Northwest Community Counseling and D.U.I. Services

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Our staff is diverse, each offering various approaches to personal growth and healing. We assist you in finding the professional who will best help you and your family.

Rick Atwater: M.S., LCPC, Director

Rick AtwaterRick has been assisting people with their emotional and spiritual growth since 1972 in various settings from hospitals and agencies to private practice.  He is the Co-Director of Northwest Community Counseling Services which he founded with his wife, Moe Ross in 1985.  Rick is also the founder and owner of Employee Health Consultants, Inc., a company that specializes in comprehensive employee assistance services.  Additionally, he lectures nationwide, has been published nationally and founded the  Heroin Awareness Foundation which is dedicated to helping addicts and supporting their families. The Foundation provides educational resources and assists in increasing the awareness of the general public.

Rick has a general counseling practice and assists individuals and families with anxiety issues, men’s issues, relationship concerns and specializes in addictions issues. He is known for his extensive experience in facilitating  substance abuse interventions, and he travels nationwide to assist individuals and families.  His approach is direct and current behavior oriented.  He supports the use of the twelve step programs where appropriate.

Rick graduated from George Williams College with an M.S. in Counseling Psychology in 1978 and was one of the earliest Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors (LCPC) in Illinois.  He writes and responds to readers about addictions related topics in a column for the Northwest Herald called “Straight Talk” that he has been writing since 1984 (you may wish to view archived files of Straight Talk articles).

Rick is now featuring “Straight Stuff on Addictions” a weekly radio program broadcast via Blog Talk Radio.  Listen live every Sunday evening at 8 PM CDT or listen to the on-demand archived episodes.



Frank Morales:  M.S.Ed., CRADC, MISA 2

Frank MoralesFrank has worked in the human services field since 1974 as clinician, trainer, educator, consultant and mentor to adolescents and adults. He has a Master’s degree from Northern Illinois University in Counseling Psychology . He is certified at the interstate recipical level as a Substance Abuse Counselor (CRADC) and MISA 11. He has been contracted to consult with the staff in over thirty Department of Human Services agencies to develop clinical skills . Frank has received specialized training in three types of relapse prevention processes. Frank uses the framework of Motivational Interviewing and Stages of Change to successfully increase retention of new behavior of clients. When the situation warrants it he will facilitate various processes of trauma resolution to neutralize the emotional blocks to growth and healing. He has effectively mentored individuals in the transition in career and lifestyle challenges using a role-shifting model (Psychosynthesis process). Frank specializes in reducing anxiety with Cogntive Bio-energic processes. Many of his clients state that the cognitive restructuring approaches that he presents has helped them understand ways to increase responsiveness in difficult situations and liberate themselves from the limited perspectives of outworn perceptions. Frank will help educate couples in Compassionate Communication skills as a foundation to re-establish trust in relationships before three different styles of couples counseling is explored. He also leads Men’s Issues group for men that are willing to improve the challenges they face in relationships and work. He leads a group in relapse prevention to get to the core of relapse justifications.

Additionally, Frank facilitates: CARE-FRONTATION Interventions - Straight from the Heart.  These customized interventions are for mental illness, substance abuse, or destructive behavior disorders. Each intervention is completely designed to meet the particular need of the situation. Frank has been  conducting intervention for over two decades and his success rate in helping impaired individuals choose to go to treatment is about 80%. He brings considerable clinical competencies from three different types of relapse prevention training, trauma resolution and anxiety reduction skills.

As part of an intervention process or anytime a family member discovers the blocked communication process in their family, Frank also conducts a Family Clearing Process to free the family from the burden of defensiveness and offer engaged acceptance. This is a highly customized process involving many structured activities for emotional healing. For clarification and to confidentially discuss your situation, Frank can be contacted directly at 847-710-7012 or



Kellen M. Smith, CADC, A.A.S, D.U.I. Counselor, DASA Certified Evaluator

Kellen Smith

Kellen M. Smith, CADC, DASA DUI Evaluator, has the unique ability to combine true-life experiences with clinical analysis resulting in the most effective course of action for the clients she serves.  As group counselor, and group leader, Kellen is focused on intertwining real world examples with research and data. Her compassion for understanding the human side of client behavior sets her apart from many who operate “strictly by the book”.  No stranger to personal tragedy, Kellen shares her real-life experiences providing insight and understanding into the world of addictive behaviors and demonstrates from first-hand experiences how faith and perseverance can create positive results in ones life.

Prior to Northwest Community Counseling, Kellen mentored at risk adolescent girls through the Pioneer Center of Human Services and served on the formation committee for McHenry County Heroin Awareness Initiative; an Awareness Initiative to combat Heroin Addiction in McHenry County in honor of several friends who succumbed to the negative effects of addictive behaviors.

Kellen is a graduate of Elgin Community College with an Associate Degree in Applied Science of Human Services and Substance Abuse Counseling, graduating in the top 1% of her class with high honors. She is nearing completion of her Bachelor of Science degree from Columbia College of Missouri with a Major in Human Services and a triple minor in Psychology, Sociology and Criminology to be completed in the Spring of 2017.


April Joy Fischer: BA, CADC, Director of D.U.I Services

April Joy FischerApril Joy has always had a special drive to be of help to others.  The challenges that she has faced in her own life experiences bring understanding and compassion to the forefront of her mission in helping others find inner peace.  She believes that our happiness and prosperity begins with a process of using the tools that are available and finishes with the inner awareness that her experience and education has given her.  What April Joy hopes to bring to those that cross her path is the ability to develop confidence, self love and wellness within themselves and to benefit from what she has learned and continues to learn while sharing and working in this field for the last 25 years.

April Joy graduated from Western Illinois University with a degree in Criminal Justice.  She also has a degree in Alcohol and Substance Abuse.  April Joy began her journey as a partner at Alternative Pathways Counseling Center for Nurturing the Spirit.  She developed and trademarked a Law Enforcement Assistance Program known as L.E.A.P for law enforcement professionals and their families in helping them cope with the stress of this occupation and lifestyle.  April’s training consists of many modalities.  She is a Communication Specialist, along with a background in Nutrition, Domestic Violence, 12 step recovery and spirituality and motivational enhancement  therapy to name a few, April relates well to children and adolescents as well as adults, to work with their stress, anxiety and depression.

April Joy feels life is not always easy for any of us but remembers well a quote that says.  “We are reborn every morning.  What we do TODAY is what matters most”.  And so she strives, as she works with those that can use her expertise, to adhere to that it really is just “one day at a time”


Kristen C. Pryor: MS, LCPC

Kristen PryorKristen Pryor, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, has a broad range of skills and extensive counseling experience.  She joined NWCCS in 2009 after 14 years providing counseling and advocacy to survivors of various forms of abuse.  Kristen facilitated support groups for domestic violence victims as well as survivors of incest. She has conducted trainings on the topics of domestic violence, crisis intervention and suicide intervention.

Kristen offers individual counseling to either partner when there is abuse, including teens who are experiencing dating violence. Other Specialty areas include:

  • Depression/ postpartum
  • Anxiety
  • Co-dependency
  • Sexual Abuse – male and female survivors
  • Women’s issues/ divorce
  • Relationship issues
  • Pre-marital counseling

Kristen can help clients: identify options, improve coping, heal emotional pain, re-build relationships, stop unhealthy patterns and create new and healthy behaviors by examining distorted and false beliefs, and find solutions.  On occasion she assigns “homework” between sessions.

While her therapy is influenced by a variety of theoretical models (empowerment, cognitive-behavioral, solution-focused, and Gottman Method for couples) she does not believe in a “one size fits all” approach. She has been described as the “calm during the storm” which is a comfort to her clients as they are experiencing a crisis

Kristen earned her Master’s Degree in Counseling in 2000 from National-Louis University and is a member of the Illinois Counseling Association.  She is happily married with two daughters. Kristen works in NWCCS’ West Dundee and Palatine-area offices.


Kate Van Eycke, LCSW, CADC

Kate Van EyckeWhat I know for sure is that the journey to mental, physical and spiritual health is so worth it.  The past and the present in one’s life intertwine, creating patterns that must be acknowledged so we can learn the lesson and be free to move on.  The path to peace and contentment isn’t easy so it is extremely important to choose trustworthy, non-shaming guides to help you on your way.

In counseling, I start with the belief that I don’t have the right to suggest change in your world until I understand it from your point of view.  I then use a wide variety of techniques to assist my clients.  Some of those techniques stem from cognitive behavioral (linking thoughts, feelings and behavior choices,) parts theory, family of origin work, the latest in neuro-physiological research (how the brain has been affected by trauma), and the12-step approach to living from AA and AlAnon.  I  am open to humor, rigorous honesty and spirituality in my work with clients.

I earned my Certification as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor at the College of DuPage.  I continued on to earn a Masters of  Social Work from the George Williams College at Aurora University, Aurora, Illinois.  I am also a Certified Domestic Violence Professional.  I have spent the past 15 years working with people recovering from the traumas of growing up in abuse, surviving currently abusive, dysfunctional relationships, and dealing with the effects of mental health and addiction.  I offer individual, couples and group counseling with adolescents and adults.


Sandy Buhl, M.A.

Sandy BuhlSandy Buhl has worked in the human services field for over 35 years in educational, health, and small business settings as counselor, trainer, educator, and consultant.  She has a Master’s degree in Human Relations from the University of Oklahoma.  In addition to working with co-dependency and self-esteem, grief and life transition issues, Sandy is a professional artist and teaches Artful Journey classes, helping students to rediscover the artist within.

Walking lightly in the world is based on the belief that we hold the answers within ourselves.  The critical mind and the external chatter around us often override our innate wisdom.

Sandy is able to ask the hard questions with compassion and insight.  Meeting challenges, clarifying values, and deciding what comes next, evolve with support and encouragement. Rediscovering joy and celebrating our uniqueness requires willingness to journey deeper.  Sandy provides companionship and guidance, and even humor in this venture.  She also works on a sliding-scale basis. (See new women’s group flyer.)







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