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Established 2004

November 13, 2018

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“I am the strongest and happiest I have ever been” -Alumna Testimonial

Before I went to PQ I was in the darkest and most desperate place I have ever known. I was having intrusive thoughts of suicide serval times every 10 minutes. I had lost all hope and given up. I felt like nothing was real, and that nothing truly mattered in this life anyways, so who cares? I was isolating, over sleeping, barely eating, and desperate for help.

I went to PQ and I was very reluctant when I first arrived. I had a lot of difficulty adjusting to the program initially, and decided I wanted to leave. Thankfully, the staff and students worked with me to make me feel more comfortable and learn to absolutely LOVE the program. I have met the most reliable, loving, vulnerable, funny, smart group of people through this program, who I know I will be friends with, and able to depend on for the rest of my life. I received the best therapy I have ever had, and I have been in therapy since age 9. I went into the program wanting to no longer have thoughts of killing myself, which I not only accomplished after just a few short weeks, but I came to see the root causes of the thoughts and worked my way through them as well.

Every second of the day at PQ has intention, and restores hope and purpose, although it can be very difficult to see in the moment. I started my PQ journey wanting nothing more than to leave, and by the time I was finishing up I couldn’t imagine my life outside of it, and tried to prolong my stay. I even tried transferring to staff.

Since graduating PQ, I am the strongest and happiest I have ever been. Although I must admit that I do occasionally have thoughts of wanting to disappear, I now have a community to reach out to, and tools to use to come out on top. I can’t rave about this program enough. I often think about how much I want to go back, but I now feel ready to handle whatever life throws in my path with joy.

November 6, 2018

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October Harvest

Last month, Reed’s Bay students harvested 153 pounds of produce.  They enjoyed the fruits of their labor (literally), including eggplant, cabbage, bok choy, purple and green beans, taro, sweet potato, breadfruit, papaya, peppers, basil, and cilantro.  The group plucked oranges, tangerines and kumquats to marinade chicken and tofu, and livened up vegetables and salads with blended citrus herb combinations.  One student proudly cut and carried in a 40 pound rack of bananas which were enjoyed by all.  Green papaya pickling continued and students complimented their savory garlic sweet potato fries with homemade ketchup.  Even dessert came from the garden, as students created and duplicated breadfruit pudding, cacao oatmeal cookies and no bake lemon cheesecake.  As the month came to a close, the students began eyeballing November’s fruits, including five racks of young green bananas.  Thank you to everyone who keeps the garden thriving.



November 2, 2018

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Say you want a VEGGIELUTION…

PQ Therapist Mark Storey and Family Services Director Mike Sullivan teamed up with Sky’s the Limit Fund to host a community gardening event in San Jose, CA.  Veggielution, a community garden set in reclaimed land under a myriad of freeways, was excited to host the group.   It was a huge success, and a great reminder of the power of teamwork and determination.

In good PQ fashion, the group started off the day in an introduction circle, and discussed personal intentions for the day. Then it was onto hard work – pruning, weeding, shoveling, hauling, and clearing, rehabilitating a neglected native hedgerow.  The native hedgerow is important for keeping insects out of the organic garden (which every organic gardener knows is always a challenge!). The group high fived and celebrated success!

Thank you to Sky’s the Limit Fund for spearheading and organizing the event.  Thank you to the staff at Veggielution for your environmental stewardship and commitment to sustainability.  The PQ ohana looks forward to more collaboration and supporting philanthropic endeavors.


October 28, 2018

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Clinical Spotlight: Genell Howell

Genell is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), Certified Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAC) and a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP) with advanced training in mind-body therapies. Somatic Experiencing (SE) is an evidenced-based therapeutic modality that incorporates the body and felt sensations into therapy. SE is particularly effective in treating individuals with trauma symptoms or high levels of anxiety. With a primary focus on building resiliency, Genell has experience treating adolescents and young adults in a variety of therapeutic settings including residential treatment and wilderness-based models.

Genell earned her Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from Prescott College, and her Bachelor of Arts in Geography with an emphasis in Hawaiian Culture from the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Genell combines her clinical expertise in mind-body therapies and substance abuse treatment with her background as a yoga instructor, knowledge of Hawaiian culture, and love of the Big Island to effectively leverage all elements of Pacific Quest’s whole-person wellness model.

She has earned her EMDR level I, II and advanced modalities. Genell received training in sandplay and art therapy which she often incorporates into therapy. She is also certified under Bruce Perry’s training of the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT).

Genell’s areas of expertise include (but are not limited to) addictions, eating disorders and body dysmorphia, attachment issues, depression, anxiety, trauma, low self-worth, mood disorders and emotional dysregulation. Genell utilizes a variety of therapeutic modalities, which include Cognitive Behavioral, Art and Sandplay Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Somatic Experiencing, and Family Systems approach.

Genell is committed to ongoing personal growth and enjoys learning, reading, playing with her family, running, communing with nature and spending time in the ocean.

Parent Testimonial:  My daughter’s therapist was by far the most important element in her recovery. To say Genell Howell is gifted is an understatement. The best therapist we have ever encountered!

October 28, 2018

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The Four Roots of Horticulture Therapy: Ecological, Intentional, Cyclical & Experimental 

In the following article, PQ Therapist Intern and Program Supervisor Sarah Blechman, describes an outstanding training facilitated at Pacific Quest bi-annually.


The Four Roots of Horticulture Therapy: Ecological, Intentional, Cyclical & Experimental 


Over the last two weeks, PQ hosted the bi-annual company-wide horticulture therapy training. Michael McGee, Dara Downs, Sarah Blechman, and Anthony Florig designed the intensive training to serve as the official roll-out for Pacific Quest’s horticulture methods and values: ” The Four Roots of Horticulture Therapy: Ecological, Intentional, Cyclical & Experimental.”

The training included an hour-long experiential presentation for each “root,” involving hard skills, engagement tools, empirical science, and therapeutic implications. Throughout the training, participants refined tree care, planting, rock wall building, and garden bed maintenance skills. They also learned about the many neurological benefits of farming, soil science, the magic of photosynthesis, farm games and specific land-based interventions for particular behaviors.


The group focused efforts on garden projects at the end of each training, highlighting how completed projects could provide evidence of self-efficacy and meaningful group experience. At the end of the training, participants reported they felt more equipped to lead engaging and therapeutic garden projects, and were excited to use the garden more intentionally to empower the students at Pacific Quest.


Written by Sarah Blechman, PQ Therapist Intern and Program Supervisor

October 25, 2018

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Young Adult Transition Association 2018- Addressing Technology Challenges

The Young Adult Transition Association Conference, 2018, set in the beautiful town of Coeur D’alene, Idaho, just convened. Kellyn Smythe and Mike Sullivan from Pacific Quest were among many conference attendees drilling into the conference theme: the impact of technology on young adults. It was inspiring to be immersed in such great thinkers!

21st century young adults live in a different world than generations preceding them. Most salient appears to be screen time, which studies indicate averages close to 10 hours per day for 18-24 year olds, and surges much higher for those with tech addictions. A 2018 study by the University of San Francisco links increased loneliness, anxiety and depression with screen time. Young adult wilderness and residential treatment programs are being called to action to directly address the tech- driven and tech-reliant environment that floods our youth. The 2018 YATA conference was a summit for discussing factors contributing to this phenomenon.

Mike Sullivan, MA, LMHC teamed up with Johnny Tock, MA, LMHC to present at the conference. In their presentation, Mike and Johnny showcased the foundations of sustainable therapeutic growth – starting with how The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT), a lens for looking at neurodevelopment and brain function, provides as approach that “re-wires the brain” from the bottom up. This equips young adults with tools for self-regulation, social engagement, and executive functioning and strengthens social and reward neurocircuitry, integrating the brain and making possible opportunities for behavioral interventions. NMT in conjunction with other evidence-based practices and holistic wellness prepares clients to better navigate the tech laden world. However, while the NMT foundation is a critical step, it is imperative to incorporate practical tools and awareness for technology exposure intentionally, as the graduate prepares for transition.

Mike and Johnny then reviewed specific tech stressors and strategies for coping as the client nears graduation from residential/wilderness treatment. For example, is it more anxiety-provoking to open text messages, or is opening “hook up” apps likely to start a tailspin? Is reconnecting with a favorite video game going to catalyze an immediate regression? Mike and Johnny discussed stress management and desensitization strategies; critical in developing a roadmap for success for transition and beyond. The presentation and discussion points were relevant for active clinicians, program developers, admissions counselors, and educational consultants. It was a packed house with a very engaged audience.

All in all very great conference and look forward to returning next year!

October 22, 2018

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September Harvest!

September is a great month in the organic garden.  PQ young adults at the Reeds Bay campus harvested 311 pounds of lovely edibles. We enjoyed fresh coconut, jackfruit, basil, bok choy, brussel sprouts, cilantro, cucumber, green beans, kale, pineapple, starfruit, papaya, and a variety of peppers. The students continued to stock their oversized pickling jars of green papaya with dill, and hot peppers with garlic and onion. A 20 pound harvest of fresh turmeric found us chopping, dehydrating and grating the anti inflammatory wonder root to create the healthy elixir called “golden milk.”


As we meander through the fall season, the days get a little shorter and the nights a little longer. Our gardens begin to show signs of slowing down. We look forward to planting keiki (seedlings) for winter crops over the coming weeks. Thanks again to everyone who works the gardens, wanders through the gardens, or wishes they could—all your lovely energy keeps the plants going. Mahalo.

October 19, 2018

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PQ maintains “gold status” in research efforts

Pacific Quest is pleased to report that we have diligently maintained “gold status” in our efforts to gather student outcome data, and contribute to a much larger national study on the efficacy of outdoor behavioral health programs.  Thank you to the University of New Hampshire and the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs for coordinating such a empirically rigorous study.

Stay tuned for updates regarding trends and progress we are observing with our alum.

October 15, 2018

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Sing it Alumna!

Thanks to the wonderful PQ alumna who shared this meaningful video.  As she says “Happy Place is the first song I ever wrote. I wrote it in March while I was in Hawaii, and through writing it I actually learned to play the ukulele! Ohana– this one’s for you. I hope you like it! 🌺”

PQ provides an arena for deep introspection.  We love it when our alum carry this forward and send us songs, poems, art, and garden projects.  Keep sending us your art alumni!  Enjoy.

Happy Place

I’m just a little boat. I’m tryin just to float. Keep getting lost in storms I watch the waves and see em grow and I can’t see the coast. I’m gettin scared cuz I keep looking at the sky. It’s gettin higher and the clouds are fillin up the sky but when I close my eyes…
There are blue birds and the sun kisses my face. There are no words in my happy place. The pua kinney kinney trees are dancing in the summer breeze. Their perfume fills the air in my happy place. Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo.
I’m just a little lamb, no more than what I am. Grazing the grass and seein big things I don’t understand. One day I know I can. But then I see the trees. Wolves are coming for me. It’s teeth and claws and beady eyes as far as I can see but in my heart I’ll be…
Where there are blue birds and the sun kisses my face. There are no words in my happy place. The pua kinney kinney trees are dancing in the summer breeze. Their perfume fills the air in my happy place. Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo.I just cant wash the world away, gotta be where I’m at. Moments at a time, take it day by day and remember that… on the other side
There are blue birds and the sun kisses my face. There are no words in my happy place. The pua kinney kinney trees are dancing in the summer breeze. Their perfume fills the air. Fuzzy creatures everywhere. Everyone has love to spare. Lollipops and bubblegum. All the people holdin hands are hummin Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo. Hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm.


May 7, 2018

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Expressive Therapies Summit – A Playful Event

Dr. Elnur Gajiev, Mike Sullivan, Dr. Lorraine Freedle and Dr. Dan Siegel in LA

Carl Jung said, “Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.”  This quote captures the essence of the Expressive Therapies Summit, a recent gathering of international clinicians interested in the role of play and art in healing.  The conference provided workshops in sandplay, poetry, nature art, role play, drawing, and more. It was a powerful way to release ourselves from the tug of war in the prefrontal cortex (our most complex executive functioning parts of our brains that tend to “overthink” things) and tap into the lower more relational and regulatory parts of our brains (our “lizard brains” as Dan Siegel calls it).  Needless to say, the conference was experiential education at its finest, replete with play and activity.

Pacific Quest’s Clinical Director and renowned sandplay expert Dr. Lorraine Freedle presented “Play as Archetype and Agent for Transformational Change.”  Audience members enjoyed learning about the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics and the neuromechinisms involved with play, symbolic expression and healing.  Play isn’t just a human activity, it exists in many species of animals, and remains a critical component of social, emotional, and cognitive development. Dr. Freedle engaged the audience with interactive art, videos, and case studies, allowing participants to develop a felt sense for the power of play, and the important role it plays in transformational change.  Being that sandplay is Dr. Freedle’s specialty and her background is rooted in Jungian psychology, she brought her travel sand tray from Hawaii, and offered insights into the value of sandplay specifically.

The keynote address stands out as another highlight.  Dr. Dan Siegel, leader in the neuroscience field introduced themes from his new book, linking tools and insights related to decreasing chaos and rigidity, and increasing flexibility, adaptation, coherence, empathy, and stability (F.A.C.E.S.).  Dr. Siegel’s plethora of books remain favorites among the Pacific Quest team, and Dr. Elnur Gajiev, Dr. Lorraine Freedle, and myself were lucky enough to be present for his keynote address. Even better, we were able to chat with Dr. Siegel following the presentation and he was kind enough to give us a photo.

The Expressive Therapies Summit did not disappoint, and will remain a priority for continuing education in years to come.  Thank you Dr. Freedle for contributing your expertise to the event, and thanks to all the participants for making it a truly interactive and educational event.