Beth Behrs had been suffering anxiety when she began working Cassandra Ogier doing equine-guided therapy.
“The work with my rescue horse Belle [helped make my] panic attacks go away,” the 2 Broke Girls star, 31, tells PEOPLE. “That was just an eye-opening thing — this horse that I just rescued, rescued me. It changed my life.”
Behrs knew the power of equine therapy firsthand, so she recommended it to a close friend who was the victim of sexual assault. Seeing how her friend benefited from the therapy is what inspired Behrs to collaborate with Ogier to create SheHerdPower, a free three-day equine therapy-based program for sexual assault survivors.
“Once my friend worked with Cassandra, the growth in her and the strength she found and the healing that she found through this is the true catalyst for how it became about sexual assault and helping survivors of that,” says Behrs.
“It’s hard for survivors to go to therapy and want to relive their experience and talk to a stranger,” she continues. “We’re providing a program where you actually don’t have to talk about it at all, and all the healing is stemming from the horses and groundwork with them.”
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Behrs believes the healing power of the horses comes from having to be your most authentic self when you are around them.
“When you are authentic, they start to respond to you, and it’s this huge animal that you were fearful of that you’re now connecting with when you’re your most authentic, truthful self,” she says. “You just being you is enough to connect with this massive animal, and I think that is what is so empowering and moving. You take that back with you into your day-to-day life, which is why even after a weekend, the benefits can come for years after.”
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“The end goal we hope for the experience is helping [sexual assault survivors] release their past trauma in order to access strength and clarity and healing that they can then bring with them to the real world after,” says Behrs, who has designed jewelry with Brass & Unity to help raise funds for the program.
SheHerdPower will be taking place over a weekend in April, but actress hopes to be able to expand the program to more weekends and eventually daily therapy.
“It’s my life mission right now,” she says. “It’s my heart.”