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Bellingham farm offers life-changing encounters with animals

Animals as Natural Therapy uses horses and mental health counselors to deliver mental and behavioral health programming. #k5evening

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — When 17-year-old Jalyssa Powell first attended Animals as Natural Therapy, she admits to being skeptical.

“I was at this weird place in my life and I didn't think there was a way out of it. And so working with horses, I was like it’s going to be like another therapy where it’s going to be weird,” explained Powell.

But after three sessions, she could see and feel the difference.

“I had no idea it would be so life-changing. From the first session to now, I'm such a different person. I know boundaries because of her. I know how to stick up for myself because of her,” shared Powell.

Katie Rohwer is the Program Director; and also a certified riding instructor. She said each horse teaches a life lesson and it may be different depending on what the person needs.

“We can't get what we need until we know how we feel, and so the horses are magical at helping us to know how we feel,” said Rohwer.  

Animals as Natural Therapy serves everyone from kids to veterans to the elderly.

There are after-school programs for youth and one on one sessions for veterans. The non-profit also has a program that takes the therapy on the road using small animals, like bunnies, goats, and miniature horses.

“We bring animals to assisted care facilities through our mobile intergenerational program and we bring animals to school districts," explained executive director Jamie Arnett. "We call it fuzz therapy. We know that just petting fur causes a physiological effect in our body. It releases serotonin and dopamine, which is really good at calming us down and creating a good space for healing."

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