have it when I’m done. Like giving her assertive statements that she can use earlier on in whatever is escalating into the hitting. Because the hitting is like, once you’re hitting, you’re like three stations past the stop you were supposed to get off at. Right. Like we have to go backwards. We can’t just address hitting in isolation, like punish the hitting. Like you actually kind of have to go, like, why was the hitting happening? What were they feeling to get that upset to hit? And then, well, okay. So they were feeling that anger, frustration, distress, what was going on before that? Like, so it’s like this investigative like reverse engineering of this moment. And usually somewhere along the lines, there’s a moment where like assertiveness actually could have been the thing that got the train on the track. The right track.

Dr. Lori (31:49):

Right, right. That’s beautiful. Yeah. And in that feeling, you know, even as you’re saying that I’m picturing a little girl, right. And she’s sitting there and she’s having this urgency felt in her body, this need to this sense of urgency and like I need to get what I need what a beautiful quality that we want. You know, we want that urgency. We want that ability to say like, I know what I want and I feel it in me and I’m gonna go out and get it. You know, we don’t wanna squash that. But if we say, Hey, stop hitting. And then we don’t take care of that urgency of like, but how do you get what you need then we’re only, we’re only looking at one piece. Right. Which is what you’re saying. And even if it’s like communication I, I I’m linking this to jumping to this concept of like, it’s a hot topic, but bullying is something that to me is like an adult concept. Um and I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen or that I’m you know, dismissing it. What I, what I want to draw attention to is how the bodies of these children are trying to organize themselves and socialize. And we’re not all good at it, even as adults. And so how to, you know, assert yourself or how to know it’s too much to have multiple people. So I can only be with one person, you know, it’s easier for me to play with one versus four. So I push these others away so I can get with one. So to me, talk about a dance. It’s, it’s a lot of navigating and understanding. And certainly, you know, we don’t want, you know, hurtful words to come out or, or physicality to come out, but, and we notice like how much planning and organizing and these internal feelings are going on. Um there’s, there’s so much we can do that can be positive. And I often say like, it’s not what you can’t do. It’s saying like, what can you do? So like, we can’t hit, but we can, you know, make a schedule of like, who gets the toy first, second, third, right? Or like, when can I have that thing or, Hey, every time I want this there’s too many noise. So how can I speak over that? Them, if this was like your daughter on the playground, you know, like how can she get what she needs? So there, there are so many options and all of them are physical. They all take the body, moving through space to get what we need.

Dr. Sarah (33:55):

Yeah. And they all require some level of safety. Absolutely. Because the body can’t move when it doesn’t feel safe. And so we freeze up and then we’re left with like, what options do I have? I can’t use my voice. I can’t use my body in this sort of like intuitive, graceful, connected way. And it goes to this place of like desperation, like last resort.

Dr. Lori (34:19):

Right, fight, flight or freeze.

Dr. Sarah (34:20):

Yeah. Nobody hits first. Like that’s not usually the first initial thing. It feels that way. Cause it looks for very young kids that there’s like a millisecond between them not getting what they want and them hitting. But in reality within that millisecond a lot is going on for them.

Dr. Lori (34:38):

Yeah. Another thing that keeps coming up in sessions is this idea of like trying to serve ourselves. Like the child’s trying to feel good. Like their motivation for like wanting more, whether it’s more technology, more candy, more time with friends, more staying up later, more, more, right. It’s like this hunger, this ravenous feeling of like wanting to feel fulfilled, wanting to feel good, especially after, or two years of all the changes that have gone on in the world. And what a beautiful adaptive response that a child would say, I feel depleted. I want to feel good. You know, I’m not, I don’t have that toy. I want it. You know, these are all, like you said, assertive, like these are all good things that don’t wanna squash. We don’t wanna take away that that need to feel good. We need it in moderation. We need to know like how to get it, how to recognize in our body. Are we coming from a place of depletion or can we feel like we have abundance and then, you know, share that like light others candles, we’re all, you know, all together. But you know, it just, it’s such a wonderful way to kind of think of like all these as adaptive skills, all these are really wonderful ways. Our children are trying to be their best organized self.

Dr. Sarah (35:52):

Yeah. And it sounds like, you know, whether it’s through supporting the parents inside the parent-child relationship or it’s, you know, using movement inside these sessions, like we’re all really just trying to do the same thing. Help children feel seen and safe in the world and like yeah, in their bodies.

Dr. Lori (36:17):

Yes. Yeah. And we all need to too. I mean, so often parents, like, I love all the models of like, you know, you can say mantras, you can take a breath, you can step away. You can say this too shall pass. Right. There’s so many techniques that parents can use to kind of not get reactive. One of my favorite ones is really helping them notice in the body, where are they feeling these triggers so that they can understand. And it is easier. I’m gonna say easier to change a sensation than it is to just like change a feeling like if you’re angry, you feel angry. If you’re annoyed, you feel annoyed, but if you are annoyed and you notice I’m hot and I am holding tension and I am just moving really fast, you can certainly feel that and be like, it’s a feeling sensation. It’s not an auditory sensation. And I can change that feeling sense. Not to dismiss it as like, I’m just gonna like distract myself, but actually to like embody it and say like, let me go there and say like, my body needs to slow down. My body needs to take off a sweater layer, you know, I need to get, and then once we’re in that body state beautifully, we’re in the here and now. And we’re able to then use our, you know, upstairs brain and say, okay, what do I need to do? Um so like really tapping into the body as we know, just gives us another way of really being able to organize ourselves.

Dr. Sarah (37:36):

Yeah. And modeling that like as parents doing that for ourselves. Totally. Right. Like sometimes I just say like, I have to, I have to take a step away right now. Like I need to go regulate my own body right now. I got, it’s always my daughter. I love her so much. She’s my spiciest one. But she doesn’t like getting her teeth brushed. And the other night I was holding her on my lap and I was like, I’m going to brush your teeth now. And she’s like, like whipped her head back and like hit me in the lip and gave me like, literally a bloody lip. And I was just like, flooded like hot…

Dr. Lori (38:14):

Oh yeah, survival. You had to protect yourself.

Dr. Sarah (38:15):

Pulsing. I was in pain. But I was just, my whole body. I was like, I need a minute. And I just was like, I have to, I have to like, it was like the most concentrated regulation I’ve ever had to do in front of my kids. I was like, I gotta, I need a minute. Momma needs a minute.

Dr. Lori (38:33):

I used to say, I’m trying to think, I probably have said it even this week. But I used to be like, I’m about to freak out. Like, it’s coming. Like, you know, it’s like, but again, I have to say like, it is that feeling sense of like, I’m like, Ooh, I know my limit. And if it keeps going, like I’m just putting it out there. Like I can only, I can’t be held accountable because I’m letting you know that this is my limit.

Dr. Sarah (38:55):

But it’s like, oh, how much more valuable is it to be able to say, I’m about to lose it than I’ve lost it. It’s happening. I’m in it. Like if you can even just buy yourself that one little minute of time, second, even to say I’m about to lose it. There’s a lot of space that you now have something to work with. You can say, okay, well, if I’m about, if I’m about to lose it, what, what works for me?

Dr. Lori (39:19):

Right. What do I need to do to take care of me? What is my child really needing right now? Is this about what’s happening right now? Or is there something else going on? You know, it just, it does give you that space. Obviously. I have also lost it as well. So, you know, we’re all learning, but right. I always love that. I mean, through this parenting is that you learn that being authentic to me is always going to be what builds your relationship and being able to repair it, than ever trying to be empathic and staying calm the whole time, you know? Cause our, our children are learning from us and you wanna be a real person.

Dr. Sarah (39:52):

Yeah. Yeah. I wanna show them like big feelings don’t have to be scary. Like I can have big feelings and not be scary. Like calm, isn’t the only what is it? Like radio dial station.

Dr. Lori (40:10):

Yeah. Yeah. It’s not the only station. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Dr. Sarah (40:12):

Yeah. I’m curious too, like when you are working, do you have, do you do it in a dance studio? What does your office space look like?

Dr. Lori (40:21):

So it’s a great question. A dance studio would be lovely cuz we have so much space, but my office is actually, I built my office when I was pregnant with my now 12 year old son. But it is detached from a home. So I have an outdoor space with lots of area to move around so we can use outside. I also then inside I do have like a traditional I’m in this right room where I have like a desk and a sitting couch and like chairs. And I also still move in here and then there’s another room next to me that is actually just like an open room, nothing really in it. I mean there’s some shelves on the side and a mat on the ground so we can just move and just explore. And we can bring toys in there and use the toys. But you know, I can do a whole session with, with, with only our bodies. You know, I don’t really need much of anything, but I certainly can use tools. But you know it’s so interesting. I have so many examples, but I had a child even this past week that just this, just joining this child. I hope it’s okay. I’m gonna say it like this. Of just like, I don’t always do this. It’s not just always MI you know, modeling and mirroring the child, but just giving a space to say, Hey, we’re not gonna, we’re not gonna touch all the toys. We’re not gonna play with all the things. And we’re just gonna sit together and when you move, I’m gonna move. I’m just gonna like, see what this looks like. What does it feel like to be, you like to give you a space to be you, you don’t have to change anything. Cuz there’s a lot of corrections in this child’s life. Like everything is, don’t do that, do this. You’re not, you know, slow down, sit still, you know, there’s a lot of behaviors. And so it’s like, here’s a space where you get to be you. And all of a sudden what happened was we, the child started to increase the challenges. Like we ended up doing like pushups and jumping jacks and like balancing on one toe or like one hand. And I was like, gosh, life is so hard. Like I’m having to do all these hard things and like, oh, and once I try one thing, another hard thing happens. Right. And then all of a sudden we start running and going back and forth and like pressing on a wall and it’s like, we’re stuck. And it’s like, we have to kind of, we can’t catch our breath. It’s just, life is so hard. And there’s one thing after another. And we finally fall to the ground and we breathe together and he starts laughing and I start laughing. And we realize we can get into a really easy, comfortable position. And gosh, did we really have to do all that hard stuff to find out that we could be okay. And I just wanted to explain this, the kind of a example, and this is not every session, but just how, like in like 20 minutes, I could just get a sense of what this child is experiencing maybe every day, maybe just this week. Right. and of course, like the next time I see this child, it might be something different, but usually it isn’t usually it’s the same dynamic, but ultimately the child gets to realize like, gosh, I can feel seen, like we talk about therapy. I can feel seen and accepted in a space to let go. And I’m not telling this child to go do that in school or in the home often that’s sometimes a fear of like, oh, but what if my child thinks that’s okay and it’s not, amazingly as hopefully the know.

Dr. Sarah (43:34):

They know the context. They understand the frame.

Dr. Lori (43:37):

They do. Yeah. And oftentimes it’s like, when you give it a space, you don’t need to do it anywhere else. So all the challenges that have been said, no, no, no. It’s like, well you can do it here. And it’s like, oh great. I can just do it here.

Dr. Sarah (43:49):

Yeah. They get the release.

Dr. Lori (43:50):

Yeah, absolutely. And you know, and I just like endless stories of these children where they show up you’re sifting through the weeds and you’re stuck in like in their life, they’re stuck or, you know, they’re, they’re making things really challenging and life’s really challenging. So it’s like, I can’t make this stuff up. They really show it in their bodies. And it’s just a fun way versus saying to them, Hey, tell me what happened this week. And they’re like nothing, you know, or like, I don’t know, you know.

Dr. Sarah (44:14):

And it’s just like, gosh, how seen that kid must have felt in that moment?

Dr. Lori (44:20):

And we’re talking like 10, 20 minutes. Like it’s not like it has to be hours of this. Right.

Dr. Sarah (44:24):

Yeah. But also just the fact that you could narrate for him, something that I wonder if he could even articulate like that. Everything feels so hard. And I’m always being asked to do one hard thing after the next. And I just can’t seem to get into a comfortable position or feel like I can stop. And, and then finally, I kind of collapse into this place, like for you to narrate that process for him, cuz I don’t know how old this kid is, but I’m wondering like, could he have, does he know that that’s how it felt in words?

Dr. Lori (45:02):

Not necessarily, certainly hadn’t been expressed before or maybe not even having the opportunity to, because the expectations you’re supposed to just do what you’re told. Right?

Dr. Sarah (45:12):

Yes. And that’s just really powerful to be able to be seen by a grownup in that way.

Dr. Lori (45:19):

Right, right. Yeah. Yeah. So lots of fun techniques like that. And again, that’s just like a moment. But it’s just so beautiful and even it gets even more beautiful when you have a parent doing it with a child. And being able to have that moment and saying like, oh, I really didn’t realize that’s how it was happening to you really didn’t I didn’t catch that.

Dr. Sarah (45:41):

So yes. I feel like that is like, I, you know what, my, a lot of the work I do with parents is to help them see that part of their kid, you know that with like, okay, well what, you’re frustrated because it’s frustrating. Right? It’s frustrating to keep having to experience these behaviors and deal with these challenges. I get it. It’s hard. And also how do we take a look at what the behavior is communicating to us with some empathy. So we can try to figure out why it’s happening in the first place. And then we can help the kid kind of understand like what’s happening underneath the behavior is a feeling or a need that’s not being met or something that feels too big for you and I’m here to help you. Then all of a sudden the behavior goes away because we’re really dealing with what’s happening underneath the behavior that’s making the behavior happened in the first place. And it’s beautiful to think of just, I can even like picture how that would look and feel like if you’re doing it, like in this embodied way, like in a movement therapy.

Dr. Lori (46:47):

Yeah. Yeah. And yeah, so it might be as simple, you know, sometimes people say like, what’s something that a parent could do like today. Like what could they try? And so it’s like, you know, you walk in the door and it’s been a busy day. And you know, so often I think, I’ll say there’s some, there’s a couple of different ones, but let’s say so common. It’s like, oh the child doesn’t tell me about their day. So instead of asking a question and then they’re like nothing, or it’s fine or you know, like simple one word answers just to join them in their bodies, like literally walk with them for a moment or March with them or jump with them or like sit with them the same way they’re sitting and just like embody it for a moment. Like just kind of like join that, that experience and see what it’s like, you might even start to notice like, oh wow. Like I’m feeling like myself is like sitting upright cuz I have 15 other things to do. My child is just like dipped in and they’re like, they’re like down in that couch for the day. And like maybe I just need to take a moment to be in that couch with them for a moment. And it doesn’t mean it’s forever. It’s just like literally a snap and then we can move forward. But you get that connection

Dr. Sarah (47:48):

Yeah, the connection and maybe even the insight of like, okay, well when I’m laying down on this couch now I feel like, well my body’s a little bit tired and my body’s getting like, maybe that’s how my child’s feeling right now. Right.

Dr. Lori (47:59):

That mindfulness.

Dr. Sarah (48:00):

When you mirror, when you kind of do the same behaviors as them and you notice what that feels like in your body, it could be an insight into like what your child’s feeling in this moment too.

Dr. Lori (48:09):

Yes. And we get a baseline. Right. So I did a lecture about temperature checks, you know, COVID is all about like temperature checks. And then, you know, and I was thinking, well, when do we ever take our temperature in terms of like our mental health temperature? Like what in our body temperature, meaning not body like heat, but like how do we move through the world? And if you know your child’s general way of moving, my child moves like this, I move like this as mom or dad or parent, then all of a sudden you realize when there’s a shift, your child moves differently. When there’s something going on, they’re moving differently, they’re withdrawn or they’re really rushed in, or they’re lacking eye contact, they’re posture shifts. You know, how often can we just say like, oh, I’m noticing something’s off. Sometimes we energetically as woo woo as that might feel, we might be like, I feel something off. Like, there’s something I like, I have a vibe. Right. But we, I think our society can get scared of like having a vibe, but we, you know, we have vibes, we can feel things.

Dr. Sarah (49:05):

We sense it. I mean, it’s not a vibe as much as is our nervous system picking up this, the, the communications of their like nervous system.

Dr. Lori (49:13):

Absolutely. Yeah. So if we get that benchmark, get that baseline, it will tell us. And I mean, what a great tool to have, especially as you have an adolescent and you’re like, I don’t even know what’s going on in their world. Like you have a benchmark of like, I know how you move through this world and you are totally embodying something different right now. Yeah. And maybe that’s okay. Or maybe it’s like, Ooh, is there something we need to do about that? Or like, do I need to check in with you? So our bodies are incredible. You know, mirrors into our souls, into our experiences.

Dr. Sarah (49:45):

Yes. This is so fascinating. And I like am so excited.

Dr. Lori (49:49):

Me too. I love this stuff and can talk for hours.

Dr. Sarah (49:50):

I know, me too. I’m I’m like if people are inspired by this and they wanna learn more about like the work that you do, how to work with you or how to find like a person who does this kind of work, where they live, like how can people get in touch with you.

Dr. Lori (50:05):

Absolutely. So certainly I always love to collaborate and so you can reach out to me. My name, drloribaudino.com and, and the dance movement therapy, the American Dance Movement Therapy Association does have a directory and there are therapists all over the world, actually. Some of us practice in many different ways. So like I said what I think is so great is that it’s not so specific, like everyone has their unique lens which makes it really wonderful. Cause you can find what matches you. But you certainly, there are dance movement therapists all around the country and somatic work, body-based work and, you know, asking the questions when you’re working with someone, like, do you look at the nervous as some in the body? Like, do you use movement? You know, not just again, not, not anything about bad about any other field, but just adding in these lenses can just be just a wonderful addition to it.

Dr. Sarah (50:58):


Dr. Lori (50:59):

So yeah. Reach out to me. I can give more information. I do also collaborate and work with the The Andréa Rizzo Foundation, which is a foundation that gives grants gives grants and support to hospitals and clinics and schools across the country where we do dance movement therapy at bedside for children with cancer and special needs. And so there are dance movement therapist working with those populations to really look at embodied and health through the it through movement.

Dr. Sarah (51:29):

Yeah. That’s such important work and difficult.

Dr. Lori (51:32):

I love collaborating and really answering questions. So building workshops and building opportunities for parents to ask questions. So please feel free to reach out.

Dr. Sarah (51:42):

Yeah, well we’ll put links to everything in the show notes to people can find your website and the foundation that you work with and your book and yeah. Thank you so much for coming on. And this is, I learned so much, I’m like super excited now to go research like providers that are similar to what you do in New York, because what a terrific like resource for families.

Dr. Lori (52:07):


Dr. Sarah (52:08):

Well, thank you so, so much for coming on.

Dr. Lori (52:09):

Thank you as well. My pleasure.

Want more from Dr. Lori Baudino?

Check out her website: https://drloribaudino.com/

Collaborative Health Summit (replay webinar event): https://www.eventbrite.com/e/collaborative-health-summit-replay-video-tickets-154766963153

Super Flyers: A parent guidebook for airplane travel with Children

Dr. Sarah (52:16):

While traditional talk or play therapy is often what parents think of when they hear the word therapy, it’s also important to know your options so you can find what works best for your own unique child. One of the best first steps we can take to support our child’s emotion regulation ability is to address what is already within our control, our own emotion regulation. And that’s why my new workshop, Be the calm in your child’s storm: How to keep your cool when your child loses theirs, is all about you. I’ll teach you simple but powerful steps to change the way your brain and body interpret your child’s dysregulation. And I’ll arm you with the tools you need to stay cool in the heat of the moment, so you’re able to help them calm down too. Head to drsarahbren.com And click the workshops tab to register for this live workshop. And bring your questions, there will be plenty of time at the end for Q&A. Until next week, don’t be a stranger.

Want to get more from Dr. Sarah Bren? 

Follow Dr. Sarah on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/drsarahbren/

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47. What we hold in our bodies: Unlocking emotions through dance and movement therapy with Dr. Lori Baudino