VIDEO: Stephanie Sikora & Equine Therapy For Mental Health googletag.pubads().collapseEmptyDivs(true);

Stephanie Sikora & Equine Therapy For Mental Health


My whole life I’ve wanted to be involved with horses. I actually was in school to be a riding instructor and horse trainer but due to my mental illness, I had to put that aside.

I was an antisocial child and very withdrawn. I just didn’t want to do anything with anyone else. I went to high school and college and that was another stress point because nobody thought I’d be able to make it through high school let alone make it into college.

I didn’t understand why I was different, why people were picking on me. Without the horse I don’t think I would have survived going through school. It was just a very important stage of my life to start riding.

Being with the horse helps with my bipolar and Asperger’s because I learned to use the body language of the horse. It’s a great method to learn social skills. I have to be connected with her and I have to turn off all the emotions that are within me. It helps to control my anger, my frustration, my anxiety.


When I’m on a horse, my anxiety level drops. My brain can shut off from the whole world around me and I can just tune into the horse. That helps me to recover in the world around me.

When I was a child, it was very difficult for my mom and dad to understand my mental illness. My family treated me like my little sister because I was the oldest and I was expected to be like anybody else.

My mom was told by her friend one day when we were going through the difficulty of figuring out if they wanted to put me on medication, she says to her, “Sherry, if Stephanie had diabetes, would you not put her on insulin?” That was the beginning of the acceptance for my parents.

I believe that I can recover a lot faster than I would have had my family not been there and taught me the importance of being a person first and not let the illness get in the way.


I’ve been working with NAMI, The National Alliance on Mental Illness, for over four years now. I’ve been working as an office assistant and a little bit of IT work. NAMI has been a godsend for me. The people there are very understanding of my mental illness of course because it’s a family oriented organization. We just recently had our walk, our big fundraiser for the year. We had about 2,000 people come to the walk. This year I was actually apart of the committee doing the publicity of the walk. It got a little difficult.

For me, working and recovery go hand in hand. At work, I get different inputs from different people and I can learn how to handle things.


Every month, Stephanie shares her story of recovery through NAMI’s “In Our Own Voice” presentations.

Being an “In Our Own Voice” presenter with NAMI has made me more assertive because I go out there and say, “I’m in recovery, I can do this and so can you.”

My acceptance for my mental illness came when I was in the hospital and I realized I need to be better for myself to help myself, my family. I’ve had difficult days but pushing through them is really important. I want to push myself to get out there and do more.

My hopes and dreams for the future for myself are to finally be out of the house, on my own, hopefully be married. I hope the stigma of mental illness is busted. Pushing through what I have has made me feel really, really good and I can do whatever I think I can do. I just have to grab the bull by the horns and go do it.



A note from the director of this video, Bud Clayman:

Directing films for the OC87 Recovery Diaries website has been fantastic because I’ve met many great individuals who were willing to share their personal stories of recovery. Stephanie Sikora is one of them. She has come a long way in her journey through life in such a short period of time.

We share a lot in common. In particular, we both have Asperger’s Syndrome. The difference is that Stephanie has amazingly coped with her disorder through her love of horseback riding. Her trust in horses has allowed her to trust in people. She is a truly unique and courageous person.



EDITOR IN CHIEF & VIDEO DIRECTOR: Bud Clayman | ART & LAYOUT: Leah Alexandra Goldstein


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Stephanie Sikora

Stephanie is an “In Our Own Voice” presenter with NAMI and uses horseback riding as one tool in her recovery with bipolar disorder and Asperger's syndrome.

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  • We rock! Thank you for this chance Buddy!

    • lucas

      you rock! im bipolar and have had quite a few manic episodes, really bad delusional psychosis bad anxiety etc…however i have managed to stay out of the hospital for a while and would eventually like to follow in your footsteps and give my story not that sucessful but we gotta fight off stigma so we can all get more help in a more caring world…well good luck keep riding

      lucas klei

      • Lucas,

        I have to say thank you for commenting and I know how touugh things can be, I still have my rough days and need to be reminded to take care of myself. You are well on your way to recovery, because you are able to share with me 🙂 your struggle. Keep working hard at your recovery and you can make dreams come true!

        Good luck in you journey and keep me informed..And NAMIs IN OUR OWN VOICE was my ticket to sharing my story.

  • This is ALL you…! going up on the Montgomery County affiliate site now… a 10 on the feel-good scale – Steve

    • Steph Sikora

      Thanks Dad 🙂 I know it’s all soooo ME!

  • JoAnne

    Amazing for an amazing sister!

    • What amazes me most, your sister does this with no fanfare… there are times of great pride – I think we are fortunate to be part of this opportunity… I love you two, strive to be more than what is expected…!

    • Thanks Jo! Thanks for dealing with me all these years. I know it’s been trying and we don’t always see eye to eye, but we can make a great team!

      Love your sista,

  • Amanda costa

    You are an inspiration! Thank you for being a wonderful example of what recovery can look like. I am honored to have met you at the NAMI conference!

    • Steph Sikora

      Thanks Amanda! I surprise myself everyday 🙂 with how well I am doing and I think it is a possibilty for all if we put our minds to it and get the help and support.

  • Stephanie! This is such a good video. You made me cry in the best way possible. I’m so glad to see you going through recovery. It’s a beautiful thing. I’m happy that you found something that works to keep you going. Horses are a wonderful and if that’s part of what keeps you going, get it girl!

    • Steph Sikora

      Jamie you are great 🙂 I am so glad we got to hang out at the NAMI Conference. Horses have been my love and passion for ever and I don’t know how to go on with out them.

  • Jenn

    Love ya, Steph! And your feline nieces do too! 🙂 I’m so proud of you, and your willingness to share your story with the world.

    • Steph Sikora

      Thanks Jen! Give those girls a kiss and hug for me… one day I should just stop by after ACCESS on a Wed or Thurs.

  • Steph-I’ve never been more proud of you. You
    are truly amazing and I admire your strength.
    You’re a wonderful role model for those who are
    in recovery. You’re the best!!! Neen

    • Steph Sikora

      Thanks Neen! Just gotta keep on rolling and taking care of myself.

  • Alexa Hawley

    Stephanie, I am in awe of how far you’ve come. While I do not hide behind my mental illness, I don’t think I could do what you do. Stay strong, and keep pushing…One day the stigma of mental illness will no longer exist and it will be because of people like you. Thank you. Love cousin, Sandy

    • Steph Sikora

      Hey Cousin,

      I know that not everyone is able to do what I do but if we all work together it will get better for us all 🙂 Thanks for your support and I hope to see you soon.

      Love, Steph

  • Jack Hansen

    Stephanie, You ROCK. Keep reaching for the STARS. I feel very honored that I was able to see this video

  • Absolutely Awesome Steph!!

  • Dear Stephanie,
    I love your video! You are amazing! The video was well done and very powerful. You are definitely an inspiration for all of us. Congratulations and keep up the great work.

    Kathie Mitchell
    Community Advocates of Montgomery County

  • Janet

    Your awesome Stephanie. Such an inspiration. Your love and passion for horses really shows. Thanks for all you do to promote awareness for mental illnesses and NAMI. Your taking control of your life and living it to your fullest potential. I foresee you’ll help many people and animals in your lifetime. God Bless.

  • Leilani Hasenplaugh

    Hi Stephanie,
    Your mom sent me your site. I am so impressed with your heartfelt video. You did a great job, and I bet you do well at your speaking engagements too. From listening to you, I know you will achieve your goals. I’m going to forward this to a few friends. What is your horses name?
    Take care,
    Love Leilani

    • The horse’s name is Honey show name Echo’s honey rose. Thank you so much for watching and feel free to forward to whom ever!


  • Stephanie, thank you so much for sharing how important the horse is to your mental health journey!

    I lead an academic program where graduate level training is offered to mental health professionals who want to partner with horses and provide opportunities for their clients to experience the benefits that you speak of, and I will share your story through this video with my students.

    Thanks again and take care,

    Nina Ekholm Fry
    Prescott College

    • Nina,
      Thank you for sharing. What program do you work with.. I would like to continue my education and involve horses. I know of two equine assisted therapy programs, and was a NARAH instructor but was not in full recovery then. Please tell me more…


      • Nina

        Hi Steph,
        I am so sorry about the delay in getting back to you! I direct the Equine-assisted Mental Health programs at Prescott College in Arizona. I’d love to tell you more about what we do there, go ahead and send me an email at nfry (at)

        Looking forward to hearing from you!

  • Michele

    Your story will inspire students at my school. We specialize in working with learners with Asperger’s, ADHD, and other exceptionalities. You sound like a great role model and, like Bud, are a WONDERFUL spokesperson for exceptional people. Keep it up! I applaud you 🙂

  • Rhonda

    WOW — what an inspiring story of a young women’s struggle and accomplishments spoken in “living room” conversation. Kudos to the director, too.

  • Lori Kramer

    Hello Steph,

    Both you and the video are awesome! You are a true inspiration. It’s wonderful of you to share your story and to be so caring that you want to help others in their struggles with mental illness. Hopefully the stigma associated with mental illness will one day disappear and people will be more open about it because of people like you. Keep up the great work, and thanks so much for sharing your story!

    Love, Lori and Stacey

  • Thank you all for the kudose! As some know I have reached a few goals from the video. I now live on my own in a condo in Harleysville, PA and have lost some weight. My boyfriend and I are still going strong and I continue to ride everyother week.
    Thanks again,

    P.S. keep on stomping out stigma! I know I will 🙂