Our Model & Our Team

Willow Equine abides by the these Standards:

1.) Activities 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

5.) Core Values: Commitment | Courage | Faith | Integrity | Trust


Who is this for?

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

Equine Assisted Activities are beneficial to everyone! 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.

When with the horses, all the work is done on the ground. Horses are deliberately allowed to move freely, never ridden, and can interact with the clients as they wish. This creates a space for the client, 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 Equine Assisted Psychotherapy so effective – the horse’s natural, unfiltered, and unbiased response to the client’s psychological material (behavior, thoughts, feelings, attitudes). There is a freedom to move, connect and be present. 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 Military nonprofit – Soul to Soles Connection offers mental health treatment with horses at no cost to service members, their families, and caregivers.

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 clients take the lead! There is always a licensed mental health professional, a certified equine specialist, and the horses (sometimes llamas too) in each session. The role of the professional facilitators is to ensure physical and emotional safety. Our team will set up experiences, support clients, and facilitate the learning process. During the sessions, the professional facilitation team may step away from the clients and move around to observe the horses’ interactions, behaviors, shifts, and patterns. The observations may be discussed with the client during debrief resulting in personal reflection and insight. Most importantly, there is no “specific way” sessions are to look and there is no right or wrong at the farm!

We will be in a pasture with free moving animals so closed toe shoes are recommended. 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 our military service members and their families.

Katie is an Advanced Eagala certified Equine Specialist and a founding member of Arenas for Change (ARCH). 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. She is also the Director of Horse Business Whisperer, a program dedicated to the business growth of equine professionals. 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

Ashton Burdick, LCMHC

Ashton is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor, National Board Certified Counselor, and an Eagala Certified Mental Health professional. Ashton holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from UNC-Asheville. She has extensive training in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and mindfulness.

Ashton works with adult women to cope with anxiety, depression, and self-acceptance. She also works with animal care professionals (veterinarians, vet techs, wildlife rehabilitators, etc.) to combat burnout, compassion fatigue, and depression, while learning to achieve greater work-life balance and love their career again. Ashton owns her own private practice offering tele-health sessions. She accepts private pay, BCBS-NC, and Cigna.



Send her an email: AshtonBurdickLCMHC@protonmail.com

Hunter Adams, MFT

Hunter is a Marriage and Family Therapist. She holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Appalachian State University and a Bachelors Degree in Psychology from the UNC-Charlotte. Hunter believes that all people are inherently creative and innovative. Through our creative spirits, we can find unique outcomes to help heal. We all seek a closeness to others through meaningful relationships and therapy is one way we can help develop healthy relationships. She works with clients by looking at each relationship in their lives rather than focusing only on the individual.

Hunter works with clients of all ages experiencing depression, anxiety, life changes, and relationship conflict. She is especially passionate about working with children and families affected by special needs and has a deep understanding of chronic illnesses and their impact on mental health. Hunter owns Blossom LKN in Mooresville and accepts private pay, BCBS and Cigna.



Send her an email: hunter@blossomlkn.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 & BCBS-NC.



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

Meagan Mulcahy

Meagan is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a founding member of Arenas for Change (ARCH). She holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from East Carolina University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Sciences from North Carolina State University. Meagan has extensive training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) Meagan has spent time around horses since her childhood and is excited to combine this work with her passion for healing and nurturing relationships between children and families.

Meagan works with children, adolescents, and families with a range of mental health and other life problems. She has a background in working with many types of mental illness such as anxiety and depression, trauma, and relationship conflict. Meagan is a therapist at Davidson Family Therapy and her office is in downtown Davidson, NC. She accepts private pay, and BCBS-NC.



Send her an email: mbrown@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