Caring for People by Caring for Animals & Nature
Nourishing Hearts Wellness Care Farm is a social work based therapeutic farm that offers child, youth and adult mental health counselling. Services include a unique blend of in-office counselling, animal-assisted therapy, nature assisted therapy and play therapy.
As a registered social worker with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers and the founder of Nourishing Hearts Wellness Care Farm, Julie has a unique approach to supporting mental health where she combines the care of nature & animals with the care of people. She has completed both Bachelor and Master of Social Work degrees in addition to a Developmental Services Worker diploma. She is a trained Animal Assisted Therapist and is currently completing her Canadian Association of Play Therapy Internship. Julie has enjoyed over 20 years working & volunteering in a variety of care settings, supporting individuals & families with different abilities across the lifespan who have experienced mental health, crisis, addiction, & disability challenges. Currently, she is a registered provider for the Indigenous Non-Insured Health Benefits Mental Health program, Victim Services for Elgin and Chatham-Kent, and the BOOST for Kids ~ Child Internet Exploitation program, in addition to providing services to several Children’s Aid Societies, Ontario Works, and private clients. Julie is also a program coordinator and case manager with Dalton Associates Indigenous Services supporting northern Ontario communities.
The Farm Approach
Nourishing Hearts Wellness Care Farm is a social work-based private practice that offers children, youth & adult counselling that includes traditional in-office talk therapy along with animal & nature assisted counselling and play therapy. A therapeutic relationship is utilized to support, treat and prevent mental health challenges and needs. Here on the farm, Julie provides a client-centred approach that encourages people to lead her to where they feel comfortable talking, this may be sitting in the snuggle stall within the barn while cuddling and grooming animals or with a support animal with them in the office counselling space. For others, they may feel more comfortable talking while doing arts & crafts, exploring the wetland, walking the meadow trail or sitting around a campfire.
We have many hooved, pawed and feathered friends that offer support. This includes Bambi our smoochy horse, Nutmeg, Blossom and Yoda our cheeky goats, Sweet Pea & Baa Baa our darling sheep, Cornelius our belly scratching loving pig, Clubhouse Chloe and Earl our adventurous kitties, Umka & George our lovable protector dogs, Jenny, Jozie, Grandma, Moe, Sunny, Ella snd Ellouise, Gladys and Clare our feathered explorers.
The Counselling Approach
The empowerment that comes from this humanistic approach cultivates trust and safety to embrace personal challenges while also identifying strengths, discovering individual uniqueness & ability to problem-solve, overcome challenges & succeed in life. The counselling techniques of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), play therapy, animal-assisted counselling, mindfulness, self-love & compassion are creatively woven into sessions to assist with validation, re-framing personal experiences, challenging unhelpful thoughts, developing healthy coping strategies and cultivating a healthy sense of self and belonging.
Children, Youth & Adults with...
For people impacted by anxiety, Julie helps people to be curious about what their body is communicating rather than being fearful. she helps to increase their ability to embrace the experience of anxiety, identify their patterns of "twisted thinking" (cognitive distortions) and teach them how to question & challenge their internal dialogue while broadening their understanding of themselves, others, and the world in which they live. The inclusion of animals into this process is a non-threatening way to explore and develop insight into anxiety since animals are often hypervigilant to their environment out of concerns of becoming prey to predators. The animals not only provide a supportive and enriched environment that stimulates an oxytocin surge (a natural calming hormone in humans), the animals become objects of projections in which clients can witness non-verbal hypervigilant body language, project their self-talk and apply a variety of coping strategies.
Trauma, Depression and Loss
For people who struggle with depression, trauma, and loss, the farm offers a quiet and gentle place to rest, heal, and to regain strength. Nature and animals create a safe space for people to come and develop an understanding of all that has happened to them and how it has impacted them physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. With this awareness and understanding, people are empowered with coping tools to create a new of being and insight necessary to forgiveness and self-compassion while also regaining a sense of safety and trust within themselves, others, and the world they live in.
ADHD, ASD, FASD and Developmental Disabilities
For children & youth on the autism and fetal alcohol spectrums and for those experiencing symptoms of ADHD or for those with a developmental disability, out of necessity, these kids are often constrained by rules and expectations in order to fit within social environments which can impact their sense of self, but here on the farm, they are encouraged to be their own selves. Julie believes in setting children up for success and for this reason the farm is organized to be supportive of fast minds and fast bodies. The farm and therapeutic relationship offer a place of belonging for those who struggle to fit in and to be accepted just as they are. The farm environment is empowering with the attitude and approach of "yes we can", "let’s give it a try", and “how can we make this work?”, as Julie is curious to the strengths, abilities, and esteem that can be discovered and strengthened through a positive therapeutic relationship of acceptance, curious exploration and a place to belong.