Authenticity, vulnerable and brave expression

Living a fully authentic life may require a deeper understanding of who you are and your relationship with yourself, your relationship with others or your relationship with society and religious or spiritual practices.

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No matter what relationship or life transition you’re going through, we competently provide individual, couples, and multiple partner counseling for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex and asexual folks.

Ilene Kastel, M.A., LCPCNext Step Founder
Move forward wisely.

We are a supportive and LGBTQIA+ affirmative counseling practice

Clinicians at Next Step Counseling adopt a systems-based approach to working with folks in the LGBTQIA+ community, understanding how complex it can be to hold one or more marginalized identities in a heteronormative world. We are here to honor you right where you’re at, at the intersection of all of your identities.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness supports the need for mental health services for members of the LGBTQIA+ community experiencing prejudice and stigma due to their identity. Working with an LGBTQIA+ affirming therapist can promote better outcomes for addressing the shame associated with the stigma, and can lead to recovery and a greater quality of life. Worse health outcomes result when folks struggle in silence.

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Your Relationship to Yourself


General identity development


Coming out


Exploration regarding sexual orientation/sexuality


Gender identity exploration


Exploration & support regarding body modifications/exploring


Exploring erotic desire & kinky play


Exploration & support for exploring gender confirmation procedures


Self-harm & harm reduction

Depression, Anxiety or Trauma


General sadness, anxiety, stress or trauma


Sadness stemming from gender dysphoria


Anxiety, harassment, isolation because of identity


Physical, emotional, or sexual trauma


Intimacy concerns

Relationships - monogamy, polyamorous, kink




Relationship discord or uncertainty


Exploring or support practicing ethical non-monogamy, open or polyamorous relationships


Support setting boundaries & communication training


Managing jealousy and practicing compersion

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.
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