Psychotherapist brings new equine therapy to Iowa City for mental health benefits

IOWA CITY — When the pandemic hit in 2020, psychotherapist Natalie Benway-Correll started working with a lot of overwhelmed people — clients who were exhausted and scared in ways more widespread than before.

After 14 years of practice, she was overwhelmed alongside virtually everyone else. So she started to look for an outlet for herself — one that could build her up her own emotional capacity in her responsibility to hold space for clients.

After growing up with horses, she decided to reconnect to her childhood. In her pursuit of finding peace, she attended a new type of training in California: an equine-based learning model.

Now, using what she’s learned and how she’s been able to apply it to her own life, others in the area can take advantage of equine therapy for mental health, and other services focused on holistic wellness, through her new organization, The Well Lived Life.

“I was hearing people talk about how important self-care was, but I also wanted to move toward the collective practice and create spaces for people to really get in touch with what restoration looks like,” said Benway-Correll, of Iowa City.

What: The Well Lived Life and Beyond Barriers presents Lessons from the Herd, an equine guided course with licensed psychotherapist Natalie Benway-Correll. The retreat, designed for women, helps participants connect to an expanded sense of self and reclamation of personal power, to support a grounded sense of self and renewed trust in one’s intuition.

When: 5 to 7 p.m. Sundays: Oct. 8, 15 and 29.

Where: Wyndtree Farm, 1662 Amana Rd., Swisher

Details: Cost is $350 for all three workshops. Open to women 18 and over. No horse experience is necessary, and no horse riding will take place.

Sessions are designed to develop skills to support nervous system balancing, emotional regulation, embodied presence and reclaiming self authenticity.

Registration: Limited to eight participants;

How it works

The equine model is the first of its kind offered in Iowa City for mental health. Through programming called somatic exercises, no horse experience is necessary to take advantage of the mental health benefits with the techniques.

No riding happens. Instead, all interactions take place from the ground. Those who might have a fear of horses can especially benefit from the structure, too.

“The idea is we have a lot we can learn about right relationships and moving beyond the limitations of the mind, from the horses,” Benway-Correll said. “They’re present in the moment. Because they’re prey animals, they have 360-degree awareness of their environment at all times.”

By getting quiet and looking to the cycles of nature as a teacher, clients can learn how to restore themselves parallel to the order of nature. In the wild, horses show there can be a place for everyone — and that everyone in the herd shares a responsibility to each other.

After a grounding exercise done in a circle, participants move into the field where they can stand and sit with horses. There, participants learn how to set clear boundaries with animals many times their size.

For this course, which is focused on empowering women in particular, the herd’s lead mare can be a particularly poignant example. The therapist leading the course says it’s helped her and other women find their own personal power by stepping outside the limitations imposed by their own minds and exploring the embodied feeling of claiming space.

“It’s really powerful when you’re clearly able to claim your space and your right to space, which is something that a lot of us — women in particular — have a hard time doing,” Benway-Correll said. “When you have a herd of 1,500-pound animals respect that, it’s really powerful.”

Like one feeling the exercise is meant to create, she said horses are embodied creatures that use all of their senses to keep themselves safe.

“Humans, we often live most of our lives from the neck up,” Benway-Correll explained. “The exercises are essentially emulating herd dynamics, in turn teaching you what interdependent relationships look like.”

Why it matters

While elevated concerns about a new virus have faded over the three years since the pandemic started, the aftermath impacting mental health is as strong as ever. Therapists like Benway-Correll believe the effects will linger for years to come.

The name of this new retreat and wellness-oriented arm of her work was prompted by those combing through the existential questions posed by COVID-19.

Models like the new equine one are meant to create spaces for clients to discover the components of what it means to live their lives to the fullest. Her programming recognizes four primary pillars to explore: ease, pleasure, creativity and empowerment.

Working with horses is one way to allow the mind’s dust to settle to see more clearly how to achieve those ideals. Now, she said some of those who have experienced turbulence in recent years are starting to explore a new stage after the stages of grief: making meaning in their lives.

“It’s not just at the retreat that you experience the meaning-making and the learning,” she said. “You take it into your life.”

Comments: (319) 398-8340;

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *