“The artful balance that Kate brings to everything she does is truly something to behold.  Whether she is teaching, facilitating, writing, “friending,” or mothering, she is the embodiment of how one can simultaneously listen with and speak from the head, heart, body, and soul.  This honed talent is such a gift to our community.”

-Bettina Shultz-Jobe, NL Co-Founder and CEO

Each month, we take a moment to recognize one of our members who’s made an impact in our beloved community.

For this month’s Team Member Spotlight, we’re diving into the story of Kate Naylor, our Director of Trainer Development and Community Engagement, whose journey from teacher to therapist and equine professional has been filled with intuition, exploration, and a deep respect for the Natural Lifemanship approach.

The Winding Path to Natural Lifemanship

Kate started her professional career in education. She earned her undergraduate degree in Bilingual Early Education from Texas A&M University, and began working as a teacher in dual language programs in Texas.

After a few years of teaching in different locations, she realized it just wasn’t for her. “I was just so exhausted [..] all I would do was work and sleep. The kids coming to me were not prepared to learn, and the teaching environment was just so rigid. It felt like a lose-lose every day.” Her desire to continue supporting children and families led her to Austin where she earned her Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at St. Edwards University.

During her time as a traditional therapist, Kate worked mostly with children and adolescents, but also some adults. She saw a theme emerge with her clients – so many of her clients felt lonely and disconnected – as though they didn’t understand their place in life.  Digging deeper into her own history, and understanding people as a part of an interconnected system; she realized that what many of her clients were missing was a real connection with nature and the world to which they inherently belonged.

Exploring more about the impact of building a connection with nature and the outdoors led Kate down another road—one that pointed straight toward Natural Lifemanship. She had grown up around horses, and felt a natural pull toward equine assisted therapy – and she sought an approach that had a sound theoretical foundation. When the time felt right, she put the Fundamentals Training on her credit card, visited Spirit Reins for the training, and never looked back.


The Winding Path Within Natural Lifemanship

From the minute she stepped foot in the training, Kate knew that she had a home with Natural Lifemanship. She quickly got involved, asked questions, and pushed the organization forward, driving an hour both ways to work as an intern during her early years of involvement.

Since then, she has grown into an essential NL team member— training trainers, traveling the country to teach Natural Lifemanship and the various modalities within it, and helping to keep Natural Lifemanship growing and evolving.

Kate’s Thoughts About Natural Lifemanship

We had a chat with Kate about her thoughts on Natural Lifemanship and the ways it’s  impacted the field of therapy. Here’s what she had to say.

As a therapist who found equine assisted services, what would you like people to know about Natural Lifemanship?

“Typically equine assisted services is the last stop for people. When they’ve exhausted everything else they’re like, ‘Okay, I’ll try this fringe thing because nothing else is working.’ I wish people in the industry could see that the blending of good experiential therapy, fostering a connection with nature, and experiencing an active and evolving relationship with another being, like a horse, is so holistic and powerful that it is not fringe at all. It’s the future of mental health.

Professionals all over are trying to develop integrated approaches to psychotherapy, but until we in the mental health field understand that humans are a part of the natural world and an interconnected web of life, they cannot build a truly integrated model of therapy. I think that we have to remember our context in the natural world before we can feel whole, really. Natural Lifemanship isn’t just an approach to therapy, it is a way of being a healing presence in the world, to bring healing in your own life and in the lives of others.”

If you were to give advice to someone who has never heard of Natural Lifemanship, where would you start?

“I would say that all of the evidence [from emerging research] about what is required for human healing is moving us toward a more comprehensive mind-body-system perspective. And I don’t know any other model that is as comprehensive as Natural Lifemanship – when it comes to the mind, the body, and the context in which we live, NL  is the complete package.

When reflecting on her journey with Natural lifemanship, Kate shared, “This career I’ve built only exists because I found Natural Lifemanship – I get to play with ideas, offer creative therapy, talk with curious minds, be in nature and around horses, write, connect, learn – and do it all surrounded by people who hold the same values…it’s the dream, really.”

We’re so grateful that Kate found herself in a Fundamentals Training all those years ago, and all she has given to the organization since. The butterfly effect she has on Natural Lifemanship is felt by every member of our team and our NL community.

If you are interested in joining our membership community, we would love to welcome you! Learn more at naturallifemanship.com/memberships.