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Natural Awakenings Chicago

Emotional Connections: Turn Into Careers

May 25, 2012 08:50AM ● By Megy Karydes

Couples counseling pioneers Dr. Ray and Jean Kadkhodaian founded The Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center, in Arlington Heights, 10 years ago as a way to help married couples by using their own relationship as a platform. This allows them to focus on everyday topics and situations that may not come up in a typical marriage counseling situation.

The Lighthouse offers a variety of healing services, including massage therapy, Reiki, acupuncture and hypnotherapy. “We look for and use any and all tools we can find to help people make a positive change,” says Ray.

Each of them comes to their relationship and practice from a unique vantage point, much of it shaped by their upbringing. Jean enrolled in the U.S. Army after high school. “The Army really taught me to develop discipline, which gave me confidence to face anything that life might bring my way; it really changed my life,” she says. Her life changed even more dramatically when she became a single mother. She joined a support group for help, and it was during those sessions that Jean realized her calling: she wanted to help others change their lives, too. She was not only the first among her siblings to graduate from college, she continued her education and received a master’s degree in clinical psychology.

Ray came from a highly educated family and was the first of his generation born in the U.S. Being raised by parents unfamiliar with American traditions such as sleepovers and baseball, he remembers often feeling alone and isolated. “I struggled to find ways to fit in and connect with my peers,” he recalls. “Growing up bridging three cultures influenced my decision to pursue psychology and to help others adjust to difficult things in life, especially relationships.”

The separation between the professional and personal lives of Ray and Jean is not just blurry, it’s almost non-existent. They met at a mental health center more than 15 years ago while working with the same client. She was the residential counselor and he was the job counselor. Over the ensuing years, they kept running into each other at work, and the gravitational pull of romance was too great for them to ignore. They married on Valentine’s Day, just one week shy of their first date anniversary.

The decision to open The Lighthouse and work as they do grew from their frustration of working with couples as individual counselors. “In traditional couple’s therapy, you’re either working with a male or a female therapist,” Ray explains. “In either case, both genders are not represented, and the therapist often becomes a referee, struggling not to pick sides. Often, one person leaves the session feeling like a scapegoat. This type of therapy has the lowest success rate.”

When they aren’t working with couples or individuals, they de-stress by enjoying hobbies together and separately. Twice a year, they each go on a “walkabout” to strengthen their relationship, an assignment they also give their clients. On walkabout, one of them goes alone to somewhere they have never been. No cell phones, television, computers, visiting friends or reading books is allowed. “It’s our way of unplugging,” says Ray, and they do not share their location with the other until they return. To optimize the learning opportunity, the couple talks about the experience afterward at home.

Ray knows it is hard for people to understand that it’s difficult for them to separate their business from their personal lives. “It’s how we see life. Our business is our life and our life is our business.”

Jean agrees with Ray. “We’ll be watching a show on television and we’re discussing the dynamics of a relationship,” she says. “It comes natural to us. It’s part of who we are.”

The Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center is located at 121 S. Wilke Rd., Ste. 500, in Arlington Heights. For more information, call 847-253-9769 or visit

Megy Karydes is a professional writer who is always trying to play well with others in the sandbox. Connect with her at