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Free 'healing' retreats being offered to local front-line workers

Retreats in Ramara will include forest therapy and interaction with horses; 'We’d really like to do this for the people who have worked so hard for us'
2020-08-07 The Healing Retreat
The Healing Retreat and Simcoe Muskoka Forest Therapy are teaming up to offer free retreats for health-care workers and first responders. Supplied photo

After months of stress and hard work, health-care workers and first responders could use some relaxation.

That’s why two Ramara women are teaming up to offer free forest and equine therapy for those who have been on the front line during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Janna Bewley, a psychotherapist who runs The Healing Retreat, and Fran Mills, who operates Simcoe Muskoka Forest Therapy, are combining their skills and passions to offer day-long retreats.

“I’ve always had a desire to work with first responders. There’s a lot of empirical evidence of working with horses and the benefits to people with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),” Bewley said. “People with PTSD are highly reactive. Horses have this spiritual gift — their sentient nature. They create a really nice model of community, but also of self-care.”

Bewley and Mills had planned on starting these retreats earlier in the summer, but the pandemic forced a delay. With the region now being in Phase 3 of reopening, they’re hoping people will take advantage of the opportunity before their season ends in October.

“We’d really like to do this for the people who have worked so hard for us,” Bewley said.

There will be six retreats — Aug. 15 and 16, Sept. 12 and 13 and Oct. 2 and 4 — and there will be room for six people per retreat.

The day will begin with a “guided meditation walk” in a forest off Concession Road 13, led by Mills, a certified forest therapist.

“We know that being out in nature and focusing on some relaxation strategies is going to be emotionally healing,” Bewley said.

Participants will then make the short trek back to Bewley’s place on Monck Road for lunch.

After that, there will be a “sharing circle,” during which participants can, if they feel comfortable doing so, talk about the challenges they’ve faced during the pandemic and what they’re grateful for.

“Gratitude, for me as a psychotherapist, is the groundwork for healing,” Bewley said.

Then, they’ll get to interact with the horses, though there will be no riding.

Before the participants head home, Bewley will share other ideas for relaxation and self-care.

Those who are interested in taking part in a retreat can contact Bewley at or 705-330-2850.