When Rebecca Brown '86 enrolled in the Bachelor of Social Work program at King's, she knew what she wanted to do after graduation. Although she admits now that she had a narrow vision of her career path and what social workers do, Rebecca had a goal of becoming a medical social worker, which is exactly what she did… for five years.

When her husband's job transferred them to a new city, Rebecca felt like a door had been shut for her. While she figured out what to do next, she accepted a 6-month contract with the Children's Aid Society (CAS), a position she never saw for herself, but she ended up staying with the organization for 23 years.

“A Social Work degree can take you in many directions,” explains Rebecca. “I never imagined I'd be where I am now. It's important to think outside the box and be open to opportunities.”

Today, Rebecca's career is divided between working three days per week in a Family Medicine Practice and running a private practice that includes an Equine Assisted Therapy Program for trauma survivors and a variety of mental health conditions. She is honoured to hold a faculty appointment as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Western University, and she delivers workshops and conferences throughout North America on post-traumatic stress disorder, vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, and resilience to professionals in the trauma and health fields.

(image: Rebecca Brown '86 and her horse Dolly) A few years after leaving her management position with the CAS, she discovered that horses have a powerful impact on healing trauma. After earning her EAGALA Certification (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association), Rebecca started working at an equine-assisted therapy program near St. Thomas, then expanded to co-found two additional programs in London and Woodstock. After moving up to the beautiful shores of Lake Huron in Bruce County, Rebecca now runs the equine therapy program at Prance Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Port Elgin, Ontario, where she boards her own horse, Dolly. Dolly is an integral part of the therapy sessions and is usually joined by two or three other horses who support people through emotional growth and healing from a wide variety of life's challenges, traumatic events, and personal struggles.

LEARNING FROM OUR EXPERIENCES

Throughout her extensive career, Rebecca has helped countless people grow and heal through resilience-building activities and self-discovery. When the COVID-19 pandemic caused people to change how they work and interact with others, she felt inspired to slow down, stop running from herself, and share her own story.

“The pandemic has taught us how to be flexible and how to find creative ways to do what we love,” explains Rebecca. And for Rebecca, this meant taking time for personal reflection and writing her book Shelter from our Secrets, Silence & Shame: How Our Stories Can Keep Us Stuck or Set Us Free.

Rebecca's personal journey takes readers through sadness, tragedy, self-sabotage, the impossible pursuit of perfection, distorted thinking and eating, engaging with her shadow self, divorce, and numbing with alcohol, all in an attempt to avoid the stories needing to be shared.

“Dispelling the limiting beliefs we hold about ourselves can unlock our limitless potential to reach goals we never dared to dream.” From the Boston Marathon to working with horses, Rebecca sets out to prove to herself that anything is possible when you don't listen to the negative stories you tell yourself.

“We become who we are because of what has happened to us, and because of the stories we tell ourselves. But do our stories continue to serve us well, or do they keep us stuck?”

Rebecca's book provides strategies to help reframe the thinking patterns we have developed and offers tools to recognize when we are suffering from our own thoughts, feelings and actions. Resilience-building techniques are woven through the pages along with encouragement for the lifelong journey of collecting moments of awe and happiness.

“Everyone has a story,” says Rebecca. “We may not have written our beginnings, but we have the ability to write every word from this point forward. Just imagine where our stories can take us when we are free of secrets, silence, and shame.”

She hopes people will read her book with a highlighter in hand, pages folded down, re-read it, recommend it to a friend, and use it as a guide to start sharing their own stories with those they love.

Rebecca's book is available online and at all major book retailers. For more information about Rebecca, her book, and equine therapy, visit www.rebeccabrown.ca and follow @rebeccabrown.ca on Instagram.