Call Us: 630-832-6155



We are glad you are here! Unlock your potential and transform your struggles into opportunities! Reach your goals through partnering with us.

The Midwest Institute & Center is a premier counseling, coaching and therapy practice located in Elmhurst, IL, serving Chicago’s West suburban communities. Our mission is to create long lasting relationships with clients to help you transform and grow your potential.

We are independent practitioners providing assessment, counseling, consultation and therapy services to adults, children, families, and organizations who are interested in optimizing health, development, careers, and overall well-being.

Our training in psychology, human development, family, and team dynamics allows us to provide you with personal guidance, tools, and expertise to advance yourself, your child’s growth, your relationships and career.


Our team of experienced therapists, career coaches, and clinical social workers are ready to partner with you.



Executive & Career Coach

Steve is the Founder and Executive Director of the Midwest Institute & Center for Workplace Innovation. He has served as a teacher, author, consultant, human resources director, health care administrator, and licensed clinical social worker since 1977. A fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, Steve has provided coaching, therapy and team development services to thriving schools, businesses and organizations. Steve is the author of Team Clock: A Guide to Breakthrough Teams. He is also the Founder and CEO of the Team Clock Institute, LLC. Steve teaches on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst College where he earned the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2000 with subsequent nominations in 2005 and 2010.



Pediatric Occupational Therapist

Kerry is the Clinical Director of the Midwest Institute & Center for Workplace Innovation. She provides specialized assessment and home-based intervention with children of all ages and their families. Kerry engages clients with naturally occurring, meaningful home-based methods to empower autonomy and maximize functioning. While providing focused experience in sensory processing disorder and the autism spectrum, Kerry partners with the network of professionals collaborating in the targeted care of each child’s circumstances. Kerry also provides family-centered occupational therapy services addressing a range of developmental delays in collaboration with the Illinois Early Intervention Program.

Earning her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences and a Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Illinois, along with extensive training and an Associate’s degree in Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Kerry specializes in helping her clients navigate the impact of the environment on their ability to thrive holistically.

Developing & implementing individualized sensory-based intervention | Promoting independence during activities of daily living | Maximizing adaptive skills | Supporting motor skill development| Family education and support | Assisting children to achieve their unique developmental potential.

Kerry has developed a Family Environmental Assessment Tool (FEAT) in conjunction with Steve Ritter, and co-authored the Elevating your Kid’s Growth.

View Kerry Galarza’s Resumé




Rachel is a Licensed Social Worker who earned her Master’s in Social Work from Loyola University of Chicago in 2019, specializing in Mental Health and working with Children & Families. Rachel completed two clinical internships, first working as a Community Support Specialist for Thresholds, and second as a Primary Therapist at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in their Partial Hospitalization Program. Rachel also worked for Lurie Children’s as a Behavioral Therapist for 5 years on their inpatient, partial hospitalization unit, and outpatient groups.
Rachel currently serves as the Program Director of Tuesday’s Child Chicago, a non profit organization that focuses on providing specialized behavioral support for children and their parents. In this role, Rachel supervises all programming, including a therapeutic preschool, behavioral intervention group, parenting classes, and in-home visiting program, utilizing her expertise in child development and behavioral management while fostering positive connections between children and their families. 
Under the supervision of the founder Steve Ritter, Rachel is providing outpatient therapy with a clinical focus on work with children with social/emotional challenges and their families. Her various experiences in both intensive and long-term services make her well-equipped to help with any range of behavioral needs. Rachel specializes in working younger/school age children demonstrating disruptive or challenging behaviors at home or school, including difficulty following directions, aggression, tantrums, and emotional dysregulation. Rachel also works to assist families with how to manage these difficulties while maintaining a safe and positive bond with their child. Rachel uses an individualized and strengths-based approach with all her clients to ensure both child and parent feel understood and comfortable with how to maintain positive change in their home. Rachel is available in both Elmhurst and Chicago for appointments.


Children | Families | Behavioral Issues | Positive Parenting | Emotional Regulation | Social Skills


Therapist & Coach

As a small business coach, consultant, and advisor, Cara has partnered with organizations in the human services industry to optimize operations and maximize results. With a specialization in management, program development, training, transition planning, and business continuity, Cara integrates the clinical and operational requirements to empower team effectiveness and business deliverables. Cara’s partnership strengthens her business partners and elevates their organizational structure.

Earning a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Indiana University and a Master’s degree in Social Work from University of Illinois Jane Addams College of Social Work, Cara has immersed herself in a broad spectrum of professional engagements enabling her to deploy targeted intervention skills in interpersonal, family, group, community, and organizational settings.

Adults | Families | Life Transitions | Clinical Supervision | Leadership Coaching



Therapist & Career Counselor

Kris is a licensed clinical professional counselor specializing in relationship issues, career changes, work-related challenges, anxiety and depression. Focus areas typically include relationship healing, separation,  work-life balance, and adjustment to change. Kris offers a collaborative and warm atmosphere helping clients to re-connect with their inner voice, clarify values, and gain insight. She utilizes an integrative approach with a focus on client’s strengths, using cognitive behavior therapy, narrative career counseling, and solution-focused therapy.

Kris earned a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology at Roosevelt University. In her earlier work, she provided career counseling at a university center, and now continues to work in private practice as a therapist. Kris provides counseling and coaching to diverse individuals.

Adults | Life Transitions | Career Counseling | Work Challenges & Stress | Relationship Issues | Anxiety | Depression | Cross-cultural Issues | Health & Fitness




Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Nicole Francen is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with a broad range of experience and a passion for working with children, adolescents, and transitional age youth. She specializes in working with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their families. 

Dr. Francen first gets to know the person, learns their interests and strengths and then works towards meeting client goals. Client goals often include: developing friendships and significant relationships, managing difficult emotions, improving social skills, establishing independence, and learning skills to be successful in school, work, and community.

Nicole creates an enjoyable and safe meeting place where a person feels valued and understood for being just who they are. She has worked on both sides of IEPs, in therapeutic day schools and public schools. She considers herself and advocate and an ally for families in schools and the community.

Dr. Francen earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Elmhurst College and her Master’s and Doctorate Degree from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University. She completed an APA accredited internship at San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health in California and her Postdoctoral Fellowship at New Connections Academy in Palatine (a therapeutic day school for high functioning children on the Autism Spectrum).  

Children | Adolescents | Special Education | Families | Autism Spectrum Disorders | Behavioral Issues | Anxiety | Social Skills | Clinical Supervision | Consultation 




Aleksandra is a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in working with adolescents and young adults on a variety of emotional needs including anxiety, depression, self-esteem, relationship skills, and other personal difficulties. Aleksandra uses a strengths-based approach in her work with clients in order to promote each person’s feelings of self-worth, self-efficacy, and ability to cope with challenges that he/she/they may be experiencing. Aleksandra utilizes the following therapeutic modalities and interventions: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), mindfulness practice, narrative therapy, and solution-focused therapy. 

Aleksandra earned her Master of Social Work degree from Loyola University Chicago and has been a school social worker for 6 years. She has experience working with clients experiencing depression, anxiety, trauma, behavioral and social difficulties, grief/loss, family separation, attachment disorders, and other social emotional needs. 



Pediatric Speech Language Pathologist

Darcy is a passionate pediatric speech-language pathologist with over 11 years of professional experience serving as a licensed therapist in clinic, home, school, and hospital settings. She graduated from University of Illinois with a bachelor’s degree in Speech Pathology and a master’s degree in speech and hearing science from Saint Xavier University.

Darcy has worked as a school therapist most of her career, in elementary schools and therapeutic day schools. Most recently, Darcy was a senior therapist for Oak Tree Developmental Center in Chicago, providing therapy in-home through Early Intervention as well as clinic-based individual and group based speech therapy. This also included occupational therapy and physical therapy. She has treated a variety of populations such as children with Down Syndrome, expressive language delay, autism spectrum disorder, social language delay, and sensory processing disorder.

Darcy is currently a speech therapy provider and evaluator for Early Intervention serving DuPage county. She is a dedicated clinician who is creative in her ideas and exceptional at building meaningful relationships with families of young children.

As a resident of Elmhurst, she is excited to build a foundation in this community for supporting the early childhood population and families with Our Play Space and its philosophy to build positive social relationships.

Let us Help You!


Midwest Institute is a premier counseling, coaching and therapy firm located in Elmhurst, IL, serving adults, children, families & companies interested in optimizing health. Providing developmental therapies, wellness services, career counseling & executive coaching, we help clients in Elmhurst, Oakbrook, Hinsdale, Downers Grove, Glen Ellyn, Wheaton, and Chicago communities.


111 E. 1st Street, Ste #102
Elmhurst, IL 60126

Phone: 1-630-832-6155