Since I can remember there have been three unwavering traits that have defined who I am.
- I am curious – wildly, voraciously, and sometimes annoyingly.
- I am passionate – and beyond all else about nature and animals.
- I am an avid reader and I love to write.
From the time I was young these three characteristics have guided the majority of my pursuits. For me, there is a profound beauty in seeking out information, understanding intricate or complex patterns, and finding a way to clearly articulate all of this using approachable language that embraces thoughts, feelings, emotions, and facts.
Beyond the one or two classes offered in my Masters program, I am a self-taught researcher. I took on my first research project at age 20, when I was hired by the Animal Therapy Association of Arizona to study the emergence of equine-facilitated psychotherapy programs at therapeutic riding centers across the country. Shortly thereafter, I traveled through Europe studying the differences between men and women as a part of an independent study I designed to meet the requirements for a gender studies course.
Although I knew nothing of the Grounded Theory research method at the time, I quickly recognized that my research journeys would be defined not by investigating a “problem” or proposing a hypothesis, but rather by collecting the stories of the people I met and learning something unexpected from their experiences and wisdom.
I developed a method for my research that included how I collected and coded the data, and how I located my “sample”, or the people I chose to include in my study. I also learned to use comprehensive literature reviews to further support the emergence of themes or theories. Through this process I was delighted and amazed to watch as seemingly unrelated pieces of data would align to form recognizable patterns.
As I went on to conduct my Masters thesis research and subsequently, the research for my first book, I continued to develop and refine a specific process of responsive coding that helped me conceptualize and identify emerging themes in both literature and interviews. It has only been in the past few years that I learned how closely my process mirrored Grounded Theory research, and I’ve finally come to realize that maybe after all there was a “method to my madness”.
To date I have published two books and a workbook, all three related to my research in the area of equine-assisted activities and therapies. But, of course my curiosity leads me on, so next I intend to broaden my scope to include the topics of experiential psychotherapy, integrative health, and the connection between animals, nature, and health.