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Established 2004

February 21, 2018

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Mike McGee Receives Scholarship Award

Pacific Quest is proud to announce that Mike McGee, Family Program Manager, was awarded a National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Hawai`i scholarship!  This scholarship supports social work students in good standing who are making a difference in their communities.  The NASW Student Scholarships were first awarded in 2009 and aim to assist students in their education as they pursue careers in social work.

Mike McGee, Family Program Manager

Mike is currently pursuing his MSW at the University of Hawaii – Manoa, focusing on Mental and Behavioral Health.  The program itself has a focus on indigenous methodologies and populations, which ties in with the Rites of Passage programming that Mike spearheads at Pacific Quest.  Of the award, Mike comments, “ I am truly humbled to be chosen for this scholarship. Social work is such a unique field in its acknowledgement of the strength and capacities of all human beings. Throughout my years of experience at PQ, I see how these strength-based values are essential for the therapeutic process.” Mike will continue to apply his passion for the rich marriage of Rites of Passage and horticulture therapy in his current role of Family Program Manager.  Mike hopes to further utilize his education and experience  in pursuit of becoming a therapist at Pacific Quest.

This is Mike’s second scholarship award.  Last year he received a scholarship from the Zachary Fochtman Foundation to carry on a legacy of a young man who aspired to become a Wilderness Therapist.   The award is given annually to individuals that are currently in the wilderness therapy field.   Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Clinical Director, comments, “Mike has a solid and unique skill set, which he continues to develop.  He will carry Zachary’s legacy forward with integrity.  We are proud to have him on our team.”

Mike will receive the award on March 16th in Honolulu – Congratulations, Mike!

January 19, 2018

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Sandalwood Restoration Project on the Slopes of Mauna Kea

A  group of Young Adult students recently had the opportunity to assist with a Sandalwood Restoration project on the slopes of Mauna Kea.  After departing Reeds Bay, the group took a scenic drive to meet the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park rangers at the restoration site.  The rangers explained the importance of this project and the need to plant native Sandalwood to regenerate the forest and help maintain the root system of this region.

Students were given instructions and tools and worked alongside the rangers, digging holes and planting “keiki” sandalwood trees.  It was important to find a moist area in the soil, dig a small hole and then plug in the baby plant. Finding a nice, water-fed area was essential to ensure the small plants will grow.

Planting baby Sandalwood trees on slopes of Mauna Kea

A few of the students were a bit apprehensive at first, as this was a new project – but the rangers were patient and compassionate and able to help students to provide extra support to the group.  Before long, students were excited to get their hands dirty and help out!  It was a beautiful day and from the higher elevation, the group had a an incredible view of Haleakala – the volcano on Maui as well as the Kohala mountains and Mauna Loa. At this higher elevation there were a variety of different flowers, including the Hawaiian Rose, which provided insight into how diverse the Big Island landscape is.

Pacific Quest is committed to community stewardship and the ability to “give back”.  We believe empowering young adults to be active participants in community service promotes positive and meaningful engagement in society.  This is an ongoing project and Pacific Quest students will continue to offer support on a monthly basis towards rebuilding this ecosystem.

The Pacific Quest Foundation also provides financial support to the Sandalwood Reforestation project. Grants such as these are made possible by the generous donations of Pacific Quest and Pacific Quest Foundation families, friends and supporters.

January 9, 2018

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What is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”  – Hippocrates

Whole foods, anti-inflammatory diet

At Pacific Quest, we believe food is medicine.  We provide whole foods, hypoallergenic, anti-inflammatory, and blood sugar balancing diet, rich in critical nutrients for optimizing health.  There is a daily focus on healthy foods and nutritionally complete meals, which mainly consist of organic fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and grains with the additional sources of animal protein, tofu, dairy and eggs. In addition, each meal is composed of complex carbohydrates, protein, and plenty of vegetables or fruits.

What is an anti-inflammatory diet?

The Pacific Quest diet is an anti-inflammatory diet, but what does that mean?  Simply put, it does not contain inflammatory foods; such as sugar, alcohol, caffeine, corn syrup, trans fats, food additives, preservatives or hormones.

Inflammation contributes to the majority of the health issues and uncomfortable symptoms, which your body can experience. This includes depression, type II diabetes, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, mental confusion, fatigue, hormonal imbalance, skin diseases, gastrointestinal issues, attention deficit, and the list goes on.   Anti-inflammatory foods include most all fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, organic eggs, whole grains and some herbs.

While at Pacific Quest, students learn that what you put in your body directly affects how you feel and are taught the basics of nutrition and how the body uses food as fuel. Adolescent and young adult students learn how to cook and prepare food using the freshest and most natural ingredients.

Here is a recipe that students prepare:

Thai Basil Eggplant, Snap Peas, & Broccoli


Eggplant, Snap peas, Broccoli, Onion, Garlic, Basil, Salt, Olive oil


Harvest 3-5 large eggplants and 16 oz basil leaves

Process in kitchen and set aside

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Chop broccoli and eggplant into bite-sized pieces

Hand tear snap pea tips away from snap pea

Pour vegetables into large bowl and lightly drizzle with olive oil.  Toss until all vegetables are coated and place on large cooking tray.

Cook for least 40 minutes

Dice 1 onion

Rough chop 1.5 bulbs of garlic

Rough chop basil

Lightly saute onion and garlic, wait…then add basil to lightly saute in – set aside.

Set up blender and combine:

Garlic-onion-basil saute, and 2-3 oz olive oil, and pinch of salt.  Blend until smooth.

Check vegetables and when ready, arrange vegetables on plate and add a small dollop of blended sauce atop vegetables.


October 10, 2017

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PQ Featured on LA Talk Radio

Wilderness Therapy Hawaiian-Style

This week Dr. John Souza, Primary Therapist and Mike Sullivan, Alumni & Family Services Director were featured on LA Talk Radio “Answers For the Family“.  During the program they shared their experiences with developing and implementing family therapy with young adults, often referred to as “emerging adults”, in an Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare setting. Additionally, Mike and John compared the common “myths” with the facts of emerging adulthood, while also providing insights into the importance of deepening family engagement with this population, as well as how nature-assisted therapy can promote both immediate and long-term improvements in family functioning.

Listen to the full radio show here:

At Pacific Quest we fully utilize family participation in the therapeutic process.  By involving the whole family in the healing process, we strive to improve communication, increase empathy and develop usable conflict resolution skills, which help deepen each individual’s understanding and trust in the greater process.

For more information about our Family Program visit:

August 31, 2017

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PQ Announces New Video Library!

By: Sharon Findlay, Admissions & Communication Manager

Pacific Quest is excited to announce our new Video Library for parents, students, and referring professionals! Viewers can easily filter the videos by category and featured staff member. Categories include: Advice for parents, Common Questions, Medical + Wellness Questions, Therapeutic Approach, and Why Pacific Quest. Parents can get to know our team from afar and hear their personal and professional perspectives on what makes Pacific Quest the special and healing place that it is.

With this new video library and new content, we worked hard to anticipate the needs of parents considering Pacific Quest for their child. Videos like “Being so far away, how effective is Pacific Quest at reconnecting the family system?” and “Gardening seems a little soft. How effective can it be?” are just two examples real questions we’ve received. This video library gives parents the opportunity to get candid answers from multiple team members.

The videos provide new and engaging content, as well as informative visuals for what Pacific Quest looks and feels like. Parents are able to see the many areas of campus from these videos. These resources are accessible to parents and professionals at whatever time of day is most convenient for them to learn more about Pacific Quest and get specific questions answered.

August 29, 2017

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Alumni Visit, 3 Years Later!

By Ashley Cipponeri, Alumni & Family Services Liaison

Summer in Hawaii brings a steady stream of new students and visitors to experience Pacific Quest! Not only do we see an influx of student admissions during the summer months, but we also see a steady stream of alumni students returning for a visit. Pacific Quest is often times the catalyst for student’s long term growth. Students identify their time at Pacific Quest as one of the main turning points for their wellbeing. The roots of reflection, responsibility, community living, and mentorship began here.

Alumni student, Juliette, recently visited Pacific Quest’s Adolescent Program. She was eager to experience Pacific Quest with the new outlook she has developed since her time at Pacific Quest. We had the opportunity to interview Juliette during her visit:

How old were you when you attended Pacific Quest and how old are you now?
I had just turned 14 when I arrived to Pacific Quest and I am 17 making it three years, almost exactly, since I was last here.

What were some of the challenges you faced while at Pacific Quest and how did you learn to cope with those challenges?
I had never been away from home for more than a week so I missed my home, my parents, and my family a lot. I had to deal with these challenges because I wasn’t able to overcome them. I wrote letters a lot and I tended to distract myself with landwork or writing letters. I also sang a lot and wrote lyrics in my journal to songs I enjoyed. I also did not do exercise before PQ so having to do work and exercise everyday was a big struggle at first. That was the hardest physical thing for me.

From the start of the program to the end, did you feel any difference with your physical activity and how you felt?
I felt a lot better. Just from eating super healthy and drinking a lot of water and working out everyday, I felt stronger and clearer, both physically and mentally.

Did you set any goals while you were at Pacific Quest that you continued to work on these past couple years?
My intent statement. I am a brave, smart, and beautiful young woman who accepts that the choices she has made are all a part of her journey. Accepting the past and recognizing I can’t change it and I have to move forward.

Have you been able to sustain any of the changes you have made starting at Pacific Quest?
I am trying to eat healthier, it doesn’t always work out because you have to make it versus just going somewhere, but I do try to eat healthier and I definitely eat healthier compared to before coming to Pacific Quest but not as healthy as the Pacific Quest diet. I also drink plenty of water.

Have you made any changes in how you deal with challenging emotions?
Before I came here, emotions were a big thing for me because it was hard to identify what I was feeling so I didn’t know how to express myself so I learned how to be aware of my emotions and not give up.

Did the emotional vocabulary you learned while at Pacific Quest help when you went to other programs after Pacific Quest?
Yea, it was the start of expanding it.

What was your favorite part of being at Pacific Quest?
I loved cooking. That was my favorite thing to do and I was good at it. People liked it when I did it because I was creative. I really enjoyed learning about plants. I don’t get to use it much now but I still remember most of it.

Do you have any Malama* words of wisdom?
*Malama means “to care for” or “steward”. It is the pinnacle phase at Pacific Quest.
Even if something is hard, it doesn’t mean it is bad. I really like quotes and one of my favorite is, “it’s always darkest before dawn” and I agree with that. It gets really hard before it gets better.

What would you say to parents who are on the fence about sending their child to Pacific Quest and maybe are worried about their child not enjoying?
I’d say they do not have to enjoy it for it to be good. I doubt there will be any student that enjoys it the first couple weeks. Some enjoy it in the end but the important thing is they will look back on it and be glad that you sent them there and in the long run they will thank you.

You spoke about how the healthy eating and drinking has had an impact on you, what about the other pillars of health taught at Pacific Quest?
Yea, deep breathing is the best way I have found to help with my anxiety and calm myself down.

Anything else you want to share before we close?
Even if you believe you might make it through without PQ, it will still be good for you. I don’t think this will be bad for any person. Even if you think you can do it by yourself, with the program you will progress better and faster.

August 20, 2017

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Adventure to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

A group of PQ students recently has an adventure at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park! The group packed up the cars and headed up the Southeastern coast towards the park, listening to music and playing fun games along the way. The car ride followed a highway that took the group past stunning panoramic ocean views over Whittington beach park, where everyone could see the Pacific ocean spanning off into the horizon. The group also drove through the Ka’u desert, into the lowland Ohi’a Lehua forest on the gentle slopes of Mauna Loa, and finally into the national park and its vast, lush expanses of tropical forests.

The first stop on this outing was the Thurston Lava Tube.  Known as Nāhuku, the lava tube was discovered (or possibly re-discovered) in 1913 by Lorrin Thurston, a local news publisher at the time. The group stopped for a brief lesson on how lava tubes are formed before setting off on a winding trail through a forest of tree ferns.  At the bottom of the trail the large, ominous mouth of the lava tube became visible and the group was soon inside it’s lighted passageways. The group entered the tube and took a moment of stillness to observe the cavernous silence of the tube, imagining a river of molten lava flowing through the spot where they were standing over one hundred years ago. After this moment, the group took a few group photos and then made their way through the remainder of the tunnel, pausing to touch the walls of the tube, feel the moisture and moss, and observe spiderwebs hang from lights lining the tube. At the end of the tunnel, everyone made their way up a series of winding staircases that joined a path to complete the trail loop.  After the lava tube, everyone was ready for lunch. The group enjoyed a picnic while a student read stories about Pele, the goddess of fire, and her journey through the Hawaiian islands before finally finding a home in a crater at the national park.

After lunch, the group was ready to head out on the next excursion, a trek that would take them around and across the floor of the nearby Kilauea Iki crater. Descending again through the lush rainforest, the students arrived on the crater floor. The crater’s most recent natural history is dominated by a 1959 vent eruption that spewed a curtain of lava 1900 feet into the air for five weeks. This eruption filled the valley floor to create a lake of lava weighing an estimated 86 million tons and rising to a depth of 400 feet. As the group walked and talked together, they couldn’t help but pause periodically to marvel at the natural beauty of the crater as everyone looked out in awe over the crater, under Mauna Loa, and across the steam vents.

As the group continued across the crater floor, everyone paused to learn about and observe some of the steam vents, and look for interesting geologic marvels such as ‘Pele’s Hair’ – thin strands of rock lifted from the lava lake of Kilauea’s caldera and blown by the wind to settle in cracks and crevices all over the surrounding area. Students marveled at the Ohi’a Lehua trees that took root in the otherwise desolate crater floor, ruminating on how life finds a way to endure, even in the harshest conditions.  Everyone hiked back up the switchbacks on the opposite side of the crater and made the short hike back through the rainforest to where the cars were parked. Just before leaving the crater, the group stopped at an overlook to take one last look at how vast the crater was and how far they had come. A tired, but very fulfilled ohana climbed back into the cars to relax and reflect on the ride back to Pacific Quest.

June 28, 2017

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Kuleana Therapist Role: another layer of clinical support

By: Sharon Findlay, Admissions & Communication Manager

Pacific Quest is excited to announce enhanced clinical services in our young adult program! Based on the need and intensity during the Kuleana Phase, PQ has added another therapist to support students through this critical stage of the program. Students will continue to meet with their primary therapist and now will also engage with the Kuleana Therapist, resulting in field-based therapy four days per week during the Kuleana phase to target individualized treatment goals.

What is the Kuleana Phase in the Young Adult Program?

The second of six phases, Kuleana, or personal responsibility, is the foundation of the Young Adult Program at Pacific Quest. Most of the core themes and expectations are identified in this phase and then further developed and sustained throughout treatment. During Kuleana, young adults begin sharing their “story” while simultaneously taking on the responsibilities which help to maintain a functioning community. Kuleana is about exploring the interplay between who a person is, who he/she wants to become, and what he/she is willing to do to get there. Young adults in this phase are in a separate location from the Reeds Bay facility where they are immersed in land, wellness, and other vital aspects of Pacific Quest’s Rite of Passage model.

This immersion model of therapy is an exciting development for this important phase in our program! The Kuleana Therapist will coordinate directly with primary therapist and the field team, and will function as a field-based extension of the primary therapist while students are in Kuleana. Alex Stitt has been selected to pioneer this role.

Kuleana Therapist providing clinical support

“By having someone there more frequently to manage the steps incrementally, we’ll be able to take full advantage of this specific phase of the program,” shares Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Clinical Director. “Alex brings not only clinical expertise but field expertise from his extensive experience over the past three years at Pacific Quest. His keen understanding of the identity level work and how it ties into the land work makes him an ideal Kuleana Therapist.”

Alex Stitt, Kuleana Therapist, adds, “Given that Kuleana is about personal responsibility, the phase is spent doing a lot of depth work around one’s personal values, what one is accountable for, and their locus control and responsibility. Progressively, our students begin to take ownership of their life.”

With this added layer of clinical support, young adults will more effectively navigate Kuleana and develop a solid foundation for their treatment at Pacific Quest.

May 3, 2017

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A Letter to My Therapist: One Year After PQ

By: PQ Alumni

I was a student at PQ last year. I just received my letter from a year ago* and I wanted to let you know that I really appreciate what you did. Words cannot express my gratitude.

I know that not all of the students at PQ take the program completely to heart all the time, and many of them do return to old habits after they leave, but I was not one of those people. Pacific Quest was a turning point for me in my adolescent life, as corny as that may sound. Without it, I’m honestly not sure where I would be today.

The gardening, the nature, the outings, and Huli all made a significant difference in how I thought and approached what my life had to offer. And most of all I thoroughly enjoyed our conversations together.

I’m in the last quarter of my senior year in high school, and I’ll be graduating in June. When I started PQ, I was sure I was going to drop out of high school, and college didn’t even seem like an option back then. Now I’m choosing between multiple colleges to attend in the fall, and sometimes I wonder how I made it this far.

My relationship with my family has improved drastically. I still fight with my mom sometimes, but who doesn’t? I talk with my dad a lot, and we actually go do things together, like going to the gym, and taking road trips to Lake Tahoe. I love my dad, and I like spending time with him, which is something I didn’t think was ever possible a year ago. Pacific Quest helped me learn to appreciate everything my family has done for me, and I want to thank you for saving us. PQ was a wake up call if there ever was one, and I am so grateful to be lucky enough to have experienced it. Soon hopefully I’ll be starting a new chapter in my life at college, which will bring its own set of challenges. But I have the confidence that I’ll be able to work through them.

Finally, I want you to know that if you ever feel like the kids you work with don’t have any chance of bettering themselves or you feel like you haven’t done enough to help them, that that simply isn’t true. Because there is one kid from California out there in the world, and he is forever grateful.

PQ Alum

*The letter this alumni is referencing is a letter that students write to themselves that PQ then mails out a year later. It’s an incredible reminder of all the hard work and progress they made at Pacific Quest.

April 19, 2017

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Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep

By: Pauli Richardson, Wellness Coordinator

It’s not unusual for students to come to Pacific Quest and have difficulty with sleep. It’s a combination of jet lag, anxiety, poor sleeping habits at home, inability to relax, among other factors. Most students are not familiar with “sleep hygiene” or what proper rest looks like. For this reason, sleep is my favorite Pillar of Wellness to teach the students. Sleep hygiene is your lifestyle routine that helps promote sleep. Without it our bodies would not be able to get the sleep it needs naturally. During sleep the body heals itself and balances hormones.

The first question I ask the students is what their sleep routine looks like at home. Then we compare that list to a list of healthy sleeping habits and see how it differs. After taking a closer look, many students realize, they do not have a consistent sleep routine.

Tips for Healthy Sleep Hygiene


For good sleep, it’s important to strive to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday. At Pacific Quest, the students wake up at 6:45 AM and they are in bed by 8:30 pm. We teach that this habit is important in helping reset the body’s circadian rhythm, the body’s natural sleep/wake cycle.

For some of our students this is the first time they have gone to bed before midnight in a long time. The later you go to sleep the less likely you are to reach deep restful REM sleep.


In addition, it’s essential to create an environment that promotes sleep. Our bedroom needs to be a place that helps us relax. There are many people that eat on their bed, look at phones while in bed, watch TV, play video games, etc. Your bed should be for rest only. When it is not, your brain won’t instantly know it’s time for sleep and the screens may interfere with the brain’s production of melatonin, an important sleep hormone.

At PQ, students get a break from electronics but we discuss what to do once they face those temptations outside of this environment.  I encourage them to journal or color right next to their bed if they need to, and then get snuggled under the covers once they feel sleepy. Students can also request a calming tea to help them relax or learn to make their own with herbs from our garden! Drinking lavender, lemon balm,or chamomile tea is soothing for the body.

HEALTHY HABITSHelpful Tips to Improve Sleep - Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy

  • Avoid Caffeine after 12pm
  • Use essential oils before bedtime
  • Listen to relaxing instrumental music
  • Exercise during the day
  • Close your eyes and visualize a calming nature scene
  • Eat foods with Tryptophan (banana,yogurt,turkey)
  • Get a massage

Meditation is an important aspect of our program and it’s key for preparing students’ minds for sleep. It can look very different from day to day. For example, we have staff play guitar, teach deep breathing, read a poem, do soft yoga poses and sometimes students like to lead their peers in their own guided meditation.  I enjoy teaching the students Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). This is where students start at the top of their head and work all the way down to the feet squeezing and relaxing each muscle group.

It takes effort and dedication to develop good sleep hygiene habits. It is my hope that students will take what they have learned at Pacific Quest and continue to practice taking care of themselves. Quick fixes are not sustainable, and when students learn this they are on their way to living a healthier life. Sweet dreams!