Texas Tech graduate Margaret Couch has developed a form of guidance counseling techniques that will catch you by surprise. The event is called Soul Purpose Experience, a retreat for women held at South Plains Trinity Ranch, just south of Lubbock, Texas. Couch said the program"s main goal is to find and eliminate any negative or limited thoughts that keep women from living a purposful life.
"We all have a plan, we have a mission, and we have a purpose," Couch said with a smile. "We just try to take the time to figure out what those are."
Couch said when we are young, depending on the family we come from, we are given certain identities. Whether we live up to or fall short of those labels can affect people in different ways. Couch said she tries to express to her clients that they are more than what past identities tell them and to get rid of any thoughts that prevent them from living a full life. However, what makes Couch"s type of counseling so unique is the help she gets from her closest companions - her horses.
With the assistance of her eight horses, Couch said she is able to look deeper into the women"s feelings and really study their emotions. Couch said the horses" reactions toward an individual will show how that person is viewed by a creature without emotion. This gives the women a chance to talk about the horses" reactions and exchange their thoughts and feelings with one another.
Toward the beginning of the retreat, Couch introduces a segment of the event called The Release. Here, Couch allows the women to stand in a small round-pen as she releases the horses into the arena letting them run freely around the pen in which the women stand. This gives each woman a chance to get a close view of each horse.
Couch said letting the women pick out a horse they can identify with allows them to draw closer to that horse. This forces the women to look beyond their identities and search for who they really are through the eyes of a judgment-free creature.
Mary Anne Abercrombie, a past attendee of Soul Purpose Experience, said her favorite part of the event was spending one-on-one time with the horse she chose.
"Being able to spend a weekend with my horse allowed me to find myself," Abercrombie said. "The horse does not lie to you, so this allowed me to use the horse"s reactions to help me find who I was through an honest set of eyes."
Abercrombie said that in her relationship with her horse, she was able to identify what drew her to that particular horse and look at what characteristics she shared with the animal. From this, she was able to learn from those characteristics, which enabled her to develop a new identity for herself.
Event coordinator and recent Texas Tech graduate, Kayley Brownlow, said she is always excited to see the changes in attitudes of the women from the time they arrive at the ranch to when they depart.
"The women are kind of skeptical when they come in not knowing what to expect," Brownlow said. "I think it"s really cool to see the women walk out with a new perspective, a new appreciation, and a new outlook on life as a result of everything they"ve worked on."
Brownlow said getting to know the women in this type of setting allows a more personal relationship to be formed between herself and each woman. She said it"s not like getting to know someone over a cup of coffee, over dinner, or in a work environment. However, it"s a closer relationship that is trustful and lasts a lifetime.
Couch is now going on her fifth year of hosting Soul Purpose Experience at South Plains Trinity Ranch. She recently published her first book, "Women Who Listen to Horses," which is inspired by personal experiences that she and other women have had from the event.
Couch said that she has a true passion and a calling for helping women discover their "soul purpose" in life, and she is excited for what her next event has to hold.