Who We Are
We are a private group practice of board-certified psychiatrists who are on the faculty of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. Our practice is located in downtown Chicago.
We focus on the care of recurrent mood conditions, obsessive compulsive disorders, and ADHD. Our treatments utilize psychopharmacology, a variety of psychological therapies, chronotherapeutic practices and other modalities. We have each received extensive training in psychodynamic psychotherapy. Unlike many psychiatric groups where psychiatrists only prescribe medication, we are committed to providing both biological and psychological treatments together.
Dr. John Gottlieb
Moods have always fascinated me. This interest, along with a love for talking to others, led me towards my first psychology course in college. From that point on, I knew what I wanted to do. After graduating from Oberlin College in Ohio, I attended medical school at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and then completed my residency in psychiatry at Yale University in New Haven, CT. I returned to Chicago, obtained my board certification in psychiatry and started a solo outpatient practice.
In my first years in practice, I was committed to being the best generalist that I could be. I wanted to see and learn how to treat as many conditions as possible. I increased my skills in psychopharmacology, psychodynamic and psychoanalytic psychotherapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Initially, this generalist orientation was very satisfying. I enjoyed being a jack-of-all trades and having a practice with a broad scope. Over a decade, this began to change.
First, I began to see more and more patients with mood problems, especially bipolar disorders. The natural skills and competence that I had in this area was strengthened by this growing clinical experience. Second, I found it increasingly hard to stay current with new psychiatric research developments across our field. There was simply too much to know, too much to learn, and not enough time to do it. Third, the more I treated those struggling with recurrent mood problems, the more I enjoyed it. It's fascinating, challenging work. It's also an area where I've consistently seen treatment make a difference in people's lives. The net effect of these factors encouraged me to make mood disorders the central part of my practice.
Over the past ten years, I have focused my attention on understanding and treating recurrent emotional conditions. Through professional talks I give, literature reviews, systematic study of affect and affective regulation, case conferences, research we conduct, professional conferences, courses I teach, and my work on the education committee of the International Society of Bipolar Disorders – my knowledge in this area has deepened and sharpened. While my diagnostic focus has narrowed primarily to mood disorders, my earlier generalist orientation remains as a commitment to providing care that is comprehensive. So while I predominantly treat those with mood problems, I am mindful of, and try to address the full range of biological, psychological, social and educational needs of my patients; Comprehensive care for a select group of problems. Download my Curriculum Vitae in PDF format.
Dr. Brett Plyler
I attended medical school and obtained my medical degree at the University of Tennessee, Memphis. After graduating in 1998, I then completed a residency in Family Practice at the University of Tennessee Hospital in Knoxville, TN. Though I enjoyed it, I found my most satisfying moments came from sitting down and talking with my patients about their mood and anxiety problems. Helping with these troubles was rewarding. I began looking forward to these interactions more and more. After the completion of my family practice education and some considerable reflection, I decided to that I needed to pursue a psychiatric residency and focus on my interest in emotional health.
I enrolled at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL, for my training. Psychiatry was fascinating to me. Understanding the constant interplay of biology, psychology, and the environment is an enormous challenge. Each patient presented a new set of feelings, desires, goals and problems that demanded my careful consideration and respect. After serving as chief resident, I joined Dr. John F. Gottlieb in private practice. I am now an attending physician in the Psychiatry Department of Northwestern Memorial Hospital and board certified in both Adult Psychiatry and Family Practice. Furthering my education, I have completed the Adult Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Program at the Institute for Psychoanalysis. I also serve as a primary investigator in a number of clinical trials at the Chicago Research Center.
In my clinical work, I believe that a collaborative therapeutic relationship is the foundation of treatment. Mutual decision-making enables us to determine an individually tailored plan for you and your particular situation. I attempt to understand what is important to each person and what provides meaning in their life. This gives me greater insight and helps me shape their treatment plan. Differing levels of pharmacologic intervention, psychotherapy, and family involvement will be needed for each patient. Psychotherapy is of particular importance to me, and I am committed to identifying and responding to each patient's psychotherapeutic needs - whether it be insight-oriented, cognitive behavioral, supportive, or interpersonal.
A particular focus for me, and our practice as a whole, is that of bipolar disorder. The work is demanding but rewarding as we attempt to understand and treat the full range of biopsychosocial factors involved with each patient's illness. Through my family practice background, I have gained an interest in the psychological reactions to medical illnesses, the emotional difficulties associated with chronic pain, and the multiple problems surrounding eating disorders. Furthermore, I am comfortable treating a wide range of disorders including but not limited to depression, ADHD, generalized anxiety disorder, OCD, social anxiety, and panic disorder. Download my Curriculum Vitae in PDF format.
Dr. Susan Stern
I have always been fascinated by the workings of the human mind. Prior to going into psychiatry, I studied English at Yale University, where I became attuned to the mood fluctuations of generations of great authors. While I considered graduate study in English, my interest in medicine prevailed, and I entered Weill Cornell Medical College eager to learn how to treat patients with similar disorders. Psychiatry for me represented the perfect synthesis of medical science and a humanistic approach to the entire patient. After medical school, I entered my residency at Columbia, from which I graduated in 2002.
Since medical school and residency, I have been committed to patient care at the highest level. I have worked with a wide range of patients in private practice, community mental health and outpatient clinic settings. I am board-certified in Adult Psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Also since 2002, I have been involved in the teaching of medical students, psychiatry residents, psychology interns, social workers, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. From 2002 to 2006 this teaching was done at Columbia, where I was a Clinical Instructor of Psychiatry and an Attending Psychiatrist at the Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic. My focus during this time was teaching trainees about psychiatric evaluations and psychopharmacology. I also maintained a thriving private practice in Manhattan and Westchester County.
In the summer of 2006, I left the New York area, where I had lived for the previous 12 years, and moved to Fairfield, Iowa in order to support my husband, who was expanding a business there. This turned out to be an opportunity for personal and professional growth. From 2007-2011, I served as a Chief Medical Officer at Life Solutions Behavioral Health in southeastern Iowa. I had extensive clinical and supervisory duties in the position, offering support, guidance and clinical information to patients and staff. I was struck by the broad range of patients that I treated during this time period. It was a valuable clinical experience that very much added to what I had learned previously. Ultimately, though, we decided to relocate to Chicago. My search for a practice opportunity there led me to Drs. John Gottlieb and Brett Plyler of Chicago Psychiatry Associates, with whom I have discovered common ground with our mutual interests in mood disorders, psychotherapy, teaching, and keeping up with the latest developments within the field of psychiatry.
While I have had experience in a broad range of psychiatric illnesses, I am particularly intrigued by mood disorders, especially bipolar disorder. I have had the opportunity to receive mentorship and training in this area, both during and after residency. I have come to understand that bipolar disorder is not a single illness, but that it occurs along a continuum. This can present difficulties in making a proper diagnosis and implementing appropriate treatment, and much of my consultation work has been in clarifying for patients what their diagnosis is – whether it be depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and/or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)—all of which can present with similar symptoms. I have a particular interest in mood disorders in women, which are complicated by significant hormonal fluctuations within the female life cycle.
After a thorough evaluation process, I select treatment based on both pharmacological and psychological approaches. I have utilized a broad range of therapeutic modalities, including insight-oriented, supportive and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). I truly believe that success in treatment results from an understanding of the underlying illness in the context of family and interpersonal relationships. My work with patients is collaborative with the goal of maximizing each person's strengths, leading to functioning at his or her full potential. Download my Curriculum Vitae in PDF format.
Dr. Rania Johnson
When I first entered medical school at UT Southwestern, I thought I might specialize in neurology. I quickly realized that my true interests were in psychiatry – not only did psychological theory interest me, I found it to be the field in which doctors have the privilege of getting to know their patients the best. As medical school came to an end, I began searching for psychiatric residency programs that offered a foundation in evidence-based psychopharmacology along with extensive training in psychotherapy; I found that Northwestern offered this combination.
At Northwestern I had the opportunity to learn from specialists in nearly every area of psychiatry, including addictions, sleep disorders, and women’s mental health. I have been trained in the medication management of a broad range of psychiatric illnesses. However, my current focus is on mood and anxiety disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and panic disorder. I have also been exposed to a variety of therapy modalities, including supportive, psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, and dialectical-behavioral therapy. I took a particular interest in psychodynamic psychotherapy and began the Adult Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Program at the Institute for Psychoanalysis during my last year of residency training, where I am currently receiving intensive psychodynamic psychotherapy training.
I believe that a good psychiatrist should have two things: 1) a thorough knowledge of psychopharmacology, so that evidence-based treatment can be offered, and 2) development of psychotherapy skills, an art which requires an inherent responsiveness to patients along with many years of training in technique. Furthermore, I believe that a good psychiatrist adjusts their treatment to their patient, rather than forcing a particular therapy strategy on them. For this reason, I take a flexible approach to treatment, incorporating my patient’s opinion with my own to create a plan of care that will be the most helpful and therapeutic. Download my Curriculum Vitae in PDF format.
Dr. Megan Pirigyi
I have always had a strong interest in the mind, but my path to psychiatry was somewhat circuitous. After completing my undergraduate degree at Amherst College in Philosophy and Fine Arts, I initially accepted a fellowship to pursue a doctoral degree in philosophy, as I loved teaching and writing, and was particularly drawn to questions about consciousness, the mind, and personal identity. While I enjoyed this work, I ultimately left graduate school to study medicine, as I wanted a career in which I could have a more direct and substantive impact on others.
Following completion of premedical coursework at Tufts University, I moved to Chicago to attend medical school at Northwestern. While I had many clinical interests, I was most intrigued by psychiatry. I enjoyed learning about my patients and their individual experiences, and I valued psychiatry’s focus on improving quality of life. Additionally, I was attracted to the intellectual challenge and nuanced problem solving inherent to the field, and was fascinated to learn about the biological underpinnings of the mind and behavior.
Seeking strong and well-balanced training in both biological psychiatry and psychotherapy, I chose to stay at Northwestern for my psychiatry residency. During training, I treated a wide variety of complex conditions in the inpatient and outpatient settings, and pursued elective experiences in women’s mental health, addiction medicine, and sleep medicine. I also had instruction and supervision in a range of psychotherapies including psychodynamic, supportive, interpersonal, cognitive behavioral, and family and couples therapy. I currently have a particularly strong interest in the treatment of mood disorders including depressive and bipolar disorders. Additionally, I enjoy treating anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, trauma and stress-related disorders, and ADHD. In my clinical approach, I work with patients to develop a shared understanding of their unique experiences of symptoms, their particular strengths, and the various contributing factors underlying and influencing their symptoms. I then use this insight to build a personalized treatment plan, with the objective of maximizing each patient’s functioning so that he or she can pursue fulfilling and meaningful goals. Download my Curriculum Vitae in PDF format.
Dr. Kurt Kastenholz
I have had a lifelong interest in the human mind. As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I studied psychology and history, curious about both the workings of the human mind and patterns in the ways humans have interacted throughout time. I considered graduate study in psychology, but chose to enroll at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health so as to learn how to evaluate and treat patients in a comprehensive manner reflecting both psychology and the physiology of the entire human body. In medical school, I found that the field of psychiatry offered me the opportunity to engage in this sort of comprehensive evaluation, and the chance to make a significant impact on the patient’s overall quality of life.
Following completion of medical school, I pursued residency training in psychiatry at Northwestern University. I was attracted to Northwestern in particular due to the strength of its training in a variety of psychotherapy modalities, in addition to a strong grounding in medical science. During training, I gained experience treating a broad variety of mental health problems in multiple settings, both inpatient and outpatient. I have been trained in numerous psychotherapy modalities including supportive, cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, psychodynamic and family and couples therapy. I additionally pursued elective experiences in intensive addiction treatment as well as sleep medicine.
Clinically, I am greatly interested in mood disorders, both depressive and bipolar disorders. Other areas of particular interest to me include obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder. During evaluation and treatment, my focus is on developing an understanding of the patient’s symptoms throughout their lifetime, and the meaning and importance of those symptoms to the patient. This requires an integration of many different aspects of the patient’s life history, including relationships, cultural background, education and vocation, trauma, sexuality, and gender, among others. I work collaboratively with each patient to create a mutually agreed-upon treatment plan based on our shared understanding of the problem areas and therapy options. This collaboration fosters engagement, strengthens our alliance, and supports a comprehensive approach to the treatment.
Download my Curriculum Vitae in PDF format.