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February 25, 2016

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Encouraging Kindness: Unleash the Power within our Children

One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.” -Henry Miller, Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch

No matter the paths we take, it’s the power of the small wins that count. All too often, this realization hits nearer the end, when one’s path is running out of trail. It’s at this point in time that we reminisce on the things we’ve yet to accomplish and our chapters of ‘untapped potentials’ and ‘chunks of regrets.’ Perspective, you might say, shows us that moments are finite.

Life has a way of changing a person, and all too often a tragedy is a catalyst. But changing the way we approach life, and changing the way we make decisions can be ignited by another set of emotions. We can be different people if we change the manner in which we engage with others. A helping hand doesn’t have to be big in size. It is the helping attitude that matters most—a concept we should be teaching our children. After all, teaching children to care about others not only shapes their values, but it helps them to develop empathy, a virtue that is an important part of their internal compass.

Teaching our Children about Kindness

Follow these steps to help teach children to be givers of kindness, and use them as potential options for teen depression treatment if needed:

  1. Understand the importance of kindness

Understand the importance of kindness. There are three ways to define the word “nice” according to the dictionary:

  • Give pleasure or joy
  • Attractive or of good quality
  • Someone who is kind, polite and friendly

When we’re nice, we’re happier, we may live longer, it’s one of the keys to success, it brings us less stress and it simply feels better.

  1. Create a Kindness Project

Create a project where your family records one act of kindness or one pleasant activity per day. For some great inspiration, check out The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.

  1. Take time to share

Rather than your child sharing everything in their diary, have them open up and share on a weekly basis during dinnertime. Sharing encourages self-reflection, and it helps bring meaning to their actions.

  1. Practice, practice, practice

Reinforcement of the kindness habit comes with daily practice or practice on a regular basis.

The Power of Empathy

Setting out to make someone smile has no pitfalls, but instead has a multitude of feel-good benefits. When children perform acts of kindness, their happiness increases. It nurtures their well-being and increases positive connections with peers. They also benefit developmentally. Happier children display more positive behaviors as they grow into their teen years, they’re more likely to show higher academic achievement and it improves their overall outlook on life. And of all things that can boost inner peace, the most important is making progress in meaningful ways. This is why when considering options for teen depression treatment it is important to consider a more holistic approach.

For more therapeutic techniques that can inspire motivation for change, or options for teen depression treatment, contact Pacific Quest today and learn more about our treatment model.
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February 23, 2016

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Time for Change: Horticultural Therapy Can Help Your Teen this Spring

The seasons are a powerful force; they affect all human beings—our behaviors, choices and even moods. The reasons behind this are science-based; greater exposure to sunlight, has been found to decrease melatonin production and increase dopamine release, lessening our urge to sleep and brightening our outlook on life.

“The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.” -Harriet Ann Jacobs

With a little boost from Mother Nature, spring is the optimal time to consider enrolling a depressed teen in a Horticultural Therapy program. It’s a time for rejuvenation and fresh starts, and it begins March 19.

Horticultural Therapy at Pacific Quest

Pacific Quest’s program parallels the stages of growth and change natural to mother earth. The garden is our classroom, and its natural wonders teach students life skills that are easily transferable in all aspects of life. This experiential environment is life-affirming and pairs well with a clinical treatment plan that seeks to motivate and inspire positive change. From promoting a healthy lifestyle to creating a true sense of purpose, Horticultural Therapy can benefit most teens and young adults struggling with depression.

A Budding Healthy Lifestyle

Horticultural Therapy puts students in direct contact with the food they eat. By planting, growing and gathering their own crops, students learn the importance of organic, whole foods that come from the earth. Simultaneously, students engage in moderate physical activity outdoors (both structured and unstructured) and end the day with a full night’s sleep. This daily schedule has a significant impact on mental well-being and has been proven to help reduce symptoms of depression.

A Growing Purpose

As students develop their routine, a growing sense of purpose naturally develops within. By working together in the garden, students develop the positive feelings of being able to give back something valuable to someone who has given something to them (reciprocity), building self-esteem and self-worth. It’s lessons like these, learned in a Horticultural Therapy program, that transfer to real life and make an impact long after spring has faded into summer, fall and winter.

A Blossoming New Outlook

Practical coping skills that teens can stick to provide the foundation for a new outlook on life and what it means to each individual. Depression is a serious illness that should be treated with proven, effective methods. Horticultural Therapy has been documented as a successful method for treating depression, anxiety and trauma since the dawn of humanity. Egyptian pharaohs were prescribed daily nature strolls to treat mood instability, and Greek philosophers preferred green, lush gardens as their classrooms for teaching meaningful life lessons. Going back to basics helps depressed teens see themselves, and the world around them, in a fresh way. Students who participate in a spring Horticultural Therapy program plant the seeds of recovery that will blossom and serve them all year long.

For more information on Pacific Quest’s Horticultural Therapy programs, and how we treat teen depression, download our free brochure today.
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February 18, 2016

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How to Curb Your Teen’s Bad Behavior

If you are struggling with the right way to discipline your teenager, you are not alone.

The teen years are particularly challenging for parents, especially if you have a strong-willed child. If you are too strict or harsh, you can count on rebellion. If you come down on the rebellion instead of listening to your child’s reasoning, you run the risk of challenging them to up their game of lying and sneaking behind your back. At the end of the day, the goal of effective discipline is to gain control over your children – without being too controlling.

Sulking. Lying. Arguing. There’s a real explanation for this type of behavior. As teenagers age, they become more independent, although they still lack the emotional maturity required to make thoughtful decisions. The section of the brain that controls decision-making and impulse control hasn’t quite fully developed. Hence, the combination of autonomy plus immaturity may lead to risky behaviors like drinking and smoking.

All it takes is a few adjustments to your discipline strategy.

Smarter Discipline Strategies

Parents commonly shout (and sometimes swear) at their teenagers, but this type of discipline tactic often increases the bad behavior instead of curbing it. In fact, harsh, verbal discipline has even been linked to symptoms of depression in teenager’s, ages 13 and 14.

If you’ve relied on punishment in the past to control your teenager, or if you find your discipline backfiring, it’s time to change your strategy. It’s time to make your teenager WANT to cooperate.

Commit to a respectful tone. Try to remember that this is a tumultuous time in life for your teenager. There’s an awful lot of stress and pressure to do well in school, excel at different activities, and just to “fit in” with their friends. Before coming down hard, or disrespectfully, try and understand what may be driving your teenager’s behavior.

Set clear expectations. Expectations will vary from family to family, but keep in mind the very basic needs: civility and honesty.

Foster accountability. Teaching your teenager accountability is not the same as imposing punishment. Accountability shows them that there are consequences for their actions and decisions. If he breaks something, he will need to pay for it. This can also serve as an empowering lesson that we all make mistakes and that we can always take action to make it better.

Be firm and be consistent. Teenagers are master negotiators. They spot parental weaknesses, and then they pounce. If you give in once, they’ll expect you to give in every time. Be firm and make sure that both parents are on the same page.

One final strategy: keep your sense of humor as you stick to your guns. Your teenager will test you to see just how serious you are, and while you need to be serious, you can find a way to enforce with a lighter touch.

When Discipline Doesn’t Work: Teen Wilderness Therapy Programs

If you’re having a deeper struggle with disciplining your teenager, or have concerns that their behavior is beyond your reach, contact Pacific Quest today and talk through your situation with one of our mental health professionals. Our teen wilderness therapy programs are designed to promote growth through encouragement and positive interactions with people and the earth, rather than stifle it through harsh discipline or reprimands.
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February 16, 2016

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5 Secrets to Successful Parental Support

Successful teen recovery starts with an understanding of the things parents can do to help. The foremost of support groups, parental aid revolves around recognizing not only the things that cause trouble for teens, but identifying what parents themselves can improve on, and various paths we can take to help our teens recover. Below are five often overlooked tips that may illuminate the proper course of action.

  1. Don’t be a Secret Monger

Parents tend to have a proclivity for maintaining an overbearing presence. Somewhere between monitoring social streams and doling out repercussions for misbehavior, the sense of appropriate discipline is lost. By preparing every step of the way, teens lose the ability to learn from their mistakes; to think independently. Parents want transparency, but helicopter parenting is becoming the prominent cultural phenomenon, rather than the alternative, a reinforcement of independence.

Teens need to be able to keep some secrets. Privacy given to teens can be empowering, because the responsibility and integrity involved is crucial in development of character. Without trust, defiance and rebellion occur more naturally, and the process of opening up in times of turmoil becomes difficult. By jumping into the breach for them, parents stunt cognitive functional growth and confidence.

>>> For more information on the overparenting trap, click here.

  1. Participate in Therapy

Family involvement in the therapeutic model, including therapeutic wilderness programs for teens, provides a foundation for recovery. Struggles found in a teen are often mirrored in the strain faced by the family system at home. It goes without saying that parental participation in the recovery process is essential. At Pacific Quest, family involvement is an integral part of the program. Incorporating weekly counselor discussions through phone calls, and what we refer to as “meaningful communication,” students progress from letter-writing to phone and Skype calls, learning all-the-while the weight of therapeutic interaction. When the time comes, and a teen is ready to talk about more important subjects: listen attentively and offer input, but avoid unnecessary admonishment.

  1. Stop Walking on Eggshells

Contrary to common action, pampering teens in their defiance does not correlate with genuine good behavior. “It’s just a phase” is no longer acceptable in the vernacular of a responsible parent. In reality, challenging the teen’s poor decisions often leads to a self-reflective questioning of behavioral choices, and encourages them to take a step back. Therapists use this tactic frequently.

Alas, teens can’t always take this kind of advice directly from their parents. The discipline associated with parent-child relationship removes the ability for some adults to be an unconditionally receptive audience. Instead, teens need to hear these challenges from someone on an even keel, such as a peer or counselor—someone who sees the error in their action, has the ability to express it without reservation and does not invoke disdain due to a difference in opinion.

  1. Consider a Change in Environment

Parents tend to fall victim to ingratiating behavior mentioned above when dealing with defiant teens and, gone unnoticed, the relationship can border on sycophantic. When tactics used at home fail to constructively address poor conduct on multiple occasions, one of the most important options to consider is a new environment.

The same repetitive consequences and benign atmosphere will not cater to a positive recovery. Either the stimuli or the people must change. One effective approach is to consider a complete overhaul, and to change locale. What better place than Hawaii?

  1. Find the Proper Support

Direct one-on-one counseling may not be the best option, if a teen’s issues get out of hand. Consider the alternative in wilderness therapy, a holistic approach to health and wellness that combines the calming effect of natural surroundings with the support of individualized therapy. Pacific Quest offers an all-encompassing take on wellness and recovery by offering therapeutic wilderness programs for teens that redefine behavioral therapy and motivates change.

As a Pacific Quest alumni parent once said, “Our family is extremely grateful for Pacific Quest! Our son has returned to his true self. There really are no words to say what we want to say, ya’ll are amazing!”

The peaceful environment perpetuated at Pacific Quest supports positive peer culture, and allows students to gain a greater understanding of self and their own place in the world. This outlook is intended to influence them throughout their lifetime in significant ways. If you are interested in finding out more about our programs, please feel free to call us at 808.937.5806
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February 11, 2016

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PQ Book Club: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Who killed Wellington, the neighborhood’s beloved poodle? That’s the question Christopher John Francis Boone, a 15-year-old autistic teen decides he must answer in Mark Haddon’s book “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.” The hunt for the truth takes him on a journey full of struggles, questions and triumphs in this coming-of-age tale suitable for teens and young adults.

A Peek into Another Mind

Presented as a detective mystery, the book is told through the protagonist’s eyes, feelings and thoughts. As the reader grows more in-tune with Christopher Boone’s mind, the perception on what is socially “normal” is turned upside down. Because Christopher has Asperger’s syndrome (although this is never overtly stated in the book), he experiences difficulties with new experiences, environments and people, as well as going places alone. However, despite everything, he remains a teenager who craves, not surprisingly, independence.

Universal Feelings

In the novel, Haddon is able to use Boone as a mechanism to explain feelings everyone experiences, and he succeeds at operating on multiple levels. It’s this unique perspective (unconditionally literal and logical), paired with common ponderings, that bring the reader closer to understanding Christopher, and themselves, at the same time. Below are just a few of the many themes touched upon in the novel.

  • Sadness“Sometimes we get sad about things and we don’t like to tell other people that we are sad about them. We like to keep it a secret. Or sometimes, we are sad but we really don’t know why we are sad, so we say we aren’t sad but we really are.”
  • Indecision“But in life you have to take lots of decisions and if you don’t take decisions you would never do anything because you would spend all your time choosing between things you could do. So it is good to have a reason why you hate some things and you like others.”
  • Mindfulness“Also people think they’re not computers because they have feelings and computers don’t have feelings. But feeling are just having a picture on the screen in your head of what is going to happen tomorrow or next year, or what might have happened instead of what did happened, and if it is a happy picture they smile and if it is a sad picture they cry.”
  • Life“Mr. Jeavons said that I liked maths because it was safe. He said I liked maths because it meant solving problems, and these problems were difficult and interesting but there was always a straightforward answer at the end. And what he meant was that maths wasn’t like life because in life there are no straightforward answers at the end.”
  • The Unknown“Lots of things are mysteries. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an answer to them. It’s just that scientists haven’t found the answer yet.”
  • Self-worth“And I know I can do this because I went to London on my own, and because I solved the mystery…and I was brave and I wrote a book and that means I can do anything.”

Learning as a Lifelong Journey

In life, we are not only tasked with getting to know others, but ourselves as well. At Pacific Quest, we encourage these discoveries to be a part of a lifelong learning process to whole person understanding and wellness.

“Reading is a conversation. All books talk. But a good book listens as well.”

This book does just that, and that is why it is our latest PQ Book Club selection. Interested in joining the PQ Book Club? It’s simple! Click the button below to sign up.
PQ Book Club

February 9, 2016

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Why Snooping on Your Teen is a Bad Idea

From mSpy to MamaBear, there are more than a handful of apps to assist you in spying on your teen and their personal activities, upping the temptation quotient ten-fold. While the creations of these technologies are mainly a result of concerned, well-intending parents, they aren’t always necessary. This is why it’s important you don’t get caught up in feeling like you need to use them.

Whether born out of necessity or not, the fact is that technology is not only changing our children’s lifestyles, but our parenting techniques as well. Many of us need help with parenting teenagers. Obviously, a proactive attitude is helpful, but how you approach the subject remains up to you. Here are some options beyond spying:

The Fragility of Trust

They say trust takes years to build and seconds to break. Teens are especially susceptible to feeling personally wronged and violated when a trusting relationship is breached. A good relationship with your teen, full of opportunities for open communication, is the best way to build up trust and prevent your teen from feeling they need to keep secrets from you. Sit down to family dinner nightly and give everyone the chance to talk about their day. Stay in tune with your teen and actively listen when they speak, without being too overbearing. This way, you’ll have a better pulse on their behavior and may be able to notice any problematic or risky changes. When you make it a priority to maintain trust with your teen, they’re likely to do the same with you.

Respecting Privacy

Where you draw the line of respecting your teen’s privacy and keeping them protected is up to you, but it is important you are clear with your teen about what you require access to (social media passwords, for example) and what you will do with them. Keeping a business-like agreement with your teen can also help ensure everyone’s on the same page. Consider adding positive things you will do—always knocking before entering their private space—and things you won’t do—listening in on their phone conversations or reading their diary.

Problems in Young Adulthood

According to a 2014 AVG Technologies report, one-third of 16-year-olds have regrets about something they shared on social. Statistics like these shock parents into fearing letting their teens make their own decisions.

“One common concern of parents these days is that children grow up too fast. But sometimes it seems as if children don’t get the space to grow up at all; they just become adept at mimicking the habits of adulthood,” says Atlantic correspondent Hanna Rosin in her expose “The Overprotected Kid.”

Helping your teen build their own knowledge library of appropriate behaviors, with both digital and in-person interactions, will benefit them as they grow older and have to face similar situations alone. Encourage your teen to exercise independence and show them you’re there when they reach out for help.

The Flip Side: Help with Parenting Teenagers

While we reiterate that snooping is rarely a good idea, it’s important to note that too little monitoring may leave your teen feeling lost and unsupported. Moderate privacy and open communication is crucial in creating a healthy relationship with your teen, but if you feel your teen is still keeping secrets, hanging out with the wrong crowd, participating in unacceptable behaviors or directly lying to you, it may be time to seek professional help. Pacific Quest is here to answer your questions and help you and your teen get back on the right track to trust and respect. We provide help with parenting teenagers that may be life changing. Call one of our admissions counselors today.
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February 4, 2016

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Plant Seeds of Recovery, Reap the Benefits of Therapeutic Gardening

Horticultural therapy has a strong metaphorical tie when it comes to nursing something to life. In short, the mentality associated with helping something to grow counteracts the negative thoughts associated with depression and anxiety.

The act of growing a plant or vegetable from a seed mirrors the steps and development in a student’s personal journey.

Scientific studies provide evidence that horticultural therapy enhances moods, improves concentration and patience. Not only are people seen to be intrinsically connected to nature, the process of therapeutic gardening has been seen to repair depleted capacities for attention and introspection.

Plant the Seed

Helping to foster positive change in a garden translates to a better interaction with the environment around a teen. The benefit to the ecosystem becomes secondary after some time, and the therapeutic nature of horticultural development becomes unmistakable. The participant is helping something to flourish. This nurturing of health and well-being translate to a mental state more capable of rational thought and peaceful demeanor.

Making a plan is essential when starting a recovery process, and stepping into the mentality of reformation and improvement is a great start. Making the decision to commit oneself to the process is an indication of growth in and of itself.

Nurture Growth

In this stage, students begin to notice the parallels between their own lives and the life in the garden. Positive habits begin to develop in an effort to bring strength in the plants, and these habits associated with dealing with problems in the garden naturally translate to handling issues organically when they arise in the course of their adventure.

After working in the garden and completing various horticultural therapy activities, participants see decreased cortisol levels—calming nerves and reducing stress. Furthermore, across many platforms, facilitators are seeing results in the formation of positive attitudes, behavioral stability and selflessness.

Reinforce the Sprout

After poor influences and previous triggers are removed, and the garden is effectively “weeded,” the student, as well as the plants, must have room to grow. This growth begins on an individual level, but slowly builds to encompass fellow participants as well.

Maintaining a garden with a group of people also helps to foster a communal feeling and a sense of belonging. The student gets to see their impact of their hard work and positive attitude on an environment as part of the community group cultivating the crop. Rather than tackling issues on their own, this practice reinforces the concept of reaching out to others for assistance when an emotional trigger is activated.

Reap the Crop

At Pacific Quest, students see the result of their work from the root to the plate. Students eat food planted by others who were in their shoes just a few month’s prior, establishing perspective and enticing participation and curiosity in the coming events.

Creating a foundation for future growth is incredibly important. At this point horticultural therapy has taught the participants about building a community, fostering growth, nurturing good habits and leaving a positive impact for those to come.

Restart the Cycle

The cyclical nature of gardening is evident in its practice. It reflects the way teens respond to negative stimuli in their own lives. After working in a garden and participating in horticultural therapy activities, when troubling issues come up in the future, they have the skill set to cope.
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February 2, 2016

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Battling Anxiety with Group Therapy for Teens

The results of group therapy vary from one participant to the next, but the benefits are well documented. Group therapy presents a different model of recovery that removes some of the variables present in one-on-one sessions, particularly for those suffering from social anxiety. Group therapy does away with a more severe approach, and offers further motivation for goal-setting and progress.

Some doctors who study cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) believe group therapy should be one of the first choices for treatment. Group therapy offers effective treatment in certain settings where limited resources exist for mental health treatment. Also, the structure of group therapy offers a unique dynamic that is difficult to recreate in one-on-one treatment.

In-vivo Exposure

Some may read this post and immediately think: How does group therapy help a teen get over social anxiety? Isn’t group therapy, by nature, a social activity? Won’t group therapy for teens aggravate the condition? On a surface level, this is true, but the issue itself is directly addressed by the action of participation. Experts studying cognitive behavior therapy call this approach in-vivo exposure. The benefit of this therapeutic model is that through exposure to the triggers of anxiety, the disquieting signals that the brain sends in times of distress are trained to readjust to a more accurate train of thought. The brain stops sending misinformation, and the situation seems less daunting.

A Collaborative Effort

Though the difference may seem clear to some, many people fail to see the collaborative therapeutic nature of the relationships built from group therapy for teens. With the presence of facilitation, the impartiality of peer therapy-goers lends a comfort to a participant that is otherwise absent from sessions. In essence, the formality is laid to rest because the comments of the other participants are, in some cases, taken more seriously than those made by the therapist. The result is a more open and free-form adoption of the therapeutic model chosen by the counselor.

Negative emotional responses to key triggers are also diminished, because of the structure of group therapy. By listening to their peers identify similar problems, a process of normalization occurs. Participants are then capable of not only putting away feelings of deficiency and isolation, they can replace them naturally with camaraderie and acceptance.

Group Therapy for Teens and Young Adults

Group therapy for teens at Pacific Quest focuses on family dynamics and group mechanics with shared struggles and experiences. The peer relationships formed within therapy lend their way to active participation in talks about pressures the students are facing in their personal lives, and the troubling aspects of topics such as: academics, social media, drug use, dating, family dilemmas and more. This, in combination with community meetings, program-guided sessions and challenges, provide students a forum to work through their trials and accomplish their goals.

If your teen is dealing with anxiety or depression, click here to download this parent’s guide:

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