Utah practitioner is ‘selling change’

SALT LAKE CITY — Her childhood was formed by a deep connection with the ocean, mountains and exotic landscapes of Hawaii, but it was devoid of any true connection with her dysfunctional family and shrouded in misperception.

Now Shannon Simonelli is enjoying “being seen.”

“People look at me and see my joy and excitement for life and they want it too, because it is in them, trying to awaken,” Simonelli told the Deseret News Wednesday.

Because of efforts she’s made to expand her beliefs and practices and successfully grow her therapy business, Simonelli is receiving the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the Salt Lake Chamber’s Women’s Business Center on Thursday.

Simonelli’s approach on mental health issues is different — using expressive techniques to help people make sense of their lives. But it is backed by research.

Brain studies have shown that the creative arts — such as dance and movement, as well as using the imagination and connecting with others — are “powerhouse resources to create change,” said Simonelli, co-founder of the NeuroImaginal Institute based in Salt Lake City.

Using those creative methods, she said, teaching people to be more resilient and confident, “really helps people awaken the truth of who they are.”

And while it sounds a little quirky, it is resonating with people and changing lives.

“Transformation is a journey,” Simonelli, 54, said. People seeking that journey, she said, are “people who want to feel better in their lives, more comfortable in their bodies, who struggle with anxiety and want to be free, are filled with self-doubt and self-judgment, or judge others because they are not confident and are always second-guessing themselves.”

And while some people think her methods are a little strange, the self-discovery and permissive environment turns out to be safe and supported and a telling and transformative experience.

Simonelli is one of more than 230 people who sought no-cost business consultation through the Women’s Business Center in the last year. More than 2,500 people received training at various events hosted by the nonprofit agency housed at the downtown Chamber offices.

She said it was a…

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