by Len Lear
You might say she is NOT the Dr. Phil of Chestnut Hill. Stephanie Heck, 45, who has had a private practice in psychology in Chestnut Hill for the last 10 years (her doctoral dissertation explored the variables that predict how a mother would view her baby’s disposition), also conducts interviews on her radio show, “The (Not So) Hidden Agenda,” on Sundays, 5 to 6 p.m., on G-town Radio (92.9 FM) or online at gtownradio.com.
(Dr. Heck is quick to point out, however, that her radio show is in no way linked to her private practice of psychology. “I do my show as a hobby on weekends, and I do not talk about my practice or use my psychology license in any way on the show. In other words, no advice and no diagnosis.”)
Dr. Heck came up with “The (Not So) Hidden Agenda” after reading an article on how Howard Stern’s interview style changed after going through psychoanalysis. “It was an article in the NYTimes, I believe,” she said. “It detailed how he had become more depth-oriented in his interviews. I had already begun to think about starting my own show after regularly being on ‘Morning Feed’ (a G-town Radio show that is no longer on the air), but I had been thinking I would have a show that spoke generally on a topic related to psychology.
“Reading the article about Howard Stern gave me the idea that rather than talk ABOUT psychology, I could DEMONSTRATE how psychology works via interviews. I worked with the program manager at G-town Radio, Tom Casetta, and together we worked out the specifics of the show, as well as its title… I kept saying that ‘the (not so) hidden agenda’ of my show was to show how much our stories (i.e., past histories) matter in terms of who we become and what we ultimately do with our lives.”
Dr. Heck, who grew up in Atlanta, GA and Chattanooga, TN, graduated from Vassar College in 1995 with a B.S. and departmental honors in psychology. After college, she worked at Yale University for two years conducting research in the Department of Psychiatry. She earned an M.S. (1999) and a Ph.D. (2003) in Clinical Psychology from Penn State University. She completed a predoctoral internship in 2003 and a postdoctoral fellowship in 2004, both at Pennsylvania Hospital.
Who have been her favorite radio interview subjects ? “This is a really hard question to answer since I have liked all of my radio guests! I really liked the show I did with a friend of mine from college who is a performer and theater creator, Trey Lyford, after he moved to Mt. Airy from New York …
“In addition to my discussion with Trey, though, I really enjoy the social justice theme that runs through all of my shows. Each in their own way, every guest has told me about a social justice mission that underlies their work as artists, thespians, writers, musicians, psychologists or whatever. I am thrilled that this has emerged since equality and social justice are deeply held personal values of mine.”
Dr. Heck used to run mom-baby groups at Hall-Mercer Community Mental Health Center in Society Hill. She was the “group facilitator,” meaning that she led groups of mom-baby pairs. The groups gave new mothers a forum for bonding with their babies and socializing with other mothers of same-age babies.
Dr. Heck has done extensive research into the stress of child-rearing. To sum up her findings in a nutshell, “Parental daily hassles (associated with stress) consistently predict all types of parenting variables.”
In January Dr. Heck will have lived in Mt. Airy for 15 years. “I love Mt. Airy’s location,” she said. “It feels like a nice balance of urban (Center City is nearby) and rural (the Wissahickon is right here). I like being able to get downtown easily, and I enjoy returning to Mt. Airy, where there are cute houses and parking spots. I also love the areas of Mt. Airy with row homes and the neighborly vibe that comes from those streets!”
What is the hardest thing Dr. Heck has ever done? “This is going to sound like a cliché, but raising children, especially babies, is the hardest thing I have ever done. And, believe me, I have done a lot of HARD things! But being a mother in America is no easy balancing act, and I feel proud that I’ve made it this far.”
What is the best advice she has ever received? “It was from my high school French teacher. She and I remained close friends for 30 years until she died earlier this year of brain cancer. When I found out she was sick, I called her as often as I could to talk to her. She was one of the most amazing people I have ever known. As she was dying, she gave me all kinds of advice, but the most important thing she said was for me to always ‘practice loving myself.’ She said to do it daily, intentionally and actively… I feel like we all need to get better at that if we’re going to build a better world.”
If Dr. Heck could meet and spend time with anyone on earth, living or dead, who would it be and why? “I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I’d have to say that I’d spend time with Sigmund Freud … His work is critical since it led to our understanding of the complexities of the human mind and the human experience. I see him as invaluable in my own understanding of people, and so I’d love to speak to him to hear what he has to say!”