Karen E. Pernet LCSW, RPT-S, BCD

The cattail is a symbol of how I see therapy. Why? Cattails are found in a marsh and are often regarded as weeds; individuals, families or children who come to therapy also feel as though they are stuck in a marsh. A cattail when looked at carefully is graceful and strong; each of us has our own strength and wisdom to which we are blind when we are troubled or conflicted. My goal is for us to work together to rediscover those qualities.

The power of a caring relationship, gently sprinkled with humor, is an essential ingredient of the work. My focus is on issues as they are experienced in the here and now. I use a variety of techniques. These include Gestalt therapy, empathic dialogue, experiential exercises to connect head and heart, sandtray, play therapy for people of all ages, and Somatic Experiencing, “a naturalistic, short-term approach to the resolution and healing from trauma” developed by Peter Levine.

When treating families with children from 3 to 12, I may suggest Filial Therapy, a highly effective intervention integrating family therapy and play therapy which addresses a wide variety of child and family problems.

I also provide supervision and consultation. These consultations can include the use of sandtray and other play therapy techniques to clarify clinical issues and concretize counter-transference. I am credentialed to provide supervision to Marriage and Family Interns, Clinical Social Work Associates, and play therapists working to become Registered Play Therapists.

I enjoy training professionals in play therapy for people of all ages and am a CE provider through California BBS and also through the Association of Play Therapy. Additionally I am a Certified Filial Therapy trainer and offer the Intensive Filial Therapy training (co-sponsored by The Family Enhancement and Play Therapy Center)

Through the auspices of Children’s Path Program, I am currently developing a scholarship fund to train Filial Therapists in Northern California who will work with high stress, low income families.

I have presented at state and national conferences, post graduate programs, mental health agencies and child welfare agencies on various topics including play therapy, sandtray therapy, children in foster care, attachment and trauma, sandtray, and Child Centered Play Therapy and Filial Therapy.

Wendy Caplin and I were consultants to the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center, a children’s mental health facility in Philadelphia, and developed and co-led the Filial Parenting Group Program for child abuse prevention, funded through the Philadelphia Department of Human Services. We are currently working on a manual on the Filial Parenting Group Program.

My professional training has included an MSS in clinical social work from Bryn Mawr College in 1986. I have certificates and/or specialized training in Gestalt Therapy, EMDR, Filial Therapy, Somatic Experiencing and Parent-Child Trauma Treatment. sexual abuse treatment, sandtray therapy as well as play therapy and Filial therapy. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), a Board Certified Diplomate (BCD) in Clincial Social Work and a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor and Certified Filial Therapy Trainer.

In private practice since 1986, I relocated to Oakland, CA from Philadelphia, PA in 2006.

Recent Publications:

NOT A REAL BOY: Filial Therapy and Attachment Trauma.
Association for Play Therapy California Newsletter, Vol. 23, Number 2, April 2012, pages 4-8.


Filial Therapy with Adopted Children – Trauma, Attachment, and Play.
Play Therapy, Vol. 6, Issue 3. Sept 2011, pages 6-9.


Contact Information:
Address: 3725 Coolidge Avenue, Oakland, CA 94602
Email: karen@growththroughplaytherapy.com
Phone: 510-923-0520
Fax: 510-653-0433
LCSW #23635