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Established 2004

June 12, 2017

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One Year Later – Meeting with a PQ Alumna

By: Erin Marcus, Clinical Admissions Director

One of my favorite parts of the work we do is receiving updates from students after they leave Pacific Quest.  Over the years, we’ve received emails, letters, photos and it’s always an inspiration to hear about continued progress and personal growth.  I recently had the opportunity to visit with a PQ alumni student, Celest and discuss how she is doing after her journey at Pacific Quest.

Erin Marcus interviews alumni student Celest

Thank you so much for speaking with me Celest! How old were you when you went to Pacific Quest and about how long have you been out of the program?

I was 17 and I have been out of the program for about one year and a month.

We’ve been able to spend some time together recently and I’ve noticed how calm and comfortable you seemed to be in different settings. Were you always this comfortable in your own skin?

I think I’ve always been comfortable with who I am and expressing myself but what was challenging for me was being comfortable with other people. If I didn’t really like someone by first impression I didn’t give them a chance. I could and still can be pretty judgmental. But PQ gives you a unique setting where you get to know your peers on a deep and factual level, that usually takes a lot of small talk to get to anywhere else. It was easy for me to relate to people I never thought I would by appearance and later on have more compassion for the people around me at school or work, instead of just labeling them “not my kinda person.”

What were some of the difficulties you experienced during your time at Pacific Quest? How did you cope with/overcome them?

Being able to just sit with my thoughts got tricky at times and having everything so scheduled could get mundane for moments but oddly enough I think the hardest thing for me was to be comfortable with my peers in a light way. I got so use to just hearing and telling heavy personal stuff that it started to just feel like I was reading a book of my life, because it’s hard to feel things from the past, even if they hurt at the time. I’ve always had a somewhat difficult time joking with people at first and exposing my personality so the regimented talk was kind of a comfort. To just be expected to say the facts how they made me feel and nothing else. But getting to know my peers on a level where I would let myself get uninhibited sometimes made me uneasy. But it started to come naturally with repetition and having to constantly be in public. That’s probably what I grew from most. Just allowing myself to get comfortable. Allowing myself to feel happy and have it be known.

What were some of the goals that you set while you were at the program?

I set goals to get into a college, notice when I’m feeling depressed and take care of it, make effort to be social, and to be a healthier person in general.

What was the outcome? Do you feel like you’ve been able to sustain the changes you made at the program?

I have gotten into a school. I am much better at recognizing when depression is creeping up since I’ve learned so much about what genuinely makes me a happy productive human being. Making an effort to be social is probably the one I let slip under the rug the most without even realizing it but I am much less critical of people. And I do socialize in better ways than I use to, meeting my need for human interaction in actual productive conversations, instead of bonding through mutual hate or love of similar vises.  

What were your favorite parts about being in the program?

My favorite parts about the program were being able to get to know my peers through group therapy, developing relationships with staff, and being able to see a therapist regularly.

What are some of the long term changes that you attribute to your hard work while you were with us in Hawaii?

Long term changes for me were being able to appreciate smaller things more often. Appreciating everything I’m given and working on myself because I deserve to be worked on. I realized my self worth and that I do and can take up space.

What words of wisdom do you have for students who are on the fence about coming to Pacific Quest and to those struggling to stay once they have arrived?

If you are considering going I would recommend just going and not getting too stressed on the details. If you are given an opportunity to go to Hawaii and experience something vastly different from your day to day, why not take it? No matter how hard it gets, it’s a blink of an eye in all of your time, and I promise once you go home you’ll be glad you went. Once your a few weeks in you’ll probably be glad, but everyone feels differently. The first week is the hardest. And our generation really struggles with long term gratification so this is a prime way to really feel good about your actions in the long run. If that means anything to you. But whatever your struggle is you deserve to give it the attention and the time it needs to pass.

What advice do you have for parents who are having difficulty deciding if they should send their son or daughter to Pacific Quest?

It’s not that intense of a program as in your kid isn’t going to be killing themselves with manual labor and sleeping under a leaf every night but, it is a lot to go through emotionally and a very efficient way of growing up. Like a developmental pressure cooker. I don’t think anyone can’t handle it but I think everyone sometimes doubts that in the program. Which is so necessary. To struggle. But overall, if you’ve got the funds, I recommend it.

Often times, parents worry that their son or daughter will resent them if they send them away to a program and/or that their child will feel abandoned or never forgive them.  What was your experience and the experience of some of the other students you were in the program with?

I don’t think it’s a great idea to send your kid in blind. Having a conversation is important, even if they are going regardless. It just sits bad to feel lied to and I’ve seen that delay progress in some cases. I was a bit upset at first in the program because I wished they had explained to me better what it was, but as I realized there’s nothing really to know or say, I accepted it. And a few weeks in I just was excited for the next time I was going to get to see them. You’re there because you’re loved.

What was your experience with the healthy lifestyle at PQ?  What, if any changes have you maintained since leaving?

I liked having a consistent sleeping cycle, so these days I really don’t let myself sleep in past 9:00 am.  I’m usually up by 9:00 am which is insane compared to the 12 pm wake up I was pulling before PQ. I eat a similar diet to what is at PQ so that wasn’t too much of a change for me. Most of the health knowledge I picked up to apply to my life everyday was for the health of the mind. Going on runs, starting up conversations, drinking tea.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Overall, what PQ did for me was make me grow up. Get out of the mindset that my sadness or whatever I was feeling was part of me, and not just a fleeting small potato like everything else. Being little doesn’t help anything or anyone. You deserve what you work to get. Everything else is a privilege. Doing things for your own well being is the most important thing to do before helping anyone else.  

January 10, 2013

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The Power of Language

By Erin Marcus-Levine, Clinical Admissions Director

Whenever I visit our students in the field, I am surprised and impressed by their attachment to and utilization of Hawaiian words and the meanings behind them.

Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy ProgramThey learn to sit with themselves and reflect, “Nalu”.  There is a real implication of pride and independence that comes along with the ability to sit in one’s own skin.  Reflection time is something many of our students never practiced prior to coming to Pacific Quest outdoor therapy program.  They greet it with great fear and reluctance in the beginning, but ultimately come to love their personal/meditation time away from the distractions of the day.

Students learn about and own personal responsibility, “Kuleana”.  The concepts of accountability and personal responsibility are quite foreign and often maligned in the beginning.  Those with fragile egos often need to blame others for their disappointments and fear that accepting personal responsibility will alienate others.  The actual process of empowerment and strengthening of relationships that springs from embracing Kuleana is a pivotal moment in our program, the beginning of the real work.

Students at Pacific Quest learn the true meaning of family, “Ohana”.  Family is an action, we do not live in a vacuum and our contributions, or lack thereof, effect the whole.  Learning to be a vital part of a functional system is a rewarding and sustainable behavior that is useful long after students leave our care.

They learn about Leadership and how to be a strong leader, “Alaka’i”.   A great leader has done their own work and comes from a place of calm and trust in the process.

These are just a few examples of Hawaiian words our students learn at Pacific Quest wilderness therapy program.  The students embrace the Hawaiian language and the true meaning behind the words with such enthusiasm and a deep level of understanding and pride.  The Hawaiians infuse such meaning into their words yet they are not so different from the meanings and lessons parents hope to teach their children all over the world.  I’m not sure why our students are able to embrace these concepts here in a way they did not before, but I know that the memory and the meaning of this special language stays with them and guides their choices long after they have left the safe haven of Pacific Quest.



June 6, 2012

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Pictures Worth A Thousand Words

By Erin Levine, Clinical Admissions Director

Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy ProgramEvery Friday evening when I am winding down my week, I take some time to view the slideshow of pictures that catalogs the activities the students participated in that week. I scroll through hundreds of pictures of busy and smiling faces in the different camps, at different phases of treatment and at multiple locations throughout the Big Island. I really enjoy looking at the pictures each week, it’s a great way for me to unwind as well as a reminder of the beautiful stories unfolding at Pacific Quest every day. I often talk about these pictures to the families who are in the process of sending one of their loved ones to Pacific Quest. It is easy for me to be encouraging in the face of fear and doubt because I know that in a couple of weeks they will be viewing pictures of their son or daughter fully engaged in an activity with an ear to ear smile and a look of accomplishment that is unmistakable. I talk to so many families that are

Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Programdiscouraged and unable to comprehend a time when things will be better and I am always able to see the pictures in my mind’s eye, they enable me to talk about the changes that transform individuals and families everyday at PQ.

Families participate in a number of activities throughout treatment, but in talking to alumni families they often agree that the pictures kept them going. The pictures not only tell a story about day to day life here at Pacific Quest but also the progression each individual experiences throughout their stay.

The smiling faces I see when the students are swimming in blue waters with giant turtles off of black sand beaches are expected. The look of eager anticipation on their Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Programfaces when they have a plate full of beautiful food that I know they helped to grow, harvest and prepare is understandable. What really catches me off guard though are the heartwarming pictures of young people with huge smiles and looks of pride carrying a pile of brush or preforming some otherwise basic task. I wonder how they can look so happy and fulfilled doing such a seemingly menial task? But that’s the magic of the gardens. Everything we do has a practical and a therapeutic purpose and outcome. I am just glad it’s captured in photographs, otherwise I may not have believed it myself.