Fearless momma Erica knows that failure is your friend

Name:Erica Hornthal

Kid(s): Sami (4.5)

Official work title and company: Clinical Director/CEO of Chicago Dance Therapy

Location: Chicago and Surrounding Suburbs


Tell us more about your company. (How you got started, where did the idea come from, how it has grown to the success it is today, etc.)


Growing up I always loved to dance, but it wasn’t until I transferred in the middle of sophomore year of high school from Tampa, FL to Chicago, IL that I realized dance for me was so much more than an art form or hobby.  It was a coping mechanism.  Dance was my therapy and I needed it essentially to survive this difficult transition.  I became very involved in the dance company at school (Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire) as well as in the transfer student organization where I could support other transferees.  These two worlds, dance and supporting others through difficult transitions never seemed to coincide.  It wasn’t until my freshman year of college when a professor noticed that I was taking dance and psychology courses that she mentioned the field of dance/movement therapy and then my two worlds collided.  Dance/movement therapy allowed me to pursue a career in dance and psychology, ultimately using movement in a clinical setting to improve mental health for individuals needing an alternative to talk therapy.  I went on to get my graduate degree in dance/movement therapy and counseling, sat for my state licensure, and opened up my own practice dedicated to dance/movement therapy.  

Chicago Dance Therapy was born because the work I wanted to do didn’t seem to exist.  I attempted to bring my expertise to existing counseling practices, but 8 years ago was met by others with an unwillingness to accept a body-centered approach to psychotherapy.  Now most of those practices have since hired dance therapists, but I continue to honor the work we do and hold a space for it in my group practice.  

What has been your biggest challenge as a working mom? Your biggest reward? 

The work/life balance has always been a challenge.  I often feel that if I want to grow my business then my family life has to take a back seat or vise versa.  I know that is not the case, but I constantly have to sit with that paradigm and confront my assumptions around what success in business and success as a mom is.  The funny thing is that “success” is not what it used to be.  It is not money, notoriety, or accomplishment.  I feel successful everyday because I live my life authentically and that has been the greatest reward I can give myself and my family.   


Where do you think working mom guilt comes from and how can women overcome it?

Working mom guilt comes from societal expectations and assumptions that have been conditioned for centuries.  Okay that may be an overstatement, but truly it often comes down to our feeling that we are not living up to a standard or doing it “the right way.”  Instead of trying to overcome it, acknowledge it. Give it space to breathe and let yourself challenge why you feel guilty.  I am obviously a firm believer in therapy.  It can really help to talk to someone if you need assistance managing the “voices” in your head and the guilt that can feel overwhelming.

What have you found to be the motivations and benefits for women that take on the extra stress and time crunch of combining work and family?

I can only speak for myself.  I have found that being an entrepreneur has made me a better mom.  My family motivates me to be the best most authentic version of myself.  I want to be a good role model for my daughter and that means living my truth and passion.  For me it is not about taking on added stress, but managing the stress that naturally comes with life.  The work I do seems to help me manage family stress and my family helps me manage the stress of owning and operating a business.  And when I feel like that balance isn’t there, then I know I need “me” time.  I make self-care a priority and practice it every day.  It is not selfish; it is necessary.

What would be your time-saving tip for your fellow working moms? 

Prioritize! It is easy to feel like everything is necessary, but that is not true.  Ask yourself what really matters and use that as a measure for what needs to get done.

Who or what gives you your daily dose of inspiration?

It is a combination.  My family and my clients both inspire me.  When I am having a challenging day I can look to both to touch my spirit and teach me resilience.  It is truly what keeps me going. 

What advice would you give to other working moms when it comes to balancing a career, family, and self-care?

  1. Trust your gut

    Your intuition, body sense, or body knowledge is there for a reason.  Learn to listen to it.

  2. Don’t do it for anyone else but yourself.

    Pleasing others with only perpetuate your dissatisfaction, anxiety, fear, or disappointment.

  3. Move

    Our bodies must express when our minds suppress.  Moving your body helps to move your mind and helps to dispel built up tension.  

  4. Failure is your friend

    Failure allows us to learn and grow.  Embrace it!

  5. Be grateful

    Find ways to appreciate what you have and you’ll never want for anything.  

Bonus: Do you have a favorite quote? Share with us if so! 

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain.- Vivian Greene