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Who We Are

Daisy Reese, LCSW and Peter Cole, LCSW

Peter Cole, LCSW has been a Gestalt therapist in Northern California for over 20 years. He has offices in Berkeley and Sacramento. He works with individuals, couples and groups. He has trained extensively in Gestalt and psychodynamic therapies. He has written numerous articles in the field of Gestalt Therapy and has co-written two books on the psychology of money with Daisy Reese. Peter serves as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UC Davis School of Medicine where he teaches classes on Gestalt Therapy and Money in Psychotherapeutic Practice.  He teaches the Group Therapy class at Wright Institute of Berkeley and he serves on the faculty of the Group Therapy Training Program with the Psychotherapy Institute of Berkeley CA where he and and Daisy have served as the facilitators of the Process/Learning group for trainees.  Peter serves on the board of the Association for the Advancement of Gestalt Therapy as Co-Convener of the AAGT biennial international conference at Asilomar.  Peter is also the director of Insight Financial Group, a financial planning firm that provides holistic financial planning services.

Daisy Reese, LCSW has a psychotherapy practice in Berkeley and Sacramento. She holds degrees from Vanderbilt University and the University of Texas. For the past 25 years she has worked with individuals, couples and groups to help clients develop increased self-awareness,self-support and skills in creating and sustaining intimate relationships.

She is a Certified Group Psychotherapist and current president of the Northern California Group Psychotherapy Society.  Along with Peter, she will be facilitating the Process/Learning group for the Group Therapy Training Program at the Psychotherapy Institute in Berkeley.  Since 1992, she has been training and mentoring psychotherapists both regionally and internationally.

Daisy is a long-time student of Sufism and has a particular interest in the sacred aspect of “soul-work” with clients and trainees.

Peter and Daisy founded the Sierra Institute for Contemporary Gestalt Therapy in 1992.  They train and consult with therapists in Northern California and across the U.S.  Peter and Daisy are married and have five adult children.

Joan H. Cole, PhD

Joan H. Cole, Ph.D., LCSW has taught a combination of social work, community organization and group work for 40 years. She was the President of the Psychotherapy institute in Berkeley, CA. from 1983-’85.She has trained in what we now think of as Contemporary Gestalt Therapy for 35 years. Her current practice is with individuals, couples and groups. She specializes in supervision and consultation with therapists at every level of professional development. She also has been an organizational consultant since the 1960’s, working with a wide range of voluntary and public agencies doing organizational and staff development.

In the late 50’s and throughout the 60’s she was a community organizer and civil rights activist in Cleveland, Ohio and Washington D.C. before becoming a Social -Clinical Psychologist in 1975. Her activism is still very much a part of her repertoire and informs her life and her clinical work.

Joan has trained with Erving and Miriam Polster and Richard Olney, the founder of Self Acceptance Training. She also has a rich background in psychodynamic psychotherapy which she integrates into her Gestalt practice. She has taught at the University of Maryland School of Social Work and Community Planning, Lone Mountain College, UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare and for thirty years has been on the faculty at the Psychotherapy Institute in Berkeley, CA.

Joan believes that practicing and teaching psychotherapy provides a life -long opportunity for continued personal and professional growth. It is a way of thinking and being which can leaven the challenges of aging with great richness of meaning and joy.

Joan Cole lives in Oakland. She is the mother of three adult sons and the active, involved and adoring grandmother of their 6 children. Music has been Joan’s major avocation throughout her life and she sings with The Berkeley Broadway Singers where she can be found rehearsing every Thursday night!

Nina Unger, RN, LCSW
Nina Unger, RN, LCSW has a psychotherapy practice in Sacramento. She began her career as a registered nurse with a degree from University of San Francisco. She was trained as a critical care nurse and worked in several states. She completed her MSW from California State University at Sacramento and began working both at the UC Davis employee assistance program and in private practice simultaneously.
She has been involved with the Sierra Institute for Contemporary Gestalt Therapy since 2003, as a trainee for four years, faculty intern for a year, and is pleased to join the faculty. She combines Gestalt, Psychodynamic, Jungian, and Systems theories into her work for an eclectic approach. Because of her background, Nina is holistic in her work, looking at all aspects of well-being for a more integrated experience.   She has been active with the California Society for Clinical Social Work as the District Coordinator for the Sacramento/Davis District since 2008

Nina is also an avid yogi. She passionately believes in the importance of self-care as a psychotherapist and maintaining a healthy balance between work and life.

Karen Pernet LCSW

Karen is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 25 years experience working with children, families and individuals, supervising and training. She is passionate about using play therapy and sandtray therapy as a healing modality with people of all ages as well as for supervising and training therapists. Karen is certified as a Play Therapy Supervisor, a Filial Therapist (Parent-Child Relationship Enhancement Therapy) , a Gestalt therapist and a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner. She has extensive training in trauma and attachment therapies. She has published print articles on Filial Therapy and presented and trained throughout the US, in Canada and in Ecuador on play therapy. She and a colleague developed and ran the Filial Parenting Program geared to inner city families in Philadelphia and awarded the 2009 Outstanding Contributions to Filial Therapy Practice and Training Award for their work. Karen is a co-founder of Growth through Play Therapy trainers and a provider for the Association of Play Therapy. Karen has a private practice in Oakland where she conducts intensive, small group trainings in Child Centered Play Therapy, Filial Therapy and sandtray therapy. Racism and diversity are personally and professionally important to her and she is currently developing a sandtray model to address culture in ways that bypass defensiveness . 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

Erving Polster, PhD

Erving Polster, PhD is Director of the Gestalt Training Center – San Diego.  He serves as Consultant to the Faculty with SICGT. He is also Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego.  Polster is co-author, with Miriam Polster, of an important text in gestalt therapy, Gestalt Therapy Integrated (Vintage, 1974).  He also has written Every Person’s Life Is Worth a Novel (W.W. Norton, 1986) in which he spells out the therapeutic applicability of the kinship between the novelist and the psychotherapist.  His next book was A Population of Selves (Jossey-Bass, 1995), in which he explores personal diversity and presents a theory of the self which narrows the gap between theoretical principles and the therapeutic practice.  In 1999 GIC Press published a book tracing the evolution of ideas which he and Miriam Polster have presented over a 45 year period in their lectures, papers and anthology pieces.  It is entitled From the Radical Center: The Heart of Gestalt Therapy. He has recently authored Uncommon Ground: Harmonizing Psychotherapy and Community (Zeig, Tucker and Theissen, Phoenix, AZ, 2006).

Bud Feder, PhD

Bud Feder received his PhD in Psychology from Columbia University. His gestalt training included extensive training and consultation with Laura Perls. For many years he has led a Gestalt training group in New York City and has a special interest in group therapy. Bud currently serves as president of the New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy and is past president of the Association for the Advancement of Gestalt Therapy. He has written extensively in the Gestalt therapy field. Among his publications are: Peeling the Onion: A Gestalt Therapy Manual for Clients and Gestalt Group Therapy: A Practical Guide. He co-edited Beyond the Hot Seat: Gestalt Approaches to Group and Beyond the Hot Seat Revisited: Gestalt Approaches to Group and A Living Legacy of Fritz and Laura Perls: Contemporary Case Studies.


Shila Vardell

Shila Vardell is the office manager at SICGT. She is available during business hours at 916-444-1786. Shila recently completed her B.A. in Psychology at Chico State. She currently attends the University of Phoenix where she is getting her Master’s in Business Administration.