Why do I love what I do?
I grew up the youngest of 5 in a small Wisconsin town to an upper class privileged family. I had tremendous freedom as a child to explore my outside world and to visit with all my neighbors and the college students whose dorms were just past my back yard. Early on I was obsessed with horses and had neighbors who let me visit their herd of 5 ponies and pretend they were mine. When I wasn’t outside I was drawing, painting and dancing (or reading books on how to take care of “my ponies”).
Early in my teens I had the opportunity to travel with my parents to visit my oldest sister, stationed with her husband in Islamabad Pakistan. We drove the Kyber Pass to Afghanistan where we stayed in Kabul for a number of days. I recall being out on a small porch looking up and felt like I’d never seen the stars so close and clear. This was a transformative journey for me, instilling in me a deep curiosity of different cultures and peoples and the seed planted to be in the mountains, closer to the sky and to never stop traveling.
It took me a while to finish college, never quite feeling the same challenges and inspiration I’d felt traveling and moved to Washington DC. Here my small town assumptions, prejudices, and limited experiences were challenged and I grew again.
In my early twenties my mom was diagnosed with cancer and I went back to Wisconsin and back to college in Madison to be closer to her. I studied Anthropology and Dance, performed and lived and worked in the Co-ops, deepening my commitment to shared governance, community engagement and wealth equity. During that time my mom became gravely ill and I went to be with her as she transitioned. At the time I was taking a class in Dance/Movement Therapy. This class deeply supported my confusion and grief around the loss of my mother at such a young age. Five years later, finally finishing my BA and some more travels I landed at Naropa University to study Dance/Movement Therapy, knowing the powerful healing potential it offered.
I’ve been in Colorado ever since. My professional life as a Dance/Movement Therapist (DMT) and Somatic psychotherapist took me deep into the world of those challenged by severe and persistent psychiatric challenges. I found myself at home with these folks in that their world views, expressions and behaviors were unlike what I was used too. And often putting on music and moving was the way in which we communicated and felt connected. For decades this work continued with Windhorse Community Services where creation of community, normalizing and de-stigmatizing of this population was paramount.
Once in Colorado I also re-connected with horses, volunteering at Co. Therapeutic Riding center and leasing a horse. I began to integrate horses into my counseling practice in 2001 and this work has become my life’s passion. I adopted my mustang, Jinlab as my co-facilitator in 2009. Trained as a DMT, I also believe in the power of groups to engage and heal. As an anthropologist I also know that before we put art on wall, dance and music on stages, we came together in groups to dance, sing, paint and play music to heal each other. Animals were along the edges and in many cultures deeply integrated into daily life and ritual.
I continue to be deeply amazed with the variances of experiences and human capacity to heal, transform and re-connect with the world after loss, disruption and trauma. I’ve witnessed the world change and deeper experiences of anxiety, depression and confusion emerge in the people I serve. I’ve continued to grow myself with more training in various forms of Somatic and Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy. I’ve stayed connected with Naropa University, teaching in the Graduate school for many decades and supervising/mentoring students in their journeys into this field. Being at Naropa has also deeply impacted my spiritual leaning towards Buddhism and deeply integrated mindfulness in everything I do.
My work now is oriented towards those who have experienced body-based trauma and my understanding, through continued training in Somatic Experiencing, that we hold our experiences in our bodies. They rest there waiting to be acknowledged and worked through if need be. I continued to work with folks of all mind states, genders and ages.