Dr. Rebecca Schrag Hershberg is a clinical psychologist who specializes in early childhood social-emotional development and mental health. Rebecca has been helping parents with their kids (and vice versa) for more than a decade, through her extensive and varied clinical work, interactive workshops, published articles and her private practice, Little House Calls. She earned her Bachelor degree at Yale University and her PhD in Clinical Psychology at the University of Virginia. She lives in Dobbs Ferry, NY with her husband and two young sons who keep her busy yet smiling everyday. She credits motherhood for the reason she feels more deeply and intensely than ever before. Rebecca continues to grow herself in her profession- she is pursuing a training in a therapy modality called Somatic Experiencing and is writing a book to be published by Guilford Press. Find out more about this fascinating Beyond Mom!
What makes you a Beyond Mom?
I’m a mother of two little boys (Henry is three; Zeke is 19 months), as well as a clinical psychologist and founder of my own business, Little House Calls Psychological Services, PLLC. I specialize in early childhood (typically ages birth to five), and support parents – often in their own homes – as they face challenges around their children’s behavior, anxieties and fears, bedtime and sleep, emotion regulation, potty training, sibling issues, family transitions (separation and divorce, new baby, etc.), along with a host of other issues. I give talks and facilitate workshops on all of these topics, and I’m currently writing a book, to be published by Guilford Press, about everyone’s favorite subject: tantrums!
Being up on the latest early childhood research can be daunting; people have a tendency to assume, based on my professional background, that I must be a perfect parent myself – quite a misconception. It would be very easy to give in to feelings of intimidation or pressure. Instead, though, I allow my own flaws and vulnerability as a mother to inform my practice, and to pave the way for a deeper connection with my clients. Similarly, when I’m with my own little guys, I do my best to take off my psychologist hat, and to focus on just being with them as completely as possible. It’s all a work in progress and a constant dance – but when has motherhood ever been otherwise?
What are the parts of you that have grown and expanded since becoming a Mom?
I often think about the quote (attributed to different people) that having children is like having your heart walk around outside your body. Becoming a mother cracked my heart open; I feel more deeply and intensely than I ever have before. On the down side, I can no longer watch reruns of Law and Order: SVU, a former favorite, without falling apart; now that I have my own kids, the subject matter hits way too close to home. On the up side, though, I feel more authentically connected to people, things, and the world around me than ever before. Which is both wonderful and terrifying. Since it’s no longer just about me, I worry about the state of the world in a whole new way. I’m also much more patient since becoming a mom – in spite of the exhaustion – and more aware of my own triggers.
Can you share a collaboration/success story with another woman; what helped the collaboration become successful?
One of my oldest, dearest friends, Elizabeth Cohen, is also a psychologist, although she works primarily with adults. One of her areas of expertise is helping people find, make space for, and hold on to meaningful romantic relationships. Elizabeth and I think similarly about the work we do, particularly about the foundational importance of remaining connected to yourself in order to be able to connect to your romantic partner and/or child(ren). We frequently refer to each other and rely on each other for peer supervision, so much so that we recently decided to share an office suite, and are talking about the possibility of a more formal partnership.
Our collaboration has been so successful because of our deep mutual respect, our ability to communicate openly and honestly, and our shared commitment to the relationship (my husband still can’t believe how often we talk). Also, we laugh a lot. And she still lets me call her Lizzy, and will fully appreciate how difficult it has been to spend this whole paragraph referring to her by her full (and preferred adult) name.
What relationships help you stay connected to yourself?
My husband; he’s amazing. His compassion, insight, realness, rawness, humanity – sometimes he takes my breath away. Henry and Zeke too, of course; when they run (or toddle, respectively) into my arms when I pick them up at the end of the day, I’m transported out of my head, and into my heart, and smack dab into the center of the present moment. We also have a pretty stellar living arrangement right now; we jokingly refer to it as “the commune,” because we’re so close to, and spend so much time with, some of our neighbors. We all have small kids, and so there’s a lot of pinch hitting for each other and joining forces on Sunday afternoons when we’re not sure we’re gonna make it through the final stretch of the weekend. As they say, it takes a village.
Do you have a ‘Beyond’ dream that you are pursuing?
I am currently pursuing training in a therapy modality called Somatic Experiencing, which I can broadly describe as a body-oriented approach to healing trauma. The idea is to treat emotional and early developmental attachment trauma by helping the body release traumatic shock. Although I’ve only just begun the training process, I’m really excited to integrate the approach into my practice, applying the techniques to the work I do with both parents and young children. I also would love to write more books (though first I have to finish this one!).
In addition, social justice is incredibly important to me, and I’m always thinking about ways to incorporate activism and the fight for social equity into my daily life. Oh, and I sing! I used to perform once in a while at piano bars in New York City, and I’d love to get back to that. When I think about what it would be like to look out from the stage and see my boys in the audience, my heart explodes.
What wellness activity can you not live without? What is one thing you do daily that balances you?
Whenever I remember, and at least once a day, I do a body scan practice, consciously bringing awareness to every part of my body, from my toes to the top of my head. It’s a good way to get out of my often racing and not-that-helpful thoughts, and to feel grounded and centered.
How does style influence the way you stay feeling ‘Beyond’? Who is currently your favorite designer?
I have a purple streak in my hair, which helps me feel cool. OK, not really. Well, yes, a little. Weekends are strictly jeans and flip-flops (weather permitting). For professional and step-it-up attire, I go to a small boutique in Edgewater, NJ called Ambience. The owners are amazing, and indulge all my crazy when I go in every few months; they pull clothes off the rack that I say will never work. I begrudgingly agree to try them on and inevitably end up loving them. We make a pile of “definites” and a pile of “maybes,” and then I ultimately buy everything, justifying my purchases out loud to myself the whole time. I always wear dangly earrings, and handmade pendants with my boys’ initials (they each have four!) around my neck.
Favorite Spots that Embody The Beyond Mom:
Beyond Cocktails and/or Food:
Riesling, pisco sours, dirty martinis.
Chasing the boys around our backyard.
See Ambience, above. Also love Moon Tide Dyers, whom I first discovered at a local crafts fair. Long sweaters, flowy skirts, boots, yoga pants that can pass as professional.