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May 4, 2017

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Recap of Autism Symposium 2017

By: Lynne Mollo, LCSW
Primary Therapist

I was honored to begin the celebration of Autism Awareness month with a group of Educational Consultants, Wilderness therapists, Social Workers, Psychologists, Doctors, Parents and many other professionals working with children and adults on the Spectrum.

On April 2nd and 3rd Asheville North Carolina was host to the 4th Annual Autism Symposium sponsored by several programs in the therapeutic education field. The symposium’s focus was to have a place where professionals could come together and better understand the best practice when dealing with Autism.

A panel of therapists, parents, medical doctors and other professionals answered thought provoking questions from the audience on how to best serve clients and families with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Some of the questions asked of the audience included:

  • Why are there more boys than girls diagnosed with Autism?
  • What are the causes of Autism?
  • Why are the numbers increasing?
  • What are the best ways of supporting people with Autism?

The overall summary of the panel discussion was that there are more questions than answers and more research is needed to understand how to best identify and improve the lives of those touched by ASD.

Dr. Liane Holiday Willey, EdD began the second day of the conference with a witty, interesting and honest presentation entitled “Vulnerabilities and support of women on the Autism Spectrum Disorder”. Not only has Dr. Willey authored several books on the topic of Autism, she herself was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 35 by one of the leading experts in the field, Dr. Tony Attwood. Liane has been a strong advocate for those on the Spectrum and provides support and information on her website blog Aspie.com.

One of the most applicable things she mentioned was how helpful and effective horticultural therapy is for people with Autism. She recommended having a garden (or “even just a pot with something growing in it!”) as an easy, accessible way to help individuals with Autism regulate their emotions. She also noted the high effectiveness rates for horticultural therapy. This speaks to how powerful this intervention is and also why it is so fundamental in our approach at Pacific Quest!

After a meet and greet lunch with a group of professionals and parents all the participants were able to join in on several breakout sessions for the rest of the day. I chose to attend the two sessions that addressed the neurological aspects of ASD. First, I attended an experiential session by Cameron Allen who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome as a teen. He found that neurofeedback supported his development and now is a specialist with a private practice. He and Taisir El-Souessi, LPC facilitated activities that showed how a person on the spectrum might be processing information. The last breakout session I attended was a collaborative case study presentation of a young adult on the spectrum. The professionals walked the audience through this young man’s journey to independence. In the end this young man was able to identify when he was Limbic Dominant. The research presented identified that the limbic system grows super fast in the brain of a person with Autism.

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.

Best,
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

CIRCADIAN RHYTHM

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.

PEACEFUL ENVIRONMENT

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!

April 17, 2017

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PQ Partners with All One Ocean Nonprofit

By: Katie Strong, Program Guide

“Aloha ʻĀina, Aloha Kai!” That’s Hawaiʻian for “love the land, love the ocean.” We take these phrases to heart at Pacific Quest. As a horticultural therapy program, we’re well known for caring for the land, but we’re also really into the ocean. PQ students learn about the importance of caring for our ocean during weekly water outings and beach cleanups and frequent swims in Reeds Bay. And we recently upped our marine stewardship game by installing two Beach Clean Up Stations, with two more on the way!

Pacific Quest Partners with All One Ocean Nonprofit for Beach Clean Up

We installed one of the Stations at our Reeds Bay campus and another at Richardson Beach. The other two Stations will soon be installed at Carlsmith Beach Park. These Stations will enable both Hilo beachgoers and PQ students to divert 80,000 pieces of trash a year from our ocean and waterways, improving the lives of sea and land creatures, including humans. Beach Clean Up Stations are permanently mounted wooden boxes containing repurposed, reusable bags for collecting beach trash. Each Station features children’s marine-themed art and signage showing how to use the Station, the impact of marine debris and how to reduce trash.

Pacific Quest Partners with All One Ocean Nonprofit for Beach Clean UpPQ students will use the Richardson Beach and Carlsmith Beach Park Stations during their beach cleanup outings, and the Reeds Bay Station several times a week. Students will use these Stations to pick up 26,000 pieces of trash a year. We expect that the Richardson Beach and Carlsmith Beach Park Stations will educate 3,240 beachgoers a year about the harm human-generated trash causes to sea and land creatures and teach them how to reduce this waste. Each year, these Stations will enable 1,080 beachgoers to remove 54,000 pieces of trash – which is definitely “Aloha ʻĀina, Aloha Kai!”

— — —

Pacific Quest built and installed these Beach Clean Up Stations in partnership with All One Ocean and the County of Hawaii. All One Ocean, a local nonprofit, has installed 37 Beach Clean Up Stations and four School Clean Up Stations, in Hawaii, California, Iowa and Alabama.

April 8, 2017

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Community Service at Punalu’u Pond

By: Nikki Robinson, Adolescent Program Master Guide

A group of Pacific Quest adolescent students recently joined the community at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach to participate in removing invasive plant species.  The pond at Punalu’u is a unique and rare ecosystem – an anchialine pool, it is connected to the ocean by an underground fissure, consists of brackish water, and the water level changes with the tides. Of all the anchialine pools on the planet, more than half of them can be found on the island of Hawai’i!  These ponds are home to a plethora of endemic plants and animals. Water hyacinth, an introduced and invasive species, thrives in this pond, crowding out native plants and animals, blocks sunlight into the pond, acts as a breeding ground for mosquitoes, and threatens the existence of many species that only exist in this rare ecosystem.  Our job, pulling water hyacinth out of the pond, ensures the survival of endemic species to the island.

Pacific Quest community service pond clean up at Punalu'u

Removing water hyacinth from pond

Upon our arrival to the beach park, most students were eager to jump into the murky pond and work together with members of the community to eradicate the water hyacinth from an area of the pond.  As the rest of the group eased into the pond, students broke into groups.  Some students pushed clumps of hyacinth in towards the shore, while others threw the plants onto and away from the shore. The students spent time pausing to investigate the life forms in the pond. They discovered crayfish, tadpoles ducks, and the endangered nene. As they cleared the pond, they shared stories with community members; some of whom have lived in the region all of their lives. After some time working, the students were satisfied with the large area of cleared pond and ready to eat lunch.

Before lunch, we all jumped into the ocean to clean off. The cool water felt great after all the hard work we had done. The group circled up, had a round of thanks, and ate lunch over fun conversation topics. We enjoyed lunch and a view of palm trees, black sand, sea turtles, and beautiful blue waves. The weather was perfect for a day at the beach. After digesting for a while, the group decided to go for a refreshing swim in the ocean. Some choose to swim while others chose to float and chat.

Punalu’u was once a major residence for ancient Hawaiians. Hawaiians used this land for fishing and as a major source of fresh water. Punalu’u means “diving spring”, and sits on top of thousands of tons of fresh water flowing underground. During periods of drought, ancient Hawaiians would dive to the bottom of the ocean and fill “ipu” (gourds) with fresh water. Punalu’u is also home to endangered hawksbill sea turtles known as Honu’ea. Tourists come from far away to admire the fascinating creatures, but are warned: “do not touch or ride the turtles”. Students watched as turtles basked in the sun. They were awed by the turtles’ size and gentle nature, but made sure to give the turtles plenty of space.

After taking a nice swim, the students took some time to relax on the beach. The group played an organized bonding game and shared stories over the experience afterwards while loading up the van. We then headed back to Pacific Quest with about an hour to relax before it was time to hop into the gardens and kitchen to prepare dinner.

March 16, 2017

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Horticultural Therapy Training at PQ

By:  Dara Downs, Alumni and Family Services Liaison

Pacific Quest recently offered a Horticultural Therapy training for all staff members at our Young Adult campus at Reeds Bay.  This training was a unique experience where field managers came alongside field guides, and logistics staff worked side by side with nurses. Therapists and administrative staff traded their computers and phones for a trowel and some compost. In order to participate everyone left their job titles in the parking lot and put on their close toed shoes, long pants, and work gloves. They all knew, it was time to work in the garden!

Horticultural Therapy Training at PQ - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Back to Basics Gardening Stations

One of the main goals of this training was to assist all employees in developing a relationship with the garden, and increase individual’s confidence on the land.  In addition, the training was designed to help staff members understand the role of Horticultural Therapy (HT) and the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics® (NMT) at PQ. In doing so, our Academic Coordinator was able to weave in parts of the HT curriculum into the training events to help set guides up with applicable lessons to use directly in the field.

The day was filled with numerous hands on activities and as every farmer knows, the best way to learn something is to get your hands dirty!  The group started off with a scavenger hunt in the ethnobotanical gardens at Reeds Bay called “The Village”. These gardens focus on growing traditional Hawaiian plants which are referred to as canoe plants. Everyone used the clues in the scavenger hunt to find specific plants. Upon finding each plant, participants followed a lesson from the curriculum based off the acronym CARE (Commitment, Awareness, Relationship/Responsibility, Effort).  They were able to practice caring for these sacred plants while also racing the clock!

After this competitive challenge, everyone engaged in “Back to Basics Gardening Stations” around campus. These stations focused on educating and providing hands on experiences in the following topics:

  • Compost and Soil Health
  • Tree Health and Bed Maintenance
  • Nursery and Transplanting
  • Square Foot Gardening

Presenters at each of these stations role modeled the three “R’s” of NMT: Regulate, Relate, and Reason. Each station started off with a breathing exercise, or something tactile and rhythmic, before jumping into relating to the environment, reasoning and teaching a lesson.

Following this, the group enjoyed lunch, and afterwards set up to process what they gained from the morning activities.  PQ’s Horticultural Therapy Director, Travis Slagle, MA, led the group discussion on how to use these activities to engage students in meaningful conversations. He touched upon practicing these gardening techniques while developing

Horticultural Therapy Training at PQ - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Travis Slagle leading group lesson

relationships with students who may be challenging or disengaged. He comments, “It is essential that we are able to successfully translate skills of intuition and observation from a gardening experience to our daily lives.”  Staff members began sharing their stories and openly discussing techniques and experiences of successes they’ve had on the land. Participants shared ideas and methods that worked and helped to reach a wide variety of students.

After this open forum discussion, everyone broke into their groups again for afternoon stations which were focused on specific activities for assisting our students in the NMT model (regulate, relate and reason). The groups included, cordage making, weeding/bilateral movement, planting play, and wellness. These groups introduced themes of music and play into the garden, while also demonstrating tools like cordage making where you can bring the garden to a student. The wellness department also led a group that focused on EFT (a breathing/meditation technique), the bucket theory, and connecting plant health with gut health.

To end the day, everyone was invited to a garden party where music was played and pineapple paradise was saved from weeds and invasive species like african tulip trees.  Amanda Moreno, PQ Therapist, mentioned that, “It was a gift to spend a day in the garden connecting with my peers and collaborating with my colleagues. I learned a lot about gardening and can’t wait to use it with the students.”  An Adolescent Program Field Supervisor also commented, “One of my key takeaways from this training was the value of regulate, relate, and reason. I learned so many ways to engage in each of these in the field.”

March 7, 2017

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Pacific Quest Video Series :: Dr. Robert Voloshin, Integrative Psychiatrist

“Happiness, fulfillment, and joy in everyday life should be the bar we set… instead of taking an extreme view, I strive to take a wise, balanced, and integrative approach.” -Dr. Voloshin

Pacific Quest has an incredible new member of our Clinical and Wellness teams, Dr. Robert Voloshin, Integrative Psychiatrist. Dr. Robert Voloshin is leading the Integrative Psychiatry team at Pacific Quest with the goal of cultivating mental health for our students. The Pacific Quest integrative psychiatric model is unique in its methods of treatment.  It combines psychiatric care with naturopathic medicine allowing treatment to be individualized to the needs of each student, achieving a dynamic and comprehensive treatment approach.

Dr. Robert Voloshin: Pacific Quest Integrative Psychiatrist

“Integrative psychiatry is a way of approaching adolescents and young adults from multiple different perspectives. We use the perspectives of modern psychiatry, naturopathic medicine, developmental psychology and family systems to understand the young people and families we work with …”

As a lifelong observer of the human condition, he was innately curious about “what makes us well and what makes us sick.” Through medical school, residency, fellowship and beyond, his training in psychology and psychiatry led him to the conclusion that the origins of our mental health or lack thereof stems from our early years and our family systems, which led to his pursuit of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Read More

February 22, 2017

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PQ Offers First Annual Free CE Workshop for Hilo Community

By: Kristen Sutton, Therapist, & Lauren Meyer, Field Coordinator

Over 80 people attended a recent continuing education (CE) event offered by Pacific Quest (PQ). Community service and the ability to “give back” are essential cornerstones of the program, therefore, PQ offered this CE event free of charge to Big Island mental health professionals.  Attendees included psychologists, play/sandplay therapists, school counselors, social workers and other mental health professionals who had the opportunity to earn three continuing education credits through APA and NASW- Hawai`i Chapter.

Pacific Quest offers free continuing education event

Dr. Freedle presenting at CE Event in Hilo

Dr. Lorraine Freedle, PQ’s Clinical Director, presented “After the Towers Fell:  Healing Trauma with Sandplay Therapy, A Neuropsychological Perspective”. Dr. Freedle shared her expertise and passion for both Sandplay Therapy and the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics® (NMT). The presentation focused on the case study of Jimmy (pseudonym), who as a young boy lost his father in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.  At age 22, Jimmy was overwhelmed with OCD, alcohol abuse, guilt and shame and was unable to meet the demands of college.  As a result, he sought treatment at Pacific Quest where he engaged in sandplay therapy as part of a comprehensive, holistic treatment approach.

Workshop participants explored a neuropsychological perspective on how sandplay heals trauma and took a journey through Jimmy’s treatment process. They walked away with an understanding of the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics and a better awareness of the Sustainable Growth model utilized at Pacific Quest. The attendees were also touched by Jimmy’s story and created artwork to express how his story connected with their own experiences.

Lauren Meyer, PQ Field Coordinator, who was in attendance, comments, “Dr. Freedle took her audience through a journey of images Jimmy created in the sand. There were tears throughout the room, as well as in my own eyes, when we saw an image of ‘that fateful day’ through the eyes of an eight year old child.”  An intimate look at how Jimmy, as a young adult, accessed healing resources through meditation, horticultural activities and sandplay therapy followed.

“Multiple attendees spoke about feeling moved and inspired by the presentation and Dr. Freedle’s work,” noted Kristen Sutton, PQ Therapist. “One therapist in private practice shared her gratitude for being able to gather together with other professionals to discuss her passion – Sandplay. I left feeling grateful and privileged to do the work that we do.”

February 13, 2017

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Oh Coconuts!

By Kate Goodwin, Young Adult Wellness Medical Supervisor

Coconut Harvest at Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Program

Coconut has many uses and health benefits

The tropical coconut is an incredible superfood with endless uses, especially in Polynesian cultures.  The Hawaiians used “Niu” or coconut for drink, food, thatching, hats, baskets, furniture, mats, cordage, clothing, charcoal, brooms, fans, ornaments, musical instruments, shampoo, containers, oil for fuel, light, ointments, soap and more.

Traditionally, a coconut palm was planted at a Hawaiian’s birth with a he’e (octopus) under it for fertilizer.  After the tree fruits at age seven, it will continue to fruit for 70-100 years to provide food for the individual or community.  Just one tree can produce 50 coconuts a year!

Coconut meat contains high quantities of lauric acid, a rare medium-chain saturated fatty acid.  Lauric acid is the reason coconut oil is so good for your skin, it can reduce bacterial and fungal infections while moisturizing.  Consuming the coconut meat provides B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.  Coconut water is an alkali producer in the digestive system and can help balance the body’s pH.  The water inside a coconut is sterile, yet packed with nutrients and electrolytes, it could even be used in a pinch for IV rehydration.

During a recent wellness training with Annie, the students learned how to pick a perfect coconut and “tap” into it to drink the water.  The coconuts were then cracked open to enjoy the delicious meat inside.  They also learned how to fashion a makeshift deodorant out of coconut oil as well as learning how the niu is culturally relevant to the Hawaiians.

How to select the perfect drinking coconut:

Coconut Harvest at Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Program

Coconut ready for drinking!

The perfect drinking coconut is full-sized, yet immature. Green and picked from the tree is ideal (yellow color and found on the ground is okay and still delicious).

Up to one quart of water is inside, but you should not hear “sloshing” when you shake it.  If the nut sloshes, it is no longer sterile and could cause some digestive irritation.

The yellow or browning coconut is mature when it drops to the ground. There is still some water in the cavity, which can be combined to make coconut milk. Coconut milk is a blend of coconut water and the scrapings of the coconut meat. This milk is a good source of iron and contains calcium, phosphorus, protein and vitamins.

Wahi ka niu, break open the coconut!

February 8, 2017

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Pacific Quest Video Series :: Student Testimonial

Pacific quest changed my life; I realize now that nothing is impossible. With just some water and a seed I can create a whole ecosystem of life. Life at Pacific Quest helped me express my emotions in a positive way. Pacific Quest will change your life, too, if you just let it.” – Pacific Quest student testimonial

Pacific Quest: True To Our Testimonials

Pacific Quest is an internationally-recognized residential wilderness therapy program based in Hawaii that serves struggling teens and young adults from around the world. Our testimonials show just how Pacific Quest goes beyond traditional wilderness therapy programs: by cultivating change through sustainable growth. Our outdoor wilderness therapy and horticulture therapy programs teach sustainable life skills in a clinically innovative and nurturing environment. It helps young people make better choices and live healthier, more productive lives.

The many amazing testimonials from both alumni and their parents point to the pivotal changes made to each and every student who was ready for positive change. The testimonials also speak to the invaluable lessons and experiences students have had that they will take with them for the rest of their lives. Read more incredible testimonials on just how and why Pacific Quest is consistently sought after as the best wilderness therapy program.

The Pacific Quest Program Through Testimonials

“My negative emotions were affecting everyone around me and I was out of control. I didn’t care about life and that was obvious by my behavior. It was a sad and difficult time for me and my family.”

Read More