About us

The story of how the Academy got started

When the pandemic started in March of 2020, and I switched my practice to online couples therapy, I started recording my sessions. I realized that I could create an online training program to fill in the missing piece in the training of couples therapists.

I’ve been working with couples my entire professional career in the Chicago area. After decades of helping couples in distress, I have acquired a reputation as someone who can deal with complex situations.

For over 18 years as a professor of the Couples and Family Counseling program at Northeastern Illinois University, also in Chicago, I trained and supervised master’s level students who went on to become couples therapists themselves.

I’ve always thought that one piece missing in the training of couples therapists is that clinicians don’t have enough exposure to real-life sessions, where they hear experienced therapists do this challenging work.

When I started recording my sessions, I asked the couples I was treating to give me permission not only to record, but also to share the sessions with a wider audience for training purposes. Many of them said, “Yes!” It is due to their generosity and bravery that I can now offer this program to you.

During those first few months of recording sessions, I realized that geography no longer poses limitations on reach, and couples therapists who want to get better at doing this work can access this information from anywhere in the English-speaking world.

I also firmly believe in the need for framework integration because I don’t think we can apply only one model to all the couples that seek our help. So, I added the summary of some of the most well-known frameworks for doing couples therapy to the curriculum of the Academy, along with the tools and interventions derived from them.

I opened the Academy in September of 2020, as I continued working on the 12 Module curriculum. The feedback I received was so positive that it gave me the impetus to continue developing the program.

Now, the 12 Module program is completed but I don’t want this program to be just another course. I suggest accessing the content monthly so  therapists can absorb the information at a slower pace, to continue to grow the skills to do this challenging work with more confidence. This is a lonely profession, and we all need more support and guidance.

I have made it my mission to help couples therapists become more confident and more effective, and I believe the Academy for Couples Therapists helps to fulfill my mission.

I want to thank the brave couples who allowed me to share their struggles so that couples therapists all over the world can learn from my work with them.

And I want to thank some of my intellectual mentors, teachers, and colleagues, who shaped my belief about what it means to be relational, how couples get better, and taught me to ask good questions.


  • Ellyn Bader & Peter Pearson
  • John Walter & Jane Peller
  • Gene Combs & Jill Freedman
  • John & Julie Gottman
  • Mary Jo Barret
  • Harriet Lerner
  • Mona Fishbane
  • Betty Carter
  • Betty McKune-Karrer
  • Froma Walsh
  • Monica McGoldrick
  • Don Catherall
  • Art Nielsen
  • Susan Johnson
  • Steve De Shazer & Insoo Kim Berg
  • Jay Haley
  • Salvador Minuchin
  • Terry Real
  • Murray Bowen
  • Dan Wile
Sara Schwarzbaum

Dr. Sara Schwarzbaum, Ed.D, L.M.F.T & L.C.P.C., Founder