Shawn Farrell, MEd
In April of 2008, I was offered the opportunity to assume the Executive Director position at SUWS of the Carolinas. Since its creation in 2000, SUWS of the Carolinas has established itself as a strong leader in the Outdoor Behavioral Health industry, with a reputation for producing excellent work with families and students. My transition back to SUWS of the Carolinas has allowed me to continue developing and implementing innovative programming for both parents and students.
Operations And Human Resources
Camille Edmunds, BS
Director Of Operations
Camillle grew up in Indianapolis, IN and earned her BS degree in Public Affairs from Indiana University with a major in Environmental Management, a minor in Human Resource, and a certificate in Business Foundations.
Prior to joining SUWS NC, she was an Inspection Specialist for Roche Diagnostics for 3 years. Camille went on to work for Applied Instruments as the Materials Manager in charge of purchasing/forecasting. After 2 years, she was promoted to Business Manager of the purchasing department and front office.
When she is not at work as an Operations Director for SUWS, she is involved with whitewater paddling, wilderness river trips, hiking, trail running, reading, and knitting.
Josh Gunalda, BS
Director Of Admissions
Josh Gunalda received a BS in Outdoor Education and Environmental Studies from Montreat College. He is very passionate about teaching and facilitating experiential activities with a wide range of audiences. He began his career working with a wilderness program serving adjudicated youth. He then went on to facilitate backcountry expeditions with fathers and sons who wanted a meaningful, bonding experience, and he has instructed leadership courses with high school graduates in preparation for college enrollment.
In 2003, Josh joined SUWS of the Carolinas, where he spent the next several years as a field instructor working with students and families. He was recognized by Aspen Educational Group and brought in to help build and launch a young adult wilderness treatment program in North Carolina. While serving as the Base Director for the newly formed Four Circles Recovery Center, Josh had the great privilege of presenting on wilderness treatment at a number of professional conferences around the country.
Josh enjoys working with families and is eager to educate and work hard for parents and loved ones so they receive all of the support they need during their challenging experience.
Josh lives in the Asheville area and when not working, he enjoys spending time with his wife and tickling his two boys.
Daniel Fishburn, LCSW
Daniel is Licensed Clinical Social Worker who began his work with families in 1988, assisting Salvadoran families in remaining unified as they returned to their homeland from refugee camps throughout Central America. In addition to a college summer break spent working at Wediko Family Services in New Hampshire, this experience led to a career committed to helping struggling people of all ages find a path to freedom and fulfillment. Daniel has worked in a variety of programs with Dallas County Child Protective Services, served homeless teens in Dallas and Houston, and directed a nationwide crisis intervention program for employers. During this time, he completed his Master of Social Work degree at the University of Houston.
After several years working as an outpatient therapist, Daniel focused on residential substance abuse treatment, assisting in opening two treatment programs in Texas. Before landing at SUWS of the Carolinas, he served as Clinical Director for programs serving young adults. He sees the family systems approach as being integral to any successful intervention with children and adolescents, and is passionate in providing leadership in an organization in which relationship is the driving force.
Daniel enjoys the incredible outdoors of western North Carolina, and has a personal and professional interest in Eastern mindfulness practice and psychology.
Brandon Moffitt, MA, LPC
Approach Program Manager
Brandon Moffitt, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor. He has spent most of his proffessional career working with adolescents in various capacities including outdoor wilderness guide, teaching public school, leading community service organizations, support staff in a group home and as clinical staff in a residential treatment facility. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and a Master of Arts in Community Counseling.
Brandon’s love for the outdoors and expertise working with adolescents has led to his belief that an experiential approach, particularly in the wilderness, is a powerful way for a person to gain personal insight while experiencing change. He is confident that adolescents will be able to make needed change given the challenges and opportunities provided in the Approach Program at SUWS of the Carolinas. He finds that this has been especially true when working with adolescents who are cognitively intelligent while struggling with social connections and deficits in maturation and who are often diagnosed with high functioning autism or have traits similar to a person on the autism spectrum. Brandon’s desire to serve these clients led to his development of the Approach Program at SUWS of the Carolinas in 2011. He understands that this type of client needs assistance to understand theory of mind, regulate emotions, manage anxiety and depression, read social cues, develop social relationships, improve responsibility and self-reliance and to develop their role in the family. Brandon’s clinical expertise is also apparent in his work with adolescents with ADHD, executive function deficits, attachment related issues or adolescents who require a comprehensive level of care than can be provided at home.
Brandon has been described as an invested, innovative, supportive and honest clinician. He is trained in research-based therapeutic interventions that maintain a ‘best practice’ standard in the field including the PEERS® training developed at UCLA by Dr.’s Elizabeth Laugeson, and Dr. Fred Frankel.
Brandon’s hobbies include fly fishing, hiking, camping and exploring in the woods with his wife and two children. He comes to work every day with his therapy dog, Miller.
Pamela Splain, LPCA, NCC
Approach Program Therapist
Pamela Ritchie, NCC, LPCA is a Nationally Certified Counselor and a North Carolina Licensed Professional Counselor, Associate. She has experience working at various SUWS locations, in various capacities, since 2005. She has worked for SUWS Carolinas since January 2014 as a therapist for the Approach Program. Pamela has a Bachelor’s Degree in Outdoor Experiential Education and a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Western Carolina University.
Pamela is described as an energetic and creative individual who brings a lifetime of experience in the wilderness to SUWS Carolinas. As a therapist, she strongly believes that the wilderness experience allows students to take control of their lives, and that every student “walks out of the woods” feeling more confident and empowered. She believes that the experience allows families to reconnect with their child; instilling hope back into their lives.
Pamela has expert knowledge with regards to Autism Spectrum Disorders, Attention Deficit Disorders and trauma such as bullying. She emphasizes the need to provide concrete skills, outdoor experiential learning methods and empirically based interventions (cognitive behavior therapy, dialectical behavior therapy and mindfulness) to children who struggle with executive dysfunction, regulating their emotions, impulsivity, social isolation, anxiety and depression. Pamela has given several presentations to peers, academicians, clinical professionals and Educational Consultants about topics such as Diagnostic Criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorders, Behavioral Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Neuroplasticity and Joy. Pamela is passionate about what wilderness can do to support SUWS clients.
Michael Pesant, MSW, LCSW, LCAS
Bravo Outdoor Therapist
Originally from Miami, Florida, Mike brings over 6 years of experience working with at-risk and substance abusing youth. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2004. After spending a year in Spain teaching English, he began his career in mental health in 2005 as a field instructor for the SUWS of the Carolina’s team. He furthered his experience working with youth in a variety of roles including counseling at a therapeutic boarding school in Charlottesville, VA, a school-based counselor, a mitigation specialist working with the families of capital defendants in South Carolina, and as the supervisor of an Intensive in Home Therapy team in Haywood County, NC.
After receiving his Master’s Degree in Social Work in 2010 from the University of South Carolina at Columbia, Mike returned to SUWS, because from his first experience there, he did not find any other programs for adolescents as powerful in its ability to provide a context for young men to discover and affirm their strengths.
Mike is described as a calm and empathic therapist who is “in touch with his inner 15 year-old”. He understands and believes that a focus on strength building and joining students in their growth empowers them to recognize and overcome the self-defeating thoughts that keep them from reaching their true potential.
Mike is a Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist who maintains certifications in Rational Living Therapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy for supervisors and children, and Motivational Interviewing. His expertise lies in his ability to use humor, metaphor, and problem solving skills to address the self-defeating thought patterns of the students that attend SUWS.
At home, Mike enjoys spending time with his wife, Elizabeth, and their rescue dog Molly. He plays competitive tennis on USTA teams out of Asheville, NC and loves whitewater kayaking and tandem canoeing.
Taisir El-Souessi, MS, LPC
Family Program Manager
Taisir El-Souessi is a Licensed Professional Counselor. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications and a Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling from the University of North Florida. She completed a post-graduate certificate in Expressive Arts Therapy from Appalachian State University in 2012.
Taisir’s initial experience with the power of the outdoors as a means for personal growth began in 2008 after she volunteered to be a counselor for a children’s bereavement camp. She went on to participate in Equine Therapy with adolescent girls at PACE school for girls in Jacksonville, Florida and then at the Outdoor Education Center at Florida State College at Jacksonville where she facilitated outdoor team building for corporations and adolescent groups and assisted in facilitating outdoor leadership trips for college students.
Taisir’s clinical experience includes individual, group and family therapy in a variety of settings including an inpatient psychiatric hospital, intensive in-home services , court-referred multi-systemic family therapy, and school based counseling in both a public and therapeutic boarding school. She also draws from her volunteer experience with literacy organizations, domestic violence shelters, hospice and animal shelters. Her expertise lies in providing assessment, treatment and support to clients and families who may experience academic issues, behavior problems, mental health disorders, substance abuse problems and significant family conflict.
Unique to Taisir is her passion to teach and utilize the arts to develop healthy communication, personal growth and expression. Her therapeutic approach is rooted in the humanistic belief that we all have natural strengths and creativity we can access in our healing process and that the arts are powerful tools for change. Taisir recognizes that the experiential combination of expressive arts modalities aligns beautifully with wilderness therapy as both emphasize how we learn about ourselves and grow through experience.
Taisir has been a member of the SUWS clinical team since 2012, moving into the Family Program Manager role in 2014. She is excited to be bringing parents of our students together in support of each other as well as teaching parenting techniques during the parent workshops, webinars and Trail’s End experience. She believes one of the many strengths of the SUWS program is that all staff value the work of SUWS and their roles in the therapeutic process of helping families. At its core, the family program provides a genuine, authentic and supportive environment and experience for parents and students that lasts long after their child leaves the camp.
Drew Schnyder, MD
The SUWS Medical Director is Drew David Schnyder, MD. Dr. Schnyder is a graduate of the Medical College of Georgia and a board certified family practice physician with two medical offices in the Old Fort, NC area. After his residency training, Dr. Schnyder spent nearly 10 years with the US Air Force and has received specialized training in Wilderness Medicine, Expeditionary Medicine, NASA Space Shuttle Recovery Program and Military Field Trauma Medicine. He is currently certified in Advanced Trauma Life Support, and is an Adult and Pediatric Cardiac Life Support instructor. During his four years stationed in Japan, he was the director of training for the advanced independent paramedics and personally supported special operational missions in the austere environs of Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos. During his 3.5 years working at Aviano Air Base, Italy as the Chief of Aerospace Medicine / flight surgeon, his duty regularly involved extraction of injured military personnel in Afghanistan, Iraq and other middle eastern locations and the medical support of two F-16 fighter squadrons.
Dr. Schnyder provides 24/7 support for the SUWS students, both for emergency consultation, or for treatment of other minor medical issues. His specialized training grants him unique insight and expertise into the management of patients in a wilderness environment with exposures to extremes in weather and a variety of physical and emotional stresses. His extensive work with illness and trauma in the austere environment, both directly and in command positions, makes him well suited to make experienced-based judgment calls regarding management of a variety of situations that may arise.
After leaving the Air Force in 2012, Dr. Schnyder moved to Western NC with his wife Rayne and their two children, Samuel and Emma. His personal interests include rock climbing, tennis, blues, Italian culture and travel.
Alanna Orlando, RN
Alanna Orlando, RN is a registered nurse and member of the American Nurses Association.. She has been a member of SUWS of the Carolina’s Medical Team since 2012 and brings with her a wealth of experience relating with and treating children and adolescents. Her interest in working with children began as a young child herself, and at age 14 she received her first CPR certification. In 2006, she received her Nursing Degree from Palomar College in San Marcos, California, and she is currently working on her Master’s Degree at Western Carolina University to become a Nurse Practitioner.
While in nursing school, Alanna worked in a daycare with Kindergartners and was a nanny for a child with severe autism. After graduating, Alanna worked in traditional medical settings. She has worked in hospital settings at San Francisco General Hospital and the San Diego Children’s Hospital, providing direct patient care, supervision for staff, and education to families and patients. She served as a role model in creating a warm environment for families, patients, staff and visitors. Alanna maintains certifications in CPR, Pediatric Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life support, Nonviolent Crisis Intervention and Medication Administration. She is an expert in the physical and emotional development of children.
At SUWS, Alanna has been able to effectively modify and deliver health care and education in a non-traditional setting. She is described by her coworkers as compassionate, empathetic, and selfless. She has a strong desire for knowledge and is passionate about both teaching children and learning from them. Her strength lies in building rapport with children in a nonthreatening manner so as to counsel them about health issues and promote responsible decision making. In addition, she conducts trainings for all staff whom students come in contact, so that students are safe, all complaints are taken seriously, and parents are always informed.
Alanna loves the outdoors and appreciates the therapeutic and healing value that being surrounded by nature can offer. She moved to North Carolina with her fiancé in 2011 to find adventure. She enjoys everything the outdoors has to offer especially hiking, camping, and kayaking.
Kelly Donaldson, BA
Kelly is from Arizona. He has a B.A. in Criminal Justice and a minor in Sociology. He spent 3 years as a probation officer. He has been with SUWS since the Spring of 2011 as a field instructor and recently took over as the head of the Logistics Team here at SUWS NC.
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy And Learning
Shannon Knapp, MA
Horse Sense of the Carolinas
SUWS of the Carolinas has been fortunate to have Horse Sense of the Carolinas, Inc. provide expertise in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) to its students since 2012. EAP/EAL utilizes experiential learning to foster life skills and character development to support positive emotional, mental, behavioral and social skills of those who may be at risk or have special issues.
Horse Sense of the Carolinas is set on over 100 acres in Marshall, North Carolina near the city of Asheville. Horse Sense was created through the heartfelt vision of Shannon and Richard Knapp.
Shannon has worked with and taught horses and people for over 30 years. After 10 years teaching in college, she left academia, moved to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina with her husband, and they began their goal of working with abused & neglected horses. After witnessing the effect that horses had on the people around them, Shannon began to educate herself about EAP/EAL. She began pairing "rescued" horses with people in 2001, and uncovered her passion for connecting people with horses to foster personal connection, awareness, communication and change. Horse Sense of the Carolina’s was born! Shannon and Richard continue to work with horses through horse rescue organizations and local humane societies and law enforcement.
As founder and president, Shannon has developed Horse Sense into an internationally recognized leader in the field of EAP/EAL. Having supported literally thousands of clients since 2003, Horse Sense continues to be the leading resource in Western North Carolina for therapeutic equine interventions. Given her expertise, Shannon developed Horse Sense Business Sense, an organization dedicated to supporting professionals in the field. Most recently, her nonprofit organization, Heart of Horse Sense, came to fruition and provides free equine assisted programs for veterans, their families and at-risk youth.
In addition, Shannon is a Natural Lifemanship Trauma-Focused Equine Assisted Psychotherapy practitioner and trainer, a Parelli Level 2 graduate, is EAGALA Advanced Certified, and has recently published More Than a Mirror: Horses, Humans and Therapeutic Practices, specifically addressing the role of the horse in EAP/EAL practices, and the role(s) of the Horse Professional. She has also authored the book, Horse Sense Business Sense, Volume 1, an introduction to starting and running your own Horse Therapy & Learning practice. Shannon is a Graduate Advisor for Prescott College's Equine Assisted Learning Masters Concentration program, & offers consulting services to those interested in starting their own Horse Therapy & Learning business. She is also part of the Parelli Education Institute, representing Therapeutic Horsemanship programs and interests at Parelli tour stops, helping spread the gifts of Parelli Natural Horsemanship to Therapeutic programs worldwide. She co-teaches courses for the Parelli Education Institute, offering training and education for both Licensed Parelli Professionals and Therapeutic Horsemanship programs. Shannon and Richard also co-teach courses for those interested in how Parelli Natural Horsemanship can infuse and support equine assisted mental health and learning programs.
Shannon believes that people don't change unless they are challenged, and that the most lasting change occurs when people find their own answers to questions. At Horse Sense, there is actually very little talking. Shannon has observed that most effective and long-lasting change occurs through active participation with the horses who, as excellent mirrors, reflect back to people who they really are. With the horses, clients can practice new behaviors in a therapeutic environment and learn that in changing themselves, they do have the power to change the world around them.