How did you first get connected with Gateway HorseWorks?
I was lucky enough to be paired with Gateway in my first consulting project with an organization called, Compass Pro Bono Consulting. In my first meeting with Kristen on the farm I was instantly drawn to what she wanted to do: drive inclusive mental health solutions for ALL patients and make Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) a broadly recognized & reimbursable tool in the overall mental health toolbox. As someone who’s worked in brand strategy across consumer & pharmaceutical categories for years, I’ve always tried to put patients & their needs at the center. The DNA of Gateway is patients – and especially propelled by what’s happening in our world following the murder of George Floyd, Gateway has always put accessibility first, and accessibility for marginalized, oppressed patients who disproportionately lack the means to secure the mental health treatment they need. It comes down to the increasing importance of mental health, and ensuring that all who seek it, can get it in the way they may uniquely need it. Kristen’s vision, to me, was bigger than horses and EAP, it was about humanity.
What excites you most about working with Gateway HorseWorks?
It’s no surprise to anyone that our world is drastically changing, and that healthcare as we know it is evolving, accelerated by COVID-19. I’ve had the privilege to work directly with chronic illness patients, and it’s clear that across medical conditions – no matter the physical symptom or diagnosis – mental health is often the underlying common thread. And yet our complex healthcare environment makes it the least addressed & least inclusive for the patients who need it most. For the first time on a massive scale, the inequities in our healthcare system and the increasing rise in mental illness are being acknowledged and addressed. I want to help Gateway HorseWorks lead the way in accessibility of innovative mental healthcare, leveraging the power of patient advocacy & an enthused, passionate community.
What were you most surprised to learn about EAP?
Everything! I am so new to the world of animal-assisted psychotherapy – I do think there was some foreshadowing in my childhood, as I had a horseback riding 5th birthday party! As I continue to dig into this space and learn from the experts here at Gateway HorseWorks, I am moved by the stories of transformation. I never thought about how difficult it can be for patients who’ve experienced trauma to trust people again, or to feel free from judgment or bias – and how intimidating something like talk therapy with a stranger might be. The healing relationships horses can provide through metaphor, free from judgment, is unique and provides another option, stand-alone or supplementary to more traditional methods, for those who might need it.
What might we be most surprised to learn about you?
I am actually a certified Bharatanatyam guru, or teacher (traditional Indian dance)!