We had the good fortune of connecting with Esther Hess and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Esther, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I have been a developmental psychologist specializing in autism spectrum disorder for the last 40+ years. For the first part of my career I was a mental health provider in private practice, helping families with the basic challenges of identifying and navigating the maze of autism. But when you have a child with a developmental delay, they generally need a variety of support services in addition to mental health support that can include occupational therapy, speech and language support and educational therapy. My parents began to ask for me to create one spot where they might be able to access all services necessary for their child to grow and thrive. And I listened! 10 years ago, with my business partner and husband, Allen Samson, we created Center for the Developin0g Mind, a one stop wellness facility that has everything under one roof that a child with special needs might need to flourish and reach their maximum capacity.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Center for the Developing Mind is one of only a handful of multidisciplinary treatment facilities in Southern California that supports children, adolescents, young adults and their families impacted by developmental and/or regulatory disorders. What sets us apart from other treatment centers is the ability to really listen to our families and provide the specific kinds of support that helps whole families flourish and grow. For example, at the beginning of the Pandemic, we immediately moved to a virtual format for individual, couple, family and group therapy, in order to maintain the continuity of care that our families counted on. In June of this year, it became obvious that for many of our clients, virtual learning was not a productive way to learn. We pivoted once more and have expanded our academic support by creating backyard learning pods so that our children can safely maintain academic excellence while being able to access critical social connection with peers. I like to say that I have the best job in the world, because I get to play with kids and toys all day long. But, I am also aware that for our business to be a success, I and my wonderful staff have to be willing to make the daily sacrifices that let our families know that we are there for them and their children.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I think that we in LA live in a paradise! If my best friend was visiting for the week, I would want to show her the best time ever by taking in the sights and sounds of the ocean, I would begin with a drive down PCH on our way to Malibu. I’d definitely start by renting a convertible so that we could take advantage of driving along the Pacific Ocean with the top down in November! I would do some outdoor furniture shopping at Oasis garden store where I might pick up some gorgeous Mexican themed pots for my backyard. I would then grab a quick brunch at the Malibu Beach Pier. It’s amazing meditative and calming to watch the tide come in as you sup on some of the most delicious and fresh fare in the city, We then head out to Malibu State Lagoon, a hidden gem that combines the best of tide pool canvasing, bird watching and sunbathing in the area. Southern California is not only known for it’s beautiful beaches, but also for it’s amazing local mountains! I’m a working gal, so my friend would know that we need to reserve the weekends to play, but come Friday, we’d likely be heading out to the San Bernardino Mountains, specifically Lake Arrowhead. I’ve been coming up to Lake Arrowhead since I was a kid and never get tired of the abundance of water themed sports in the summer and winter wonderland opportunities happening right around the holidays. There are multiple opportunities to rent AirB& B’s in the area and I personally love to be in walking distance of the Lake Arrowhead Village. The outlet stores really are a discounters dream and on this trip, I take my friend on an hour long paddle boat ride around the lake taking in the beautiful Fall foliage before we head back to our cabin where a roaring fire and a locally bottled wine set the tone for a relaxing weekend.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to give a shout out to two special men in my life that have made my professional story a success. They include my father Dr. Leon Cytryn (of blessed memory) and my husband Allen Samson. My dad was a Holocaust survivor and despite losing most of his family and all of his possessions in WWII, he went on to becoming a world famous child psychiatrist and pioneer in child mental health. He lived by the belief that we all have the ability to daily rewrite our life’s script and taught me how to persevere no matter the obstacles. My husband Allen is a doer and an actualizer. When I shared my dream of opening up a multidisciplinary treatment facility for children and adolescents with special needs, Allen immediately sprung into action working tirelessly with me for almost 2 years to locate just the right spot for our Center and then spent an additional year to make Center for the Developing Mind a working reality.