What to expect & who to work with?

Willow Equine abides by the these Standards:

1.) All Sessions are Ground Based (No riding or horsemanship needed or taught)

2.) Team Approach (Horses, a Licensed Mental Health Professional & a Certified Equine Specialist are in every session)

3.) Client Centered & Solution-Oriented

4.) Adhere to a Code of Ethics

Our Core Values are Commitment, Courage, Integrity & Trust


Who is this for?

Willow Equine works with clients of all ages with an array of challenges. Our team of therapists have diverse areas of expertise including trauma, depression, anxiety, grief, and self-harm. Brain Spotting, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), and Reiki can also be incorporated into your equine assisted sessions.

We tailor our sessions to fit your needs and goals. The beauty of this interaction is that horses take what is held inside of us and translate it into tangible experiences. All the work is done on the ground. Horses are deliberately allowed to move freely and can interact with the clients. This creates a space for clients, with the support of the professional facilitators, to reflect, project, and make deeper connections. While riding and horsemanship is beneficial, it can obscure the primary mechanism which makes this work so effective – the horse’s natural, unfiltered, and unbiased response to the client’s psychological material (behavior, thoughts, feelings, attitudes). The tranquility of the farm and hands-on approach offers the client a chance to take a deep restorative breath of fresh air and discover inner resilience.

Our nonprofit, Soul to Soles Connection is dedicated to reducing the impact of trauma in America’s active-duty military, Veterans, and their families. It provides FREE ground-based mental health services, with horses, at our farm. This program is strengthened through generous donors, sponsors, and grants. America’s service members, Veterans and their families have made innumerable sacrifices for our Freedoms. We never turn away someone who has the courage to ask for help.

What are some of the benefits?

  • Assertiveness
  • Attitude
  • Awareness
  • Boundaries
  • Creative Thinking
  • Confidence
  • Leadership
  • Non Verbal / Verbal Communication
  • Problem Solving
  • Teamwork

We are experienced working with:

What to Expect:

This work is client driven, meaning you take the lead! A licensed mental health professional, a certified equine specialist, and the horses are always in each session. The professional facilitators ensure physical and emotional safety, set up experiences, and facilitate the learning process. They may step away from the clients and move around to observe the horses’ interactions, behaviors, shifts, and patterns, which may be discussed during debrief. Clients realized personal reflection and insight. There is no “specific way” sessions are to look and there is no right or wrong at the farm!

We are in pastures with free moving animals so closed toe shoes are required. Dress according to the season and weather forecast.

Click below for a copy of the Welcome Letter, 2021 Liability Release Form and the 2021 Medical Form.

Meet the Team

Katie Stankiewicz, CPC

Phone: 704.237.0644

Katie has always had a passion for horses and a deep desire to see people succeed. She understands the desire for authentic relationships in life, which horses naturally offer. Katie founded Willow Equine, in 2012, to serve those seeking personal growth, improved team dynamics, or optimized leadership capabilities. In 2017, she founded Soul to Soles Connection, a program focused exclusively on the mental health of America’s military, Veterans and their families.

Katie is an Advanced Eagala certified Equine Specialist, a founding member of Arenas for Change (ARCH) and a Reiki Master. She has her Eagala Military Designation, with specialized training and experience working with the military community. Katie is the executive director of Soul to Soles Connection, our military non-profit. As a certified leadership coach, Sacred Money Archetype coach, as well as a certified 48 HR Breakthrough coach & trainer, her work allows clients to look beyond “their box” and onto their higher self. Katie’s unique skill sets, combined with the power of the horses, drive clients across the finish line in life and business!

Maria Russell, LCMHCS, Clinical Director

Maria has always had a passion for helping individuals, couples, and families cope with difficulties in their lives. Her desire is to help clients experience healing and life change.  Maria is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Supervisor and the Clinical Director for Willow Equine and Soul to Soles Connection. She has provided clinical services since 2006, and has worked with children, adults, and families in a variety of settings. Maria is an Advanced Eagala certified mental health professional with her Eagala Military Designation as well as her Arenas for Change (ARCH) Designation. 

Maria treats families, couples, and individuals using a trauma focused, root causes, cognitive-behavioral, systemic model, and assist clients with a variety of emotional, behavioral, personal, and relational problems. Maria is trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Restoration Therapy, and utilizes the Enneagram in treatment.  Maria is a part of Kannapolis Counseling Group, and her office is in Kannapolis, NC. She accepts private pay and BCBS-NC.



Send her an email: mariarussell.lpc@gmail.com

Jen Roach, LCMHC

Jen is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor.and an Eagala Certified Mental Health professional. She specializes in working with women to heal wounds from trauma, and teaches tools to empower self and build relationships. She is experienced in partnering with individuals to restore strained relationships and overcome difficulties resulting from Separation/Divorce, Emotional, Verbal, Physical, Spiritual, Sexual Abuse. Jen’s expertise is in using experiential activities in order to go deeper than “talk therapy”. She is passionate about teaching you how to establish healthy boundaries in relationships, how to value and love yourself, and how to connect with your spirituality.

In addition to her private practice, Jen is a contract therapist at Onsite Workshops near Nashville, TN where she leads Experiential Intensives for individuals and couples. Jen is  Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and brain spotting trained. It is her desire to provide a safe, judgment FREE place for you. Jen owns Freedom Counseling, with an office near Birkdale, and accepts private pay.



Send her an email: jennifer@counselingnorthcharlotte.com

Julia Rose, LCMHC

Animal assisted therapy has been a passion of Julia’s since getting her Masters from the University of North Carolina. Julia has been working professionally with horses since 2014 and enjoys working with animals to help people understand and cope with their trauma or situations. She has seen what it has done not only for others, but herself. Sharing this type of healing experience with clients, is not only exciting but an honor.

Julia works with adolescents, young adults and adult clients with a range of mental health and other life problems. She has a background in working with severe and persistent mental illnesses, domestic violence and relationships. Julia is a true believer of the Eagala model, is an Eagala certified mental health professional and a founding member of Arenas for Change (ARCH). She incorporates her Gestalt and other therapeutic ideologies into her sessions. She is co-owner of Davidson Family Therapy and her office is in downtown Cornelius, NC. She accepts private pay, Aetna, BCBS-NC, Cigna, United and certified with Tricare.



Read her Blog!

Send her an email: jrose@davidsonfamilytherapy.com

Mary Kinken, D.Min

Since the age of six, horses have been a part of Mary’s life. Growing up, she enjoyed both dressage and combined training. At age 22, Mary sold her horse to study at Duke Divinity School and pursue ordination in the United Methodist Church. In 2004, she completed a Doctorate of Ministry in Pastoral Psychotherapy. She is a North Carolina Certified Pastoral Counselor and a Diplomate Psychotherapist in the Winston-Salem chapter of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. 

Mary’s work includes psychodynamic therapy with individuals, couples, families and groups. She is an adjunct faculty member of Davidson Centre of the Professions and the CPSP Doctor of Ministry program in Hong Kong. Mary found the Eagala model to be a perfect integration of her connection to horses and the art of psychotherapy. She owns Perk of Art Wellness in Davidson and accepts private pay, BCBS-NC and Healthgram Insurance.



Send her an email: mary.kinken@gmail.com