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Introducing Amy Liptak, intern at

I am excited to introduce you to Amy Liptak who will be working with me as an intern over the next several weeks. When Northwestern contacted me, I was happy to consider taking on an intern, but I was thrilled to find they wanted to send me someone like Amy. If you are interested in working with Amy, please contact her at Because she is still a student, appointments with Amy will be offered for only $25 per hour. 


Mental health is a critical part of our human experience. Many factors shape our mental health, including our early family environment, genetic propensities and the social world in which we grow and develop our personalities. For many, there is an especially profound affect on an individual’s mental health when they are raised in a family where there is dysfunction and abuse. This environment can leave a lasting scar of pain and confusion on a person throughout his or her lifespan. I keenly relate to how complex that experience is, and I know I’m not alone. I made a choice many years ago to strive to understand my own dysfunctional family life and find strength and clarity in the chaos. I am passionate about sharing my story and sharing with others what I have learned, because that is when understanding, healing, and change can happen.   

One of the most determinative moments of my life was when my younger brother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was in my mid-twenties and he was two years younger. My family and I struggled to understand and cope with his erratic behavior, alcoholism, arrests, and hospitalizations, but at least we had a grasp of his disease.  After his death a few years later in a car accident while he was heavily intoxicated, I was numb with depression and grief. It was then I knew I needed to understand mental health better and how it affects our life experiences and relationships. I began to read and educate myself, and I spent many hours in the public library and learning about my own family dynamics. I began a career as a firefighter/paramedic, and for the next nine years I thrived in a career where I had the opportunity to help others in their time of need. 

Later, after my children started elementary school, I returned to college to finish my undergraduate degree in psychology, and the desire to move forward in the psychology field was solidified in me. Studying through the intellectual concepts and theories of psychology facilitated further understanding of my own life experiences. More fully understanding the physiology of my brother’s addiction and illness, as well as the personalities of other family members was certainly a turning point in my life. But truly developing emotional understanding and incorporating that in to my day-to-day life has been far more complex. Navigating healthy relationships with those that are dysfunctional has been infinitely more multifaceted than reading a textbook, and goes way beyond intellectually understanding psychological theories. It is that very journey that I feel passionate about helping others to navigate too.  

For the better part of the last year, I have had the opportunity to be a group facilitator for an adolescent domestic violence support group at Prevail, Inc., an advocacy center that helps victims of crime and abuse manage their circumstances and navigate through the court system. Our group consisted of approximately 8-10 kids for 12 week cycles of weekly workshops focusing on the affects of trauma and dysfunctional family dynamics, and how to develop coping skills. As I have spent time working with adolescents who are experiencing the same pain and confusion at home that I did, I have become even more passionate and confident that I have positive skills to make a difference as a counselor. Learning from the staff and clients at Prevail was extremely educational, and I feel grateful I had the opportunity to be part of such a great team of people.  

I am looking forward to using my skills and life experience to make a difference in my client’s lives. When asked why I want to be a counselor, it is easy to say “because I want to help others.” While that is absolutely true, more specifically I want to help individuals rewrite their life story, find the peace and understanding that they deserve, and learn to find the strength and courage to move past difficult circumstances. Each one of us has a valuable, meaningful life experience, and sharing our stories with each other is what keeps us connected and moving forward with understanding and tolerance. I strongly believe we need to make mental health discussions a comfortable topic in our communities and families, because the more we talk, the less stigma and more healing there will be. 

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