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

Who is this for?

Equine Assisted Activities are beneficial to everyone! We tailor our sessions to fit your needs and goals. Willow Equine is pleased to work with clients of all ages and backgrounds. The beauty of this experience 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. 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 Eagala Military Service ProgramSoul to Sole Connection – offers equine assisted psychotherapy at no cost to service members and their families.

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, 2020 Liability Release Form and the 2020 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 found the perfect fit for her dual passions in equine-assisted development. Katie understands the desire for authentic relationships in life, which horses naturally offer. Katie founded Willow Equine in 2012 to serve those seeking to achieve personal growth, improve team dynamics, or optimize leadership capabilities. In 2018, she founded Soul to Sole Connections, a program focused exclusively on the mental health of our service members and their families.

In 2009, Katie was introduced to Equine-Assisted Development and is an Advanced Eagala certified Equine Specialist. She has achieved her Eagala Military Designation, meaning she has specialized training and experience with the military community. She is the Director of Horse Business Whisperer, a program dedicated to the business growth of equine professionals. Katie is a certified leadership coach (iPEC), 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. Her intuitive passion lies with embracing Horse Medicine for Higher Purpose and balance. 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 children, teens, individuals, couples and families cope with difficulties in their lives. Her desire is to help clients experience healing and life change through faith-centered therapy. Maria is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Supervisor and the clinical director for Willow Equine. She received her BA in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a MA in Christian Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Maria has achieved her Eagala Military Designation, meaning she has specialized training and experience with the military community. She is also working towards her Eagala Advanced certification.

Maria has experience in working with a wide range of struggles to include depression, anxiety, stress, communication, martial affairs, divorce, childhood trauma and teen issues. Maria is Eagala certified, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) trained, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) trained, and Prepare/Enrich Certified Facilitator.  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 helps young adults cope with anxiety, boundary setting, 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 with offices in Mooresville and Winston Salem, NC. She accepts private pay, BCBS-NC, and Cigna.



Send her an email: AshtonBurdickLCMHC@protonmail.com

Hunter Adams, MFT-A

Hunter is a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT-A). 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 experiencing depression, anxiety, life changes, relationship conflict and is especially passionate about working with children and families affected by special needs, such as autism. Hunter also has a deep understanding of chronic illnesses and their impact on mental health and overall functioning. Her office is at Blossom LKN in Mooresville and she accepts private pay, BCBS and Cigna. 



Send her an email: hunter@blossomlkn.com

Jen Roach, LCMHC

Jen is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor, who 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-A

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. She enjoys working with animals to help people understand and cope with their trauma or situations, because she has seen what it has done not only for others, but herself. Sharing this type of healing experience with others, 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 background in working with severe and persistent mental illnesses, domestic violence, relationships and more. Julia is a true believer of the Eagala model and 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, BCBS-NC, Aetna, Cigna, United and Tricare (applied).



Read her Blog!

Send her an email: jrose@davidsonfamilytherapy.com

Laura Finney, LCMHC-A

Laura earned her Master’s degree in Community Counseling from UNC-Charlotte. Laura has over fifteen years of experience working with children and families in the field of mental health and substance abuse. She has worked in the school, community, and University setting. Some of her specialties are trauma, grief and loss, and helping individuals with adjustment. She teaches college-aged students in the areas of Emotional Wellness and Crisis Counseling and is on a local non-profit board helping meet the needs of vulnerable children.

Laura enjoys helping clients overcome obstacles, discover their passions, and meet their fullest potential. She utilizes and integrates Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT). She takes time to make each client feel valued and heard. She accepts private pay and BCBS-NC.



Send her an email: finneycounseling@gmail.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