Our Team


Dr. Mari Schnitzius-Richko

  Dr. Mari Schnitzius-Richko ND, LCPC, CYI, ABT, CEDS

  Founder/Clinical Director

  IFS Therapist, Body Centered Psychotherapist, Shiatsu, Yoga, 
  Trauma-Informed BodyMind Acupressure

"Center for Authentic Living is committed to promoting wellness, education, and expanding the healing process into the community" - Mari

Dr. Mari Schnitzius-Richko is a Naturopathic Doctor who received her degree from Clayton School of Natural Healing, is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, a Certified Yoga Instructor trained at Nature Yoga in Chicago, a Nationally Certified Shiatsu Practitioner, graduate of the International Ohashi Institute in New York, trained in JinShin Do Acupressure(trauma informed bodywork), and founder of Center for Authentic Living.

“My experience with complimentary medicine began in my early adulthood, through my exposure to herbal medicine. Due to childhood trauma and illnesses, I searched beyond conventional medicine for a method that would lead to the deepest, most fulfilling healing possible. After years of study, I adapted these methods from eastern and western traditions that have become central to my work with my clients. Believing that these concepts of health can benefit all people, I have dedicated my life to the practices of these philosophies.”

Mari is well known in the eating disorder community for her work in enhancing recovery for those suffering from mental and physical ailments. Dr. Mari’s specialties are eating disorders, anxiety disorders, trauma, depression, stress management, chronic pain, and body illnesses due to physical and mental health issues. Mari's background includes Body Centered Psychotherapy, IFS (Internal Family Systems), CBT,  Body Therapies ( Zen Shiatsu and Trauma- Informed Body Mind Acupressure), Yoga Psychology, and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Mari along with her daughter, Meghann Richko LCPC, CYT, a psychotherapist and yoga therapist, created "YogaTalk" group therapy for those in recovery and imbalances due to emotional and/or physical issues.

Dr. Mari's professional engagements include lecturing on the combination of Psychotherapy and Chinese Medicine as an educational tool for recovery along with the need for yoga therapeutics as an adjunct therapy in recovery. She teaches workshops on applying these philosophies to our everyday life. She has lectured for IFS Conferences (Internal Family Systems), Richard Schwartz, Ph.D on combining IFS parts work with The Five Elements of Chinese Medicine. Her other engagements are public speaking on alternative approaches to wellness, educator on women's issues, educator for bodyworkers on chronic illness and cancer, speaker on radio talk shows on home birthing with Mayer Eisenstein, M.D., assisting pregnancies and birthing using Body Therapies. She held a position on the advisory board of directors for InNetwork, an exclusive membership group of integrative healthcare professionals whose main goal was to make complementary alternative medicine better understood and to inspire the public to use prevention medicine. 

“I believe as therapists that it is necessary to use compassion, cultivate mindfulness, and wisdom in our approach to empowering individuals to progress towards improved health and well- being and that it is imperative to develop some sort of spiritual practice in life to transform and fully heal. I believe a truly optimum treatment program relies on the awareness of the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects of who we are in the world, what parts of us are in alignment with our purpose and those that are not. It is my passion to integrate these components while working with my clients. This integration and personal spiritual practice includes our work in the world, our love, our families, and our understanding of mind/ body/spirit. My love of eastern philosophy, body therapies and yoga as a vehicles towards a healthy life have always been a large part of my own practice in the world and as a practitioner of psychotherapy and body therapy.”

“With direction, encouragement, and support, I would be honored assist you in finding a deeper sense of "Self" and a deeper connection with your Body/Mind. My vision for you is health, happiness, and longevity, with the most fulfilling and enduring healing process possible. For you to discover that this source is already within you."

Dr Mari Richko contact: 847-668-4869

Linda Winter

  Linda Winter JD, LCPC, SE


  IFS Therapist, SE Somatic Experiencing Therapist

Linda is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who received her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Northwestern University, a Certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, and a supervisor for the CFAL Team.

Her areas of practice are anxiety/stress, depression, disordered eating, life transitions, relationship issues, self esteem, self-understanding, and trauma (small "t" and big "T" trauma.)

“I enjoy working with people going through changes and transitions in their life. These moments most often include loss and grief. These transitions can also provide openings for insight and change. Working with people to better understand their relationships and understand themselves in their relationships is another area which I am passionate about. I apply my training with individuals (teens and adults), couples and families.”

My practice is informed by DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), IFS (Internal Family Systems), and SE (Somatic Experience). I have facilitated DBT Skills Training groups for years, as well as worked with people individually learning and reinforcing emotion regulation skills. It is a model based on tenants of Zen Buddhism - mindfulness, non-judgement, acceptance of reality, with the focus on better regulation of emotions. In addition to DBT, I utilize my skills as a certified IFS therapist and SE practitioner, which assist clients with regulating their internal systems on a psychological and physiological level. It is especially beneficial for stress, overwhelmed and trauma.

I am passionate about helping my clients lead their lives mindfully and aligned with their values and goals. In other words, for them to have lives be they want and intend to have. This most often begins with developing or fine tuning awareness of themselves, internally and externally -- mindfulness. Through curiosity and intention, and coming from a place of experiencing grounding, they begin to form or fine tune their goals and values. When examination of goals and values comes from a place of “Self”, clients experience clarity of purpose and clarity of self-review. This clarity allows them to more easily discern their own goals and values from those of other people in their lives.

This is a sacred journey. I am humbled and impassioned to walk with my clients on this journey, to share and discover skills and wisdom enabling my clients to find a sense of grounding, innate resources, and empowerment in their lives. It is a sacred honor to be with each and every one of you on your chosen journey.

Linda is currently retired and won't be seeing clients. She can be found assisting the LPC's in our practice and supervising them with their clients. Linda is running all aspects of our practice behind the scenes and we couldn't be more happy with her devotion to our practice. She continues to attend events, networking, marketing, and running our psycho-educational services. We hope she changes her mind and decides to see clients again. Her work is so valuable.

Ann Marie Zakos

Ann Marie Zakos MS, LPC, NCC 

Assistant Manager

Licensed Professional Counselor

Addictions Recovery, CBT, Meditation, EFT, Reiki, Empath Group

Ann Marie Zakos is a Licensed Professional Counselor and received her Master’s degree from National Louis University in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She is a National Certified Counselor and member of the Illinois Counseling Association

 Ann Marie is a holistic therapist and incorporates a person-centered and heart centered approach to therapy. She specializes in incorporating traditional and non- traditional approaches to healing mind, body, and soul. Her internship experiences were working with addictions, addiction recovery, and inpatient crisis case management. 

 Ann Marie specializes in addiction and addiction recovery, empaths/highly sensitive person (HSP), relationship issues, eating disorders, panic/anxiety/depression, PTSD, trauma, spirituality/existential crisis. 

 She has experience working with children, teens, adults, and families in both inpatient and outpatient settings using the most effective research based techniques in the CBT and DBT treatment models. In addition, she also uses Mindfulness, Reiki, Reflexology, and EFT to reduce symptoms and aid in healing.

 "I believe that when we are heard and understood true change can happen. Together we will develop a trusting therapeutic relationship that allows you to explore, reflect, and uncover your own personal truth and get to the core of an issue. I can help you deal with life's challenges in a healthy, productive way that will lead to true change, recovery, and transformation."

Dyanne Bresler

Dyanne Bresler, LCPC

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Board Certified Psychiatric Nurse

Dyanne Bresler is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor as well as a Board Certified Psychiatric Nurse. She received her Master’s Degree at Western Michigan University and has experience as a psychiatric nurse as well as being in private practice as a counselor. 

Dyanne works primarily with adult men and women as well as teens and couples. She is certified in EMDR and has helped many clients recover from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She is highly experienced in treating adults who suffer from emotional challenges such as anxiety, depression, issues related to grief/loss as well as relationship difficulties. She is a Certified Grief Counseling Specialist.

Trained in Imago Relationship Therapy, Dyanne says, “I believe that couples can step away from the edge of the cliff in a bad relationship if they are willing to do the work that it takes. When an unhappy couple can’t quite see the light at the end of the tunnel, I believe enough for both of them until they can see it themselves.”

“My clients and I create a working relationship. My job is to create an atmosphere that is safe. I may use humor, ask more questions, teach, make comments, offer homework and various experiential techniques. But always, the work is collaborative because I trust that every person has a unique capacity to draw on his or her own innate strengths.”

Dyanne works collaboratively with physicians and other health care professionals, and strives to make the experience of psychotherapy one that creates hope, growth and life-affirming change. In her spare time, Dyanne enjoys reading, gardening, baking, and spending time with her dog Cooper.

Emily Prochaska

  Emily Prochaska MA, LPC, NCC

  Licensed Professional Counselor 

  Addiction Recovery, CBT, DBT, Teens, Emerging Adults, DBT Group

Emily is a licensed professional counselor who received her master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Concordia University. She is a National Certified Counselor and a member of the American Counseling Association.

Emily has experience working with a wide range of clients and client issues such as addictions, addiction recovery services, anxiety and depressive disorders, chronic illness, suicidal ideation, negative thinking patterns, and self-esteem and confidence issues. She also specializes in working with children and teens with developmental and behavioral issues, those on the autism spectrum, and children with special needs.

Emily utilizes a strengths-based approach to counseling and incorporates tenets of Positive Psychotherapy into her practice to help clients use existing resources within themselves to achieve the change they are striving for. She uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques like thought stopping and challenging automatic thoughts; mindfulness techniques like deep breathing and muscle relaxation; as well as, dialectic behavioral therapy (DBT) and (RO DBT) techniques to enhance a person’s emotional regulation, interpersonal, mindfulness and distress tolerance skills in my practice. 

I believe in the healing power of the therapeutic relationship to promote wellness and initiate change. I believe that the counselor and client’s relationship should be collaborative; built upon trust, understanding, empathy, and genuineness. I believe that a person’s presenting issue should be understood holistically- looking at all aspects of a person’s life and not just the current problem. I believe that every person has resources within themselves that they can apply to their current situation to help them recognize their past successes and utilize their individual strengths. Once the counselor and client collaboratively determine the focus of the counseling relationship, we will work to enhance motivation to begin the change process.

Kate Wester

  Kate Wester, LPC, SP, RSMT, CYI

  Licensed Professional Counselor, Yoga Teacher

  Sensorimotor Therapy, Somatic Movement Therapy, CBT, Expressive Arts, Trauma Informed, Yoga talk Group

Kate Wester holds a Masters of Pastoral Counseling from Loyola University Chicago, is a Certified Yoga Teacher (CYT 200) and yoga informed psychotherapist, and a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist (RSMT) which she studied at the Leven Institute for expressive movement in Massachusetts. In addition, she is certified in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy for the Treatment of Trauma.

“I believe that wellness is more than an absence of illness. As an integrative therapist, I help people connect to their inner resources, authenticity and sense of purpose to more comfortably manage life’s challenges and thrive. My approach combines body-centered, contemplative and expressive arts practices to help restore a client’s innate resilience and to strengthen their capacities to manage anxiety, depression, grief and trauma through increased self-compassion, self-trust and sense of meaning.”

As an artist and a mind/body practitioner for more than 25 years, I encourage the cultivation of somatic awareness (a sense of one’s internal physical self), mindfulness and compassion to shift perspective, perceive options and enhance confidence in decision-making. Clients regain a sense of wholeness, recover their vitality, and engage more fully and purposefully in their lives. I am competent and confident in dealing with spiritual concerns, both traditional and non-traditional. I am passionate about the potential of neuroscience and interpersonal relationship to both heal trauma and harness potential.  I am also passionate about the power of creativity, personal expression, and spirituality to bring a greater sense of richness and purpose to one’s life.


  Melanie Niepsuj LCSW, CADC 
Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor 

  Addiction Recovery, CBT, DBT, Anxiety, Mindfulness

Melanie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who received her master’s degree in Social Work with a focus on Mental Health and a sub-focus on Substance Abuse from Loyola University Chicago. She is also a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor. 

Melanie has experience working with a variety of populations with different backgrounds, including young adults, adults, and older adults. She has provided individual, group, and psychoeducation therapy, to clients experiencing addictions, anxiety, depression, low selfesteem, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, suicidal ideation, relationship issues, stress, anger, and difficulties with adjustment or life transitions. She specializes in working with clients who are experiencing addiction themselves, are in recovery, or are sober-curious. She also works with clients that have been affected by someone in their lives struggling with addiction.

Melanie integrates different approaches and modalities into her therapeutic work, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), all of which are evidenced based approaches. She also believes in treating the whole person, and utilizes mindfulness techniques, breathing exercises, and meditation. Coming from a social work background, she takes the context of each client’s unique experience into account when treating them. She also has a strength’s based mindset, focusing on the fortitude and resilience each person has to overcome their adversities.

“I believe that every client has the capacity to reach and maintain their personal recovery, whether that be from addiction, mental health concerns, or general life stressors. I strive to be a supportive guide for my clients, as they do the day-to-day work of cultivating the change they want to see in themselves and for their lives. I employ empathy, unconditional positive regard, and humor in building collaborative relationships with my clients.”

Laurie Walsh

Laurie Walsh, LCSW, L.Ac. 

Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Licensed Acupuncturist

ADHD, grief, women's health issues, nutritional counseling, couples, families, acupuncture, Gottman level 1 trained

Laurie Walsh, LCSW, L.Ac. - Laurie is the owner of Insight EAP LLC, an integrative health and wellness practice located in Chicago and Park Ridge, IL. She is a licensed clinical social worker(LCSW) as well as a licensed acupuncturist(L.Ac.). 

Laurie has more than 20 years of mental health experience, and she specializes in the evaluation & treatment of children and adults with attention deficit disorder (AD/HD), as well as women's health issues, and nutritional counseling. 

In her private practice, Laurie also been working with couples and families having relationship difficulties for 20 years and has  Gottman level 1 training. She also works with those suffering from depression and anxiety. In addition, she has many years of corporate employee assistance(EAP) expertise, and she works with organizations on critical incident debriefings and grief counseling. 

"An integrative approach to wellness and health care makes the most sense to me. I have seen time and time again the benefits of using both Western and Eastern modalities in the treatment of all kinds of difficulties, both physical and emotional. "

 Laurie completed her master's degree in clinical social work (MSW), and earned Magna Cum Laude honors for her master's degree in Oriental Medicine (MSOM) and her bachelor's degree in nutrition.

Ixchel Muhlberger

Ixchel Muhlberger, MSOM, Dipl. O.M., L.Ac.

Licensed Acupuncturist, Meditation, Vibrational Sound Therapy

Ixchel is a licensed acupuncturist; she completed her master’s degree in Oriental Medicine (MSOM) and B.S. in Nutrition from Midwest College of Oriental Medicine. Her holistic healing journey started as a massage therapist in 2004. During that time, she was able to work alongside physical therapists, which allowed her hands-on experience with a variety of orthopedic injuries. Through a desire to want to further help individuals reach their health and wellness goals, she decided to further her education and study Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in 2007. After completing her Master’s degree in 2011, she has helped facilitate healing from a mind/body perspective through the use of acupuncture, herbal supplements, and application of essential oils. She uses a holistic approach to health care with her patients, and focuses on giving them the tools they need to heal their own bodies. Her clinical interests are stress relief, anxiety, women's health, fertility, pain management, and orthopedic injuries. Ixchel is now offering Vibrational Sound Therapy to her clientele!





Usui/Holy Fire III Reiki Master and Shamanic Healer with over 10 years of experience.

My journey as an energy healer and intuitive began many years ago during childhood. Being raised in an old home (with some truly crazy history!) I spent a lot of my time feeling overwhelmed by the energies around me. It was during this period that my parents reached out to the woman who would one day become my spiritual mentor: the acclaimed animal communicator and energy healer Rebecca Moravec.

Rebecca's compassionate guidance helped me to see my abilities for what they were, gifts rather than burdens. Through her teachings I was able to understand and master my gifts while gaining firsthand experience with the incredible healing powers of reiki and shamanism. In the years following Rebecca's mentoring, I received my Usui/Holy Fire Reiki III Master certification from Erin Ryan of Crystal Lake Reiki, as well as training extensively in shamanic journeying and soul retrieval with Nicole Perez of Thunderhorse Healing.

My approach as an energy healer is all about providing my clients with the tools that they need to integrate healing into all areas of their lives. Using a combination of various healing modalities, I will seek out the root causes of energetic imbalances rather than symptoms that occur as a result. This allows the client to gain a deeper understanding of their situation and enables them to take an active role in their healing journey. It is my mission to guide and empower you on your healing journey; removing the barriers that stand between you and a state of oneness with your truest self.

Healing Modalities:

  • Holy Fire Reiki
  • Shamanic Journeying
  • Soul Retrieval
  • Sound Therapy
  • Tarot & Oracle Cards
  • Crystal Healing Energy

Bella the therapy dog

Neela the Therapy Dog


Certified Service and Emotional Therapy Dog


Certified Emotional Therapy Dog

Neela comes to us from a Blue Great Dane Breeder in Pennsylvania. Neela was trained as a service dog and emotional therapy dog for her owner, Mari Richko, owner of CFAL. Neela works with mood disorders, anxiety, PTSD, and depression. She travels with Dr. Mari to residential treatment program facilities on her time off and walks around the community putting smiles on everyone's faces.

Bella comes to us from the Great Dane Midwest Rescue in WoodStock, IL. She developed a natural ability to attend to others trauma after experiencing her own trauma at the hands of a neglectful owner. GDMR alerted Dr. Mari that she would make a good therapy dog. They were right! We are so happy to have her and grateful that she has s wonderful life now! ?? ?? ??






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