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Meet Sara Schwarzbaum of Couples Counseling Associates in Streeterville

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sara Schwarzbaum.

Sara, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I had been working in the mental health field for decades and I was trained as a marriage therapist, but I did what many people in my profession do; I worked with adults, children, families and couples. After a while, I realized that there were not too many people in the profession specializing in helping couples in distress… I saw that many couples were struggling, and did not know how to fight fair, or divorce without destroying everything on their wake. There were not too many therapists well trained in the art of working effectively with couples and this accounted for the bad reputation that couples counseling had (and sadly, still has). At the same time, in my role as professor of the Masters in family counseling program at Northeastern Illinois University, I developed the couples counseling courses, I trained future marriage counselors and I studied the research on the subject. So, when I moved my practice downtown, I thought I decided to devote my clinical expertise to working with couples. At the time, my business was one of the few in the Chicago area with that specialty.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
When I founded Couples Counseling Associates, I also developed a website, which has been instrumental in the growth of my business. To this day, the majority of referrals come from the website. People who are looking for a marriage counselor at 2 AM after a fight with their partner or spouse will start their research online.

Some of the struggles in my profession are related to how difficult it is to rely on online reviews. The confidential nature of our business makes it difficult for our clients to post reviews online. I rely on client testimonials collected overtime anonymously, posted on the webpage.

There are challenges on both sides.

Working with couples in distress is not easy for the therapist or for the couples.

Challenges for the couples therapists:

We have to exhibit high level of emotional intelligence and maturity to withstand conflicts and the roller coaster of emotional upheavals.

Challenges for the clients: it’s difficult because they are trying to create a relationship within a society that is severely anti-relational that tends to apply a consumerist approach to couples.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Couples Counseling Associates – what should we know?
What distinguishes us is that we specialize in working with couples. This is the only focus of our work. We provide premarital counseling, same sex couples counseling, discernment counseling and marriage counseling. We call what we do “couples counseling” in general because that encompasses people all relationship status.

I am proud of the fact that I help couples improve the way they relate to each other. This sounds simple, but it is not. There is a lot of misconceptions in my profession and in society over how to do that and many people don’t have the appropriate training and experience.

Over time I have developed a reputation as someone who can help even the most difficult couples. This does not mean that they all stay together, but rather, that after working with me, they choose their path without having to become either a pawn of the legal system or feel victimized by their partners.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
People say that I am direct, straightforward, and a problem solver. I am also very clear about what people are hiring me to do and I collaborate and listen well. I have a lot of experience and have seen many people in similar circumstances, so I can develop strategies that work pretty quickly now. I have also heard that I empathize well and understand where people are coming from.

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Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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