Our History

Warm, knowledgeable, and respected boutique group practice.


Ilene Kastel, the founder of Next Step Counseling in Chicago, IL, opened in 2011. “My goal was to create a boutique practice specializing in niche areas based on what I was passionate about, with people I could relate to and who could relate to me. I believe creating expertise in specific areas allows client’s the best support to grow, change and thrive.”

Ilene Kastel

Our History

Warm, knowledgeable, and respected boutique group practice.


Shortly after, a respected colleague requested to be apart of what Ilene was building and joined Next Step as the first employee. During this time, our strong reputation in Chicago began to grow due to positive online reviews and clients loving their work with us and referring those in their networks.

Ilene Kastel

Our History

Warm, knowledgeable, and respected boutique group practice.


Next Step needed to expand due to the demand for our services and our investment in helping more people. NSC moved into a larger space in the Loop and carefully and thoughtfully grew our team. It was important to us that each clinician be honest and authentic individuals that value the ongoing growth and development that is inherent in our field.

“We honor the importance of connection and strive to build a sense of inclusivity, safety, and trust within the practice for our clients and for the team. Moreover, we know that life comes with ups and downs, and we do our best to instill resiliency in our clients and in ourselves.” Ilene Kastel, CEO

Ilene Kastel

Our History

Warm, knowledgeable, and respected boutique group practice.


NSC decided it was important to not only give back to the counseling community but honor social justice and find a way to offer services to those that don’t have the means. Thus, NSC began the internship program where we keenly training high quality graduate psychology students and affording the opportunity for those that might not otherwise be able to get the counseling support they need.

“We are able to offer sliding scale options to those in need while still offering safe, supportive and high quality services. ” Ilene Kastel, CEO

Ilene Kastel

Our History

Warm, knowledgeable, and respected boutique group practice.


Over the years, we’ve maintained our mission as a boutique niche practice. We’ve grown our close knit team of warm clinicians, all expertly trained to focus on specific life & relationship transitions. We’ve expanded to providing both remote telehealth and in person services, as well as offer sliding scales to provide counseling to those in need.

“We engage in ongoing practices to build connection with all clients, make sure everybody who enters the office feels welcomed and valued, and approach our work in a nurturing, collaborative and holistic manner. We are responsive to our clients, recognize that the client experience is a high priority, and do what we can to ensure clients feel safe from the first moment they interact with Next Step Counseling.” Ilene Kastel, CEO

Ilene Kastel
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Partners in Navigating Love & Life

Our Counselors


We are well-trained, warm, and thoughtful clinicians who thoroughly enjoy getting to know our clients. Our therapy is based on working with you in a collaborative, genuine and productive manner. As counselors, it’s important to us that you feel comfortable and connected so that we can build a positive working relationship where growth and change happen. Browse our valued team members below.


Anthony Borchardt, LCSW, PMH-C

Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Perinatal Mental Health Certification

• 11 years combined academic, professional, and clinical training
• Experience with stress and anxiety management, men’s issues for identity and masculinity, new parent transitions, addictions and gambling recovery, depression, and trauma
• Utilizes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Solution-Focused Therapy, Mindfulness and Emotionally-Focused Therapy
• In-depth work providing trauma and crisis intervention
• Provides a supportive, empathic setting and empowers clients to become the healthiest version of themselves
• Provides supportive and collaborative work with clients through individual counseling and support for couples transitioning into the role of parenthood

Anne Leiter, MA, LCPC

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

• Passionate about collaboratively helping clients to develop healthy relationships with themselves and increase self-esteem
• Committed to helping clients explore and discover their authentic selves.
• Conducts individual and couples counseling
• Utilizes Psychodynamic approach, integrating Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness Techniques, and Relational Therapy
• Experience utilizing creative and artistic expression therapeutically

Esther Kim, MA, LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

• Values connecting and building relationships with clients
• Dedicated to co-creating a supportive, comfortable space that honors personal needs and processes
• Provides affirming care that welcomes all aspects of a client’s identity, culture, and lived experience
• Integrates Existential, Narrative, ACT, strengths-based, trauma-informed, and mind-body-spirit concepts
• Passionate about exploring and understanding the human experience
Myra Siddiqui

Myra Siddiqui, MS, NCC, CCTP

National Certified Counselor

• Provides a safe, welcoming, and judgment-free space to empower clients’ growth within their unique experiences, identities, and abilities.
• Works with life transitions, identity development, relationship difficulties, grief, trauma, anxiety, and depression.
• Dedicated to culturally-aware support for clients with intersectional identities, with a subspeciality in working with BIPOC and first- and second-generation individuals.
• Utilizes strengths-based, narrative, CBT, solution-focused, psychodynamic, and trauma-informed approaches.
• Emphasizes collaboration and authentic connection that honors the client’s lived experiences.
• Approaches therapy from a holistic lens, focusing on the mind-body-spirit connection to help clients gain insight and empowerment.
Zoë Engling

Zoë Engling, Office Manager

Office Manager

• Background in mental health administration
• Style of client care is grounded in working with a diverse client base
• Fosters trust based on unique client needs
• Client care coordinator and intake call coordinator
• Provides operational and clinician support
• Point on medical billing

Kelsey Manzi, MA, LCPC

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

• Knowledgable and passionate about working with client’s struggling with life transitions, relationship and sex difficulties, trauma, anxiety, shame, self-esteem, perfectionism, and identity.
• Provides a genuine, collaborative, and safe therapy space for clients to help them discover and explore their authentic selves.
• Conducts individual and couples counseling services as well as knowledgeable in premarital counseling.
• Dedicated to working with individuals of all backgrounds taking a multicultural approach and being culturally sensitive using a non-judgmental and non-assuming processes.
• Utilizes an integrative approach to counseling using Gottman and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy methods, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Attachment Theory, and Trauma-Focused Therapy
Lakeitta Harris

Lakeitta Harris, M.Ed., LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

• Incorporates collaboration and support to create a safe space for growth and self discovery
• Provides warmth, openness, non judgment, and affirming therapy
• Passionate about working with individuals and couples who have experienced challenging life transitions, stress, anxiety, depression, and trauma
• Utilizes mindfulness, and strength based interventions that helps with meeting clients where they are
• Conducts cognitive behavioral, acceptance and commitment, narrative, DBT, and trauma-focused therapy
• Dedicated to working with individuals from diverse backgrounds with emphasis for providing quality service to communities of color

Mackenzie Muller, MA, LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

• Works with both couples and individuals in life transitions, intimacy, relationships, relational trauma, emotional and identity development
• Passionate about working with individuals in strengthening their relationship to self and others.
• Works in a collaborative, warm and safe environment for clients to explore
• Utilizes CBT, ACT, mindfulness, EFT and existential/transpersonal frameworks
• Prioritizes building trust and deepening connection to clients that fosters a healing space.
• Strong ability to adapt to meet clients unique needs where they are at and what they need while still empathetically challenging them.
• Passionate about working with LGBTQIA+, sex positive, and trauma informed.
Chelsea Cooks

Chelsea Cooks, MA

Clinical Mental Health Counseling Intern

• Dedicated to providing a warm and welcoming space for clients to feel understood
• Acknowledges clients’ intersected identities and lived experiences
• Passionate about working with BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities
• Devoted to helping clients improve their relationships with themselves and others
• Committed to inclusive and culturally sensitive therapy and social justice advocacy

Chris Edwards, MSW, LCSW

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

• Offers a warm, welcoming therapy space for individuals and couples and seeks to balance curiosity with respecting boundaries
• Utilizes a strengths-based and trauma-informed practice that values how the skills that helped you survive are equally important as your struggles
• Trained in working with grief, loss, depression, and anxiety
• LGBTQIA+ affirming, kink-aware, and experience working with issues related to relationships (monogamous and non-monogamous/polyamorous)
• Experience working with clients struggling with alcohol and substance-use
• Trained in a developmentally sensitive and neurobiology-informed practice that considers how life experiences shape our bodies, our behaviors, and our understanding of the world

Shannon Lieberman, MA, LPC

Licensed Clinical Counselor

• Creates a warm, comfortable, judgement-free environment to safely explore and gain insight.
• Utilizes a strengths-based approach, integrating Psychodynamic Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and mindfulness techniques.
• Devoted to helping clients improve their self-esteem and relationship with themselves.
• Committed to inclusive, culturally sensitive therapy and social justice advocacy.
• Knowledgeable about non-traditional relationships such as consensual non-monogamy and kink dynamics.

Brian Hyland, M.Ed., LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

• Passionate and honored to help individuals resume or begin their therapeutic journey
• Creates a warm, safe space where clients can explore, question, process, and deal with difficult emotions while feeling heard and seen
• Experienced with anxiety, depression, self-esteem and shame, career changes and exploration, identity, relationships, family dynamics, men’s issues, and those suffering burnout in helping professions
• Collaborates with client to co-author their story and process challenging situations and experiences
• Utilizes counseling frameworks such as person-centered, Attachment Theory, Mindfulness, Solution-Focused Therapy, and strength-based approaches

Don Glenn, MA

Clinical Mental Health Counseling Intern

• Client-centered, holistic, strengths-based approach
• Works with individuals and couples experiencing a wide range of concerns
• Draws on multiple therapeutic modalities and techniques
• Multiculturally-informed approach, working with marginalized populations
• Focus on LGBTQIA+ mental health, sexuality, identity, and relationships
• Extensive medical experience, with a focus on mind-body connection and effects on well-being
100% of Client Reviews Gave Next Step Counseling

A Perfect 5 Star Rating on Yelp

“We had a need for grief counseling for our office and I was having a difficult time finding an appropriate resource that could support our team. Ilene called almost immediately after I sent in a general request to talk through what I was looking for and how her staff could support. We ended up have a number of 1:1 and group sessions available which was invaluable to our staff. I'm grateful to this team and recommend Next Step Counseling to anyone.”

Trinity M.via Yelp

“I am so fortunate to have crossed paths with Sandra. She's helped me tremendously through a few major life transitions that happened all at once. She's incredibly kind, smart and patient. I felt more optimistic after her sessions, like the weight of the week was lifted off my shoulders. I'd still be seeing her consistently if I hadn't moved out of state. I recommend Sandra, and Next Step Counseling in general, if you're interested in therapy.”

Brittaney L.via Yelp

“My experience Next Step Counseling has been absolutely incredible. My counselor is supportive, empathetic, professional & has helped me navigate through some significant life challenges. From relationship & life transitions to working through death and illness in my family... she always makes me feel like I am in a safe place to share while offering helpful tools to use in everyday life. I highly recommend any therapist on the Next Step team.”

Krystie R.via Yelp

“Ilene listened so well that she was sometimes able to sense my feelings/emotions better than I could. She could read between the lines of what I was saying and sense if I wasn't feeling great about something. She wouldn't let me get away with being unfair to myself and would always challenge me when I was. I feel so lucky to have found her and to have spent time working with her. I wouldn't be as happy and healthy as I am today if it weren't for Ilene.”

Emily K.via Yelp

Contact Us. 

Pay Us a Visit

70 E Lake St #222
Chicago, IL 60601

Serving Chicago, Streeterville, Gold Coast, West Town, West Loop, River North, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Lincoln Square, Bucktown, Ravenswood and surrounding areas.

Common Questions

Do you accept insurance?

We are in network with the following insurance carriers:

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Blue Choice Advantage
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Blue Choice Preferred
  • United Behavioral Health, aka United Health Care
  • Optum Veterans Affairs Community Care Network

However, if you have a carrier that we don’t accept we can still work together! Using your out of network benefits, many insurance companies will provide you with 20% to 80% reimbursement for sessions. We provide you with an invoice, you send it into your insurance company and they mail you a check. If you’d like to know what your out of network benefits are call the number on the back of your card and ask, “What are my out of network benefits for mental health counseling?” Please contact us to provide you with additional information about this.

Is there parking available at your office?

All el lines are within 1-2 blocks, and, there are two parking garages nearby at 60 E. Lake St. and 20 E. Randolph.

I tried therapy and didn't like it. How's this different?

Therapy varies depending on the personalities of the counselor and client, as well as the particular concerns brought forward. Sometimes the chemistry between the counselor and client or the counselor’s style or approach just isn’t a good fit. The relationship between the client and the therapist is of utmost importance. Therefore, we work to create a safe environment where open and honest communication is encouraged so that concerns or questions about treatment or the relationship can be addressed in session. This often benefits the therapeutic process and deepens the therapeutic relationship.

What can I expect from the first few sessions?

During the first and second session, we will gather information about what has brought you into therapy including your concerns, what you’d like to work on and information about your current and past emotional health and life history. This information helps us gain a deeper understanding about your situation, you as a person and how to best help you. As noted earlier, since it is important that clients feel comfortable with their counseling, we encourage clients to also use the first session as an opportunity to assess if this is a good fit for you as well.

What can I expect during a typical therapy session?

During therapy you will begin to discuss and share your feelings, thoughts, and reactions in order for you to begin to gain insight, develop new thinking patters, coping skills and overall improved quality of life. It is natural to feel uncomfortable about opening up at first but this process because much easier after a few sessions. Since self-growth is possible through commitment and work I will encourage you to practice the things you discuss and learn outside of session.

How long will I need to be in therapy?

The number of sessions needed is different for everyone depending on a number of factors including but not limited to your goals, severity or intensity of your concerns or symptoms, how long you’ve been dealing with your concerns, current levels of stress, and the progress you make towards reaching your short or long-term goals.

Is what I say in therapy confidential?

In general, all communications between a client and counselor are confidential and can only be released with the client’s written permission. However, there are some exceptions required by law to this rule. Exceptions include:

  • When there is a reasonable suspicion of child/dependent abuse or of an elder adult.
  • When the client communicates a threat of bodily injury to others.
  • When the client is suicidal.
  • When disclosure is required pursuant to a legal proceeding.