Karen Wheeler, LCSW, RPT-S, CST-T - Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Registered Play Therapist

Ms. Wheeler is a licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Registered Play Therapy Supervisor.  She treats adults and children with depression, anxiety, behavior disorders, attachment disorders, divorce or marital issues.  She has extensive training and experience in treating children and adults suffering from abuse and trauma, especially those resulting in attachment disruptions.  She believes in a holistic healing model which addresses the needs of the body, the mind and the emotional heart center.  Ms. Wheeler provides clinical supervision to social workers, counselors, and clinicians seeking their Registered Play Therapist credential and Play Therapy trainings at both national and regional conferences.
Ms. Wheeler believes that life’s experiences can negatively affect our view of the world, altering our ability to experience joy and success in our lives.  By integrating these experiences, examining the validity of the current belief system and accepting a healthier view of oneself; life changing shifts in consciousness can occur.  As clients move toward a more balanced and healthy view of themselves and the world, they become capable of having more fulfilling relationships.  They can now experience living in harmony with themselves because they operate in alignment with their core spiritual center, trusting inner wisdom. 
Ms. Wheeler believes that healthy, cooperative relationships are the key to creating a successful and joyful life.  Cooperative and fulfilling relationships exist through the ability to feel empathy and practice compassionate forgiveness with both ourselves and those in our lives.  She teaches behavioral, verbal, emotional and energetic methods for enhancing relationships to couples, families and children.  Ms. Wheeler believes that by creating a safe and trusting relationship with her clients, they take their first step in the healing process. 
She believes an integral component for effective therapy is the blend of verbal and non-verbal techniques.  This combination addresses both the conscious thinking portion of the brain and the unconscious portion that holds many of the negative experiences which create problematic symptoms.
Ms. Wheeler’s sixteen years of post-graduate training include many innovative methods which accelerate the emotional healing of her clients.  Supportive non-verbal therapies include Theraplay™, Jungian Sandplay, Water Tray, Client-Centered Play Therapy, EMDR (click EMDR on the left of this page) and Energy Healing.   
Since 1994, Ms. Wheeler has provided treatment to children, families and adults in various psychiatric facilities, group homes, therapeutic foster care agencies, homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters in both New Mexico and North Carolina. 
Ms. Wheeler graduated from the Arizona State School of Social Work in 1994 and was awarded her Registered Play Therapist Supervisor certification in 2000.  She received her Clinical Sandplay Therapist in 2010 after ten years of training and personal process and was recently awarded her Sandplay Therapist Teaching Member status by Sandplay Therapists of America (STA). She was an instructor at the University of New Mexico and has provided national trainings for therapists since 1998 on treating children with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Reactive Attachment Disorder. Ms. Wheeler developed and trains clinicians on use of the Water Tray as a developmental play therapy method.  She has provided professional training for The New Mexico National Association of Social Workers, The New Mexico Sand Play Society, The Colorado Sand Play Association, The North Carolina Association for Play Therapy, The National Association for Play Therapy, Sandplay Therapists of America and the North Carolina Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. She provides internships, supervision and guidance to students as well as therapists working toward licensure or certification. Ms. Wheeler has served on the board of directors, including two terms as President, of the North Carolina Association for Play Therapy . Her favorite recreation is swimming with the dolphins at Topsail Beach, swimming laps at the gym and collecting healing crystals.


 Our daughter experienced anxiety, outbursts, anger, defiance and fear of abandonment. This resulted from neglect she experienced from her birth family. Other therapists and providers “didn’t get it” or listen to our concerns. Within two months of seeing Karen all behaviors decreased. This was a result of EMDR, play therapy, parent support/training and lastly Emotional Polarity Technique. We drive three hours ever to weeks to see her. Our daughter states “Ms. Karen is a really good therapy girl”.

A grateful adoptive mother

As a therapeutic foster parent I have been working with Karen Wheeler for over eight years. My children have had various diagnosis including Reactive Attachment Disorder and Intermittent Explosive Disorder. EMDR and Karen have been a Godsend for all my kids.

A Licensed Therapeutic Parent

We have been coming to see Ms. Karen for six years. My son was adopted and originally diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder. Ms. Karen’s play therapy allowed my child to express himself in a positive way. When began EMDR I noticed a drop in his fright about bonding. Plus it was something he craved and needed to regulate his emotions. It was such an emotional release for him. She has been great in supporting me through tough times with my son and I often refer children to her practice.  She has really helped my son.  Thank you Ms. Karen.


After I ended my relationship with my son’s abusive biological father my three year old son was showing signs of anger, aggression, depression, anxiety, hyperactivity and having night terrors. I was referred by a friend and we started seeing Ms. Karen. My son is now six and diagnosed with PTSD. The EMDR treatment has helped him tremendously.  He no longer has night terrors and all his symptoms have decreased. He loves coming to see Ms. Karen Whenever he has a hard day he asks to come see her to help get himself under control. She has taught him coping skills and me parenting techniques to better his development. I don’t know what we would do without  Ms. Karen.  We love you!


Karen Wheeler is an amazing therapist, supervisor, teacher, and mentor. I met her several years ago and have had the honor to relate to her in all such roles. She has trained me and supervised me, we have shared clients, we have facilitated groups together, we have been part of the NC Association for Play Therapists board together and she has been my mentor.
 As a therapist, she has the gift to understand people's wounds in a deep level and creatively help them heal. She is a clinically sound supervisor, who is committed to the growth and success  of her supervisees. She is an incredible teacher, keeping her students attention by generously sharing her knowledge. She has the ability to explain a complex issue in a simple and fun way. Finally, as a mentor, she is a changing agent on people's lives and careers. I highly recommend her !

Heloisa Portela, Ph.D., LPCS, NCC, ACS, RPT-S

I am so lucky to have found Karen Wheeler.  I had no idea that therapy would have such a profound effect on me and allow me to become the person I was supposed to be.  I had suffered from depression and anxiety for almost my entire life, so when I first began sessions with her I was just hoping to be able to learn how to get through the day.  I had no idea that I would learn how to be happy with myself and how to have positive relationships with others.  Karen helped me heal my personal wounds, even those that I didn't know needed healing.  She taught me the skills I needed to have nurturing relationships with others while blocking out the negative thoughts and feelings that were affecting me.  She helped me improve my professional life also, in giving me the skills that I needed to believe in myself and be successful in all environments. 
I would recommend Karen Wheeler to anyone who is trying to better themselves and needs help to find the path.  Now that I have addressed my depression and anxiety with her, I am able to focus on becoming a more centered and peaceful person.  Without Karen I would still be miserable and afraid to live my life.  Thank you, Karen for helping me become the person I always wished I could be!

Kimberly M., 35 years old, Teacher 

Since I have been working with Karen I have gone from a burned-out professional to an individual striving to live a life of self-discovery and balance. I have struggles with depression, anxiety and panic attacks for most of my life. I have worked with a number of therapists through the years and had gained insight into “my issues”. Karen is unlike any therapist I have worked with. Through psychoanalysis, EPT and sandplay my depression and anxiety are well in check and I rarely have panic attacks.
She is the most insightful therapist I have ever worked with. Through our work I have found my inner voice.  I have found the ability to experience happiness and strive for balance; living a life of self-discovery. I have referred a number of friends and family to Karen. Without exception, each of these people have been very pleased with their experience. Anyone who has the opportunity to work with Karen is very fortunate.

A grateful and “whole” woman

Highwood Park Plaza
3173 Wrightsville Ave.
Wilmington, NC 28403
(corner of Wrightsville and Wilshire)
Phone (910) 251-7950
Fax (910) 251-7980
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