About Couples Counseling Associates
Couples Counseling Associates is one of the few professional counseling practices in Chicago that exclusively specializes in couples, marriages, and relationships. Founded by Dr. Sara Schwarzbaum in 2008, Couples Counseling Associates works with individuals who want to improve their relationship regardless of age, marital status, or sexual orientation.
Specialized relationship counseling matters.
According to research, 80 percent of therapists in private practice work with couples, but only 12 percent of therapists have training specific to working with distressed couples. We fall in that 12 percent.
Our work is rooted in specialized relationship training and the latest research findings about what makes a successful relationship. Each therapist at Couples Counseling Associates shares the same philosophy about how to serve individuals and couples in relationship distress and each specializes in couples and relationships.
Learn more about how to find the best-qualified couples counselor.
Our direct, problem-solving style is tailored to the needs of each couple. Because every relationship is unique, we do not use a one-size-fits-all approach to couples counseling. After the first couple sessions, most couples have a good idea about whether or not our work can help their relationship.
- Experience with couples in distress
- Specialized training in working with couples
- Problem-solving orientation
- Compassionate and direct approach
- Focus on helping people move forward and get back on track
About Dr. Sara Schwarzbaum
Ed.D, LMFT, LCPC
I believe that couples have few road maps to help them navigate their lives successfully in today’s complex relationship world.
I want to give couples the tools they need to improve their relationship. My approach is direct, focused on problem solving, active, and collaborative. I have experience helping couples learn new ways to communicate, reduce the number of fights, and facilitate re-connection. I also coach people to decrease negative interactions and increase sexual intimacy.
I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I studied clinical psychology and marriage and family therapy prior to emigrating to the U.S. in 1982. I continued my training as a marriage and family therapist here with leaders in the field and have continued this work for the past 25 years.
After I finished my doctoral degree at Northern Illinois University in 1995, I became a Professor at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. I was the Coordinate of the Master’s Program in Couple and Family Counseling, where I trained the next generation of couple and family counselors. I retired from that position in August, 2016.
I have authored numerous articles and two books. My writing has appeared in the Psychotherapy Networker, Counseling Today, and the Journal of Multicultural Counseling, among other publications. (And I regularly contribute articles about love, relationships, marriage and more here on our blog).
I speak at couples counseling workshops for social service agencies and professional organizations and run supervision groups for therapists who work with couples. Media outlets frequently seek my input about couples distress and improvement strategies for couples.
I founded Couples Counseling Associates in 2008 in response to the growing need for specialized relationship counseling services in the Chicago area.
- Couples Counseling Associates Named Best Chicago Marriage Counselors
- Money Talks for Couples
- Are You Suffering From Touch Deprivation?
- Meet Sara Schwarzbaum of Couples Counseling Associates
- Men’s Health Magazine: Tips for Couples Who Break Up and Get Back Together
- Women’s Health Magazine: Break Ups to Make Ups
- 7 Biggest Complaints of Long-Married Couples
- Web Extra: Teen Pregnancy Ad Campaign Q&A with Sara Schwarzbaum
- Audio Clip: Recovery from Infidelity
- Audio Clip: Romantic and Mature Love
Read about each associate and their specializations below.
Linda Lazzara, MSW, LSW | Associated Therapist
I believe that every individual has both the desire and the potential to lead an enriching and fulfilling life. I also believe that we carry this hope into our relationships and our ideas for family life. However, couples often find that these plans are challenged by obstacles that can hinder healthy partnerships from developing.
My approach to couples therapy is a collaborative process aimed at helping partners better recognize the troublesome differences and repetitive patterns that cause stress on their relationship. I help couples uncover and develop the strengths that benefit the partnership while facilitating healthy means of communication to foster growth where needed. Although I have training in multiple treatment modalities, I mainly use Solution Focused Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in my work with couples.
I received my undergraduate degree in Social Work from Northeastern Illinois University and my Master’s degree from Loyola University specializing in Child and Family Therapy. I completed my clinical training in Police Social Work, providing counseling services to families in crisis with an emphasis on restructuring the family unit. I have obtained certification for Domestic Violence Training.
In addition to my educational background, I feel that my professional life is enhanced by past personal experience of living abroad for several years and presently as a wife and mother for over 2 decades. My primary areas of interest are working with couples struggling with anger management and communication issues, interfaith and multicultural relationships and blended families.
Liz Garvey, MA, AMFT | Associate
I strive to create an environment that is safe and warm, and I welcome a bit of humor. I will work as a team with you in a way that respects your values, goals, and culture.
I have a Master’s degree in Family Counseling from Northeastern Illinois University, and have completed Level 3 Training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy. Gottman studied couples for over 30 years and has scientifically identified specific relationship skills/tools that happy couples use (that unhappy couples often don’t use). You can learn these skills! I enjoy teaching them and seeing how they transform relationships.
I believe that people have reasons for doing what they do – and that understanding your past can help you identify relationship patterns that no longer work for you. Some of my work involves this type of exploration.
My professional experience includes
- Working with couples of diverse cultures and ages
- Premarital counseling
- Volunteer staff for Victories’ couples retreat weekend, based on Imago theory
- Public presentations on conflict and Gottman skills
- Facilitating career groups
- Co-facilitating a grief group
Michael Villarreal, LCPC | Associated Therapist
I believe in working collaboratively with couples to create a safe space to resolve problematic issues. Our work together can provide an opportunity to experience a deeper sense of intimacy, strengthen the commitment and communication with your partner and improve the quality of the relationships in your life.
Sessions will serves as a platform to practice new relationship skills, gain a greater sense of self-acceptance and self-awareness as you begin to eliminate communication patterns interfering with the trust, intimacy and connection between you and your partner. I incorporate activities, tools, and strategies to facilitate change and promote long term growth, increasing healthier communication, intimacy and spontaneity.
My work is client centered, trauma focused, strengths based, integrative, and grounded in cognitive behavioral therapy, narrative and family systems therapy.
Treatment specialization: Couples, families, LGBTQ clients, individuals struggling with anxiety and depressive disorders, PTSD, self-harming behaviors, relationship issues, and healthy sexual identity development. I utilize EMDR in my work with clients to decrease symptoms and emotional distress to expedite the healing process.
I was born and raised in Chicago. I obtained my Bachelors of Arts degree in Psychology from Northeastern Illinois University in 2002 and my Master’s degree in Community Counseling from Northeastern Illinois University in 2013. I have worked in community mental health over the last nine years and have worked within a private practice setting for the last five years.
I also provide supervision for master’s level interns and master’s level clinicians working toward licensure. Together we can make necessary changes so that you can continue to love your life and those in it.
Susan Morlock, MA, LPC | Associated Therapist
Direct Contact Information:
773-929-6262 Ext 20
Certified in Discernment Counseling by The Doherty Relationship Institute
Almost everyone enters marriage or a relationship hoping for a lifelong commitment. But there can be times when a relationship reaches a breaking point. When this happens there is typically one partner who is “leaning out” they believe divorce or breaking up the relationship is the best option and one partner who is “leaning in” and they would like to keep the marriage or relationship together.
Discernment Counseling helps couples to get a better understanding on what has happened to the relationship and what each person’s own contributions led them to this point. The process is to get to a place so that you may figure out whether your problems can be solved and whether you both want to try.
Discernment Counseling focuses on three paths: staying together as you have been, separation or divorce, or a six-month effort in couples therapy to try to keep the marriage or relationship together. This is short-term work, lasting typically from one to five sessions.
Kate Engler, MA, LMFT | Associated Therapist
Direct Contact Information:
10024 Skokie, Blvd. Suite 207 Skokie, IL 60077
(224) 233 – 1036 ext. 418 (office)
(844) 546 – 6642 (mobile – PLEASE NOTE: this number does not accept text messages)
Frequently, the issues that bring clients into therapy are connected to struggles with those closest to them. Much of my work focuses on couples experiencing challenges resulting from life transitions (marriage, birth of a child, mid-life, etc.), infidelity, and physical or emotional disconnection. Through the therapy process, couples and I work collaboratively to identify negative interaction patterns, build skills to cope with relationship distress, and deepen understanding of both the individuals and their partners.
With couples, I find EMDR particularly helpful when partners reach a point where they continually get stuck and cannot find a way to move forward. EMDR uses discoveries about how the brain stores emotional experiences and relies on the brain’s self-healing capacity. EMDR “processing” is different than traditional talk therapy. It focuses on alternately stimulating the right and left sides of the brain, allowing experiences that are causing problems to be “digested” and stored appropriately, thereby neutralizing the strong, negative emotions and sensations previously associated with the disturbing events. EMDR is often a useful complement to other types of counseling.
I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Illinois. I received my masters in Family Counseling at Northeastern Illinois University, and hold both an undergraduate and masters degree in secondary education from Ohio University. In addition to my academic program work, I received clinical training in Brief Strategic Family Therapy, Emotionally-Focused Couples Therapy, and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). I am a sex-positive and an LGBTQIA-affirming therapist.
Katerina Fager | Associated Therapist
I am a Licensed Professional Counselor, Associate Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and Divorce Mediator.
I specialize in Couple’s Therapy, and am currently pursuing the Gottman Therapy Certification and utilizing this approach in my work with couples. Within my sessions, I teach specific tools to deepen the friendship and intimacy in your relationship as you learn to productively manage and resolve conflicts. I work to gently support you and your partner to discover new vulnerabilities and appreciate each other’s strengths.
I graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and completed Divorce Mediation Training at Northwestern University, and have been trained in Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Over the last 5 years, I have worked in variety of settings supporting clients struggling with anxiety, depression, post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), relationship challenges, and adjustment difficulties.
I have been married for 14 years and the mother of 2 beautiful children.
I am passionate about my work with couples and families and am committed to helping achieve greater fulfillment in your relationships and life.
All the mental health professionals practicing at 737 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 2130, Chicago, IL 60611 or any other locations, are individually licensed by the State of Illinois and practice independently and separately. They have no legal relationship to the practices of each other and do not incur in liability for services of one another or to Dr. Sara Schwarzbaum.
Why Couples Counseling Associates?
Don’t wait: If you’re worried about your relationship, reach out today.
All inquiries and sessions are strictly confidential.