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April 24, 2012

By Lindsey Baldwin, Therapist

One of the best parts of my job as a therapist at Pacific Quest wilderness therapy program is being a part of the Rites of Passage story council on Thursday mornings. On these mornings, students return from a two-day ceremony and share their experience with a group of peers.  My role in the story council is to “mirror” aspects of a students Rites of Passage story to highlight symbolism, parallel it to the “hero’s journey”, and reflect on a students statement of intent. During these stories, students Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Programshare insights into themselves that make me laugh, tear up and reflect on how much they’ve gained from their experience at PQ. They walk away from the stories, carrying a mask, a lei, artwork, and new insight into themselves. This experience signifies severing from their old destructive patterns and behaviors. The culmination of this ceremony happens when students cross over the threshold and return to their community to share the gifts they have learned about themselves with their PQ Ohana. These stories aren’t just powerful experiences for me, as a clinician for an outdoor therapeutic program, but for other students in the Ohana who serve as witnesses to their experience. Below is a student’s reflection on the rites of passage story council she heard for the first time last week:

By Emma, current Ohana student:
“So today is my third day in the Ohana. This morning two students returned and spoke about their experiences in Rights of Passage (ROP). I’m very lucky to have heard these students speak about their experiences so early on in my time in this Ohana. I feel like I witnessed some kind of magic. Listening to one of the students, I could not help but tear up. Seeing a man who has enough strength to open up and allow himself to be vulnerable and cry is not something I have seen many times in my life. And evenPacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Program though I was just meeting him, I felt so proud. It is evident how much work and effort both students have put towards better understanding themselves. The other student who shared his story felt that ROP was a ceremony that reinforced and brought together all that he had already been working on, here at PQ. As he worded it, a “re-relization.” I could relate a lot to these students emotions and attitudes. In my time here I have also come to understand things about myself that have literally changed my life. Mainly that I want to live this life and love and embrace it, which I am on a path of learning to do. Hearing these students, who have come so far, and having come so far myself, gives me an immense amount of hope for the future and what it has to bring. Both theirs and my own.” 

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