Last month the Rape Recovery Center welcomed Laura Baumgart to our team. Laura has joined the center in the role of Clinical Director, after the position was vacated by Melinda Pettingill. Melinda left our agency after 4 years of service to pursue private practice full-time. We are thrilled to have Laura in this role, and sat down with her to learn more about her background and vision for our clinical services. Read the full interview below!
Laura, can you start by telling us a bit about yourself? We’d love to know more about your education, experience, and personal passions.
I am originally from Michigan and moved out to Utah after college at Michigan State University to work in wilderness therapy as a field staff. During this time, I discovered the power of wilderness as it relates to personal growth, internal reflection, and healing. I worked in wilderness therapy for three and half years before moving back to the Midwest to pursue a master’s degree in social work at The University of Chicago.
While studying at The University of Chicago, I reconnected with adolescents and young adults as a milieu therapist at a residential treatment center. I served youth suffering from chronic mental illness, emotional disturbances, and behavioral issues. I also worked in a program that served and advocated for equal educational rights and services for minority youth in the Chicago area. During this time, I also interned at a non-profit that served individuals living with HIV/Aids. To maintain my connection with wilderness therapy, during my first summer in Chicago I began volunteering at an adventure therapy program that served inner city at-risk youth.
After completing my master’s degree in social work, I worked as a psychotherapist at a community mental health agency. I served individuals experiencing a variety of mental illnesses including schizophrenia, bipolar, depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I facilitated numerous psychotherapy groups, including an outpatient Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and a mindfulness-based movement group. Through a two-year fellowship program, I received extensive training in the treatment of trauma as well as psychodynamic theory and attachment therapy. I also volunteered with the refugee community in Chicago supporting women who have recently resettled to the US.
The mountains and the wilderness called me back to Utah where I started a family therapy program as part of a wilderness therapy program. I created an in depth curriculum and provided extensive wilderness retreats for adolescents and young adults and their families. For the past two years, outside of my full-time job, I have volunteered as a therapist for the Refugee Mental Health Initiative and the Trauma Informed Care Network in the counseling department at the University of Utah, becoming a committee member and program developer. As part of this project, I have recruited local therapists to join the program, trained new therapists, and established a working relationship with community members to support the project.
I am a relational, culturally sensitive therapist who is committed to a therapeutic process that fosters human dignity and honors each individual’s unique path toward personal development. I bring knowledge and experience in trauma therapy, body-centered psychotherapy, psychodynamic theory, family systems, and mindfulness practices. Since moving back to Utah, much of my training focus has been on creative, expressive ways to engage with the human psyche including movement, expressive arts, and incorporating spirituality into healing practices.
In my free time, I enjoy traveling, running, climbing, hiking mountains, writing, and art. I am passionate in learning about different cultures, healing practices, and rituals of rites of passage. I also practice yoga, meditation, and body centered healing. I also enjoy movement and dance focused healing practices.
What drew you to the field of mental health?
At a young age I remember vividly of wanting to support others and be a part of something greater than myself. I used my voice to engage in conversations about equality and question the viewpoints I was surrounded by at a young age. It really wasn’t until I worked in wilderness therapy alongside adolescents where I found my gift and my passion of being in a shared healing space with others. Through the heat, rain, and snow I supported adolescents to see themselves clearly, to see their greatness. This experience was truly transformational for me and provided me with great insight into the lives of others and myself. Through my diverse work experiences in serving, I have found the greatest gift is cultivating resilience, empowerment, and co-creating a safe, empathic space for healing. Everyday I am truly grateful for these experiences and honored by the resiliency of humans.
What brought you to the Rape Recovery Center?
The Rape Recovery Center is such an important and needed intentional space in the Salt Lake community. I felt that RRC was such a perfect fit for my values as a person as well as a place that I will continue to grow as a clinician. I wanted to be a part of a place that is inclusive and revolutionary in the approach to ensure that services are accessible and diverse. The RRC deeply respects and honors those who have experienced such adversity in their lives and provides a safe space for healing. I have a strong commitment to co-creating an inclusive and relational space for all where voices are heard and respected. I strongly believe that people heal in spaces that allow for authenticity and vulnerability to be present at the core. The Rape Recovery Center is that space, which I am incredibly honored and grateful for being a part of such an important team.
What is your vision for the Clinical Team?
Here at the Rape Recovery Center, we have such a strong, robust, and dedicated clinical team. All of the clinicians have diverse working experiences with an intersectional, multicultural approach in how we best serve our community. I am excited to continue to grow with the clinical team as we look at how to diversify our services to be more inclusive and responsive to the needs of our community.
As we start this journey together, I want to explore opportunities to connect with partner agencies and focus on more experiential, creative approaches to healing. This also includes increasing the number and type of therapeutic groups we provide. I hope to add opportunities for our clients to engage in more experiential therapy using experiences in wilderness therapy and expressive arts. Each person heals differently and as a team I want to diversify our areas of expertise on addition to deepening our foundation in trauma therapy. I am excited to bring a focus of body centered therapy, movement, and expressive arts to the team.
We hope you enjoyed learning more about Laura, and will join us in welcoming her to the Rap Recovery Center! Follow this link if you are interested in learning more about the services our clinical team provides.