About Karen Pernet

I have what might be called a Cattail Philosophy of supervision, training and therapy. Cattails are found in marshes and often regarded as weeds. However when looked at with clear eyes, their beauty and strength shows through. My goal is to help each of us connect to our own strength and wisdom, to which we may be blind especially when we are challenged, feeling incompetent, conflicted or troubled.

About Karen

I consider myself fortunate to work in the field I love. It is important for me to have the opportunity to combine my life experience and my professional learning.  As I get older, I find it especially fulfilling to share my experiences and expertise in play therapy, Filial Therapy and sandtray with professionals through trainings, supervision and consultation. I continue to provide play therapy and sandtray to teens and adults on a limited basis.  I consider sandtray and play therapy magical tools for mental health professionals to use with people of all ages, including ourselves. Other areas of specialty include issues involving identity and culture, aging, trauma and mood.

Karen Pernet, LSCW, RPT-S, SEP is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Registered Play Therapist Supervisor & Somatic Experiencing Practitioner. Karen returned to school to obtain her MSW at Bryn Mawr College of Social Work and Social Research in mid-life after a career in child welfare. She is known for her encouraging and down to earth approach and has been described as knowledgeable, supportive and playful.

Karen’s postgraduate education includes certificates in Gestalt Therapy, Somatic Experiencing, and Filial Therapy. From 2006 to 2021 she was a certified Filial Therapy trainer with the Family Enhancement and Play Therapy Center.  She has provided professional trainings and supervision since 2000. Additionally she has had intensive training in Child Centered Play Therapy, sandtray therapy, Gestalt play therapy, trauma informed therapy, interpersonal neurobiology and Internal Family Systems.

Karen enjoys hanging out with her grandchildren and Mac, her canine assistant. She is fortunate to have a husband who is always willing to assist and support her efforts.  She does admit to a serious toy and sandtray addiction and is often found searching for additional items at yard sales in Oakland and Berkeley.

My Journey

Filial Parenting Program (FPP)

In 2001, Karen and her colleague Wendy Caplin PhD developed and conducted the Filial Parenting Program (FPP), 12-week groups for child abuse prevention and received the 2009 Outstanding Contributions to Filial Therapy Practice and Training Award. The Filial Parenting Program had continued in Philadelphia for over 19 years! In 11/10 they provided play therapy training for mental health professionals in Ecuador. Karen has also published 3 print articles on Filial Therapy focusing on attachment, foster care and adoption.

Cresheim Valley Play Therapy Training

Karen and Wendy co-founded Cresheim Valley Play Therapy Training in Philadelphia 2000. Cresheim Valley is part of the amazingly beautiful Wissahickon Park in Philadelphia; after Karen moved to Oakland, California in 2006, they realized the need to change the name of their organization. The new name Growth through Play Therapy Training fit their philosophy. Over the years, they realized that training together was impractical due to the geographical distance; now Wendy is Karen’s and Growth through Play Therapy’s valued consultant.


As an instructor, Karen believes, to be effective, trainings need to involve fun and laughter as well as covering didactic material. At Growth through Play Therapy she provides small group intensive trainings in Filial Therapy, Child Centered Play Therapy and Sandtray.  In addition to her trainings on the Gestalt approach to Sandtray, she is continuing to develop a model using this modality  to address culture and diversity in ways that promote non-defensive dialogue. Approved as a provider for the Association for Play Therapy since 2009, most of her trainings apply to the educational requirements toward becoming a Registered Play Therapist. Additionally Karen is a national play therapy presenter.


Karen has a private practice in Oakland where she provides individual and group consultation and supervision, intensive trainings and psychotherapy.  She is on the faculty of the Sierra Institute of Contemporary Gestalt Therapy and one of their CE providers. She offers clinical supervision and trainings to agencies in the Bay Area. She is a pro bono therapist with A Home Within, which provides therapy to foster children and young adult who were part of the system. Karen is an adjunct faculty member at the Wright Institute, a training facility for psychologists. She was the 2010 President of the SF Bay chapter of the California Association for Play Therapy and on the state board. Always interested in increasing her skills, Karen is currently studying Internal Family Systems, developed by Richard Schwartz and looking forward to developing a Sandtray model using this theory.

Featured Publications


Enhance your play therapy skills!

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Karen Pernet LCSW, RPT-S

Oakland, CA 94602

I would be glad to hear from you and to share information about my services: psychotherapy, general supervision for pre-licensed therapist, specialized supervision for therapists working becoming  Registered Play Therapists, consultations for experienced therapists and trainings in play therapy and sandtray therapy.