About Couples Counseling Associates

Couples Counseling Associates is one of the few professional counseling practices in Chicago specializing in helping couples and marriages exclusively.

According to research, 80% of therapists in private practice work with couples, but only 12% of therapists have training specifically related to working with distressed couples. Learn more about how to find the best-qualified couples counselor.

About Couples Counseling Associates: We work with individuals who want to improve their relationship regardless of age, marital status, or sexual orientation. All of our associates share the same philosophy about the best ways to help individuals and couples in relationship distress. Our work is based on the latest research findings of what makes a successful relationship.

Jump to: About Sara | Jump to: Our Associates

Our Approach

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. Most couples have an idea by the end of the first couple of sessions whether or not our work can be helpful for their relationship.

Our Strengths

  • Experience with couples in distress
  • Specialized training in working with couples
  • Our problem-solving orientation
  • A compassionate and direct approach
  • Our focus on helping people move forward and get back on track

Dr. Sara Schwarzbaum



I believe that couples have few road maps to help them navigate their lives successfully in today’s complex relationship world.

I like 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 in helping couples learn new ways to communicate, reduce the number of fights, and facilitate re-connection. I am also good at coaching 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 in the US with the 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. This is where I trained the next generation of couple and family counselors as the Coordinator of the Master’s program in Couple & Family Counseling. I retired from that position in August, 2016.

I have authored numerous articles and two books. My writings have appeared in the Psychotherapy Networker, Counseling Today, and the Journal of Multicultural Counseling, among other publications.

I am a speaker at couples counseling workshops for social service agencies and professional organizations. I also run supervision groups for therapists who are working with couples. Media outlets frequently seek my input regarding couples distress and improvement strategies for couples.

I founded Couples Counseling Associates in 2008 in response to the growing need for relationship counseling services in the Chicago area.

Our Associates

Read about each of our associates and their specializations below.

Linda Lazzara, MSW, LSW | Associated Therapist

Additional Location:

637 E Golf Rd #201
Arlington Heights 60005

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 clients and their families to help them improve the quality of their relationships while learning alternative ways of living in their everyday lives.

In my work with couples, I strive to improve awareness of problematic relationship patterns that interfere with an ability to connect with others.  I believe therapy can be a rewarding experience that provides a safe space to explore unresolved feelings related to relationships and process current and past experiences that have shaped who we are and our vulnerability.  I support clients’ work toward greater self-acceptance, self- awareness, and improvement of the ability to discover and live authentic lives.

My work is client centered, trauma focused, strengths based, integrative, and grounded in cognitive behavioral therapy, narrative and family systems therapy.  I provide clients with activities, tools, and strategies that support their change and long term growth, increasing healthier communication, intimacy and spontaneity.

My treatment specialization includes LGBTQ clients, couples and families struggling with anxiety and depressive disorders, PTSD, self harming behaviors, relationship issues, and healthy sexual identity development.

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 a variety of community mental health settings over the last eight years and have worked within a private practice setting for the last four years.  In 2016, I founded Semillas Counseling LLC, striving to provide affordable and culturally and linguistically comprehensive therapeutic counseling and social work services within the Chicagoland Area.

I am the supervisor of a community mental health crisis program supporting clients and families through difficult and critical periods.  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.

Giulia Casani, MA, LMFT | Associated Therapist

Direct Contact Information:
500 N. Michigan Ave, Suite 600
Chicago, IL 60611

I am particularly passionate about working with couples and my primary focus is sexual and relational problems at all stages of life. Areas of expertise include sexual dysfunction (especially rapid ejaculation, E.D. and orgasm difficulties, sexual desire discrepancies), and out-of-control sexual behavior.

I work with individuals and couples and specialize in sex therapy,  I am a  a sex-positive therapist. I encourage clients to develop healthy ways of relating to their sexuality and sexual practices, without added shame. I am an LGBQIA-affirming therapist and a trans-supportive, gender queer, non-binary, and gender non-conforming ally.

I am a Licensed Marriage and family Therapist and I work in Chicago in the Streeterville area. I earned a Masters degree in Psychology at the Universita’ Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, Italy and my Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy at Northeastern Illinois University.

Through my international experiences, I enhanced my cultural awareness and sensitivity, and developed a particular interest in immigration and relocation issues. I am also an EMDR trained therapist.  In addition to my clinical work, I work as a consultant for organizations in areas such as creativity, communication, team building, conflict resolution, and leadership.

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.

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 Choose Couples Counseling Associates?

Don’t wait: If you’re worried about your relationship, reach out today.

All inquiries and sessions are strictly confidential.

Couples Counseling Associates