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July 9, 2018

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Eat Local Initiative Update!

By:  Annette Nickontro, Kitchen Supervisor

Jackfruit harvest at Reeds Bay

I’m so grateful for the grub we get to grow!  Summer is here and June’s harvest was no joke – 255 pounds worth of beautiful leafy greens, herbs and a huge chunk of weight coming from jackfruit and those white and yellow pineapples we’d been waiting for!  We cut, cooked and pureed 117 pounds from the harvest, some pineapples still waiting on the shelf to be eaten.

We tore into a 31 pound jackfruit and made vegan pulled pork twice!  Wellness coordinators rallied the students and guides for a second pickling class using excess green papayas and slightly young white pineapples. Students took advantage of fresh flavor by adding the likes of rosemary, dill, Hawaiian hot peppers, ginger, garlic, onion, turmeric, basil, and habaneros.

To keep the garden bounty going, students and staff got their fingers in the soil and transplanted keiki tomato, basil, cilantro, cucumber, beans, egg plant, brussels sprouts, and at least 4 kinds of peppers.

Nice job everyone, looking forward to the outcome of July!

July 8, 2018

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Pacific Quest Foundation Helps With Disaster Relief in Puna

As we are sure you are all now aware, there are many families who have been displaced by the current lava flow in the Puna district of Hawai’i. While this area of the island is well removed from Pacific Quest programs, PQ and The Foundation are committed to stewarding a healthy island community.

Building project in Puna

At Pacific Quest we teach that the foundation of any healthy community or family system is safe shelter and healthy food.  We recently held a campaign where 100% of donations made to The Pacific Quest Foundation went to disaster relief for the residents affected by the volcanic activity.

Thanks to many generous donations we have been able to donate $11,000 to the continuing efforts to rehouse families and individuals displaced by lava!

These projects include building longer term shelter options that will house families out of tents and out of the rain while the state and federal governments continue to work on relief and long term housing and community development plans.

Additionally, these funds will help reunite evacuees with family members who can house them, where travel costs have been prohibitive.

Now we are working on the project of getting children back to school.

There are many school children and teachers who have been displaced by the lava and in some cases have lost everything. The loss of houses is now over 700.  One school has lost all access to their facilities, while another is looking to address the mental health issues and trauma that is effecting the school population directly and indirectly in the shadow of this event.

Current fundraising will go to rental assistance to ensure the first school is housed for the year, as well as to developing and sustaining additional therapeutic services in the other.

We have already raised over $4000 through a peer to peer campaign and sponsorship for a long distance run our Executive Director and Alumni and Family Service Director will be completing in August.

If you missed our first campaign or would like to make an additional donation to this cause, we thank you!

July 1, 2018

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The Green Will Conservancy Receives Award from Pacific Quest Foundation

Pacific Quest Foundation helps to steward a healthy island community by contributing to existing 501(c)(3) organizations on Hawai’i. Over the years since our founding, Pacific Quest has developed relationships with over 60 local non-profit organizations through donations from our company, employees and clients. The PQ Foundation was created to continue this tradition of stewardship.

The Pacific Quest Foundation has awarded a grant to the Green Will Conservancy that will help to ensure their summer youth trip is a success.

We recently had the opportunity to interview Laura Dvorak, who is an MSW student and the Outreach & Fundraising Coordinator for the Green Will Conservancy to learn more about this incredible program and how they are influencing the Big Island community.

Can you tell me about the Green Will Conservancy’s background founding?

Green Will is the legacy project of four Hawaii island based social workers and was first envisioned 10 years ago.  Frank Capatch, LCSW is the Program Director.

GWC’s Friendship House and Lava Tree Lodge are based upon the Social Work Settlement House traditions.

Friendship House hosts the hands-on Green Will Conservancy Programs for youth and families and meetings to address cross-training, peer review, and “train the trainer” learning community needs.

The Professional Settlement House community has maintained a core of full time residents averaging four to five non-related social work professional members. They share the same community organizational interest along with an ongoing coterie of interns and visiting professionals, small group conference attendees and onsite researchers.

Both Lava Tree Lodge and The Zoar Valley Sanctuary locations have been actively engaged in support of restoration of indigenous peoples rights and culture. We support a wide range of human service/social work activities. We also do work to preserve and enhance the flora and fauna of both locations and implement invasive species management.  Special focus has been on aesthetics and preservation of the physical natural environment in both locations. Architecture and construction has been sensitive to ensure least destructive impact on environment.

Lava Tree Lodge Hawaii retreat consists of approximately ten acres located in the Puna rainforest of rural Hawaii. The retreat preserves both a high degree of native plant and animal life. At least 50% of the property has been sustained in a natural rainforest state. The remaining area of the property is planted with a large diversity of native and non-native plants, tropical fruit trees, shrubs and vines and landscaped with vegetable and meditation gardens.

What are some of the projects and programs the Green Will Conservancy is currently working on?  How many students do you all work with? 

Hui Mana’o is the pre-vocational teen leadership program of The Green Will Conservancy. We meet every Sunday for four hours and have attendance of five to eight teenage students on any given week. The focus is on exercise, gardening, technological skills, expressive arts, culinary skills, cultivation of emotional intelligence, and substance abuse prevention. Youth who qualify are also welcome to support our Saturday keiki program by providing role modeling for the younger children, and gain valuable leadership experience. All programs are supervised by licensed mental health professionals. Teens are offered a nominal stipend to attend the Sunday group and also to support the keiki (children’s) program on Saturdays.

GWC facilitates EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) training of mental health professionals, including therapists from private programs and school-based counselors from the Hawaii Department of Education. This program seeks to target individuals and families of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, focuses a special emphasis on those who are at risk of environmental, economic and social marginalization. We will provide international level continuing education for the community professionals who provide health, educational and mental health services to them.

GWC also manages an online professional institute, which supports global awareness of our program models and resources and seeks to inspire replication and innovation. (http://thegreenwill.org/category/inst/).  Our design and implementation reflects a generalizable demonstration program based on onsite/ online learning systems, community organization, ecological system models and neurologically based trauma informed/capable care approaches.

The Green Will Conservancy reflects models for replication and the summer teen program is no exception. Public policy makers will naturally replicate these small-scale models as they demonstrate their utility and as the awareness of the impacts of non-sustainable practices become more evident. Education, mental health and social work systems are adapting new neurologically based, social-ecological treatment models that are addressing the trauma and resiliency needs of the 21st century.

What is the Green Will Conservancy’s 2018 Summer Youth Program and what impact does this program have on the youth?

Our summer program takes up to 5 youth to our summer camp in the Zoar Valley Sanctuary in Western New York state for up to two weeks with program mentors for a rite of passage experience using EMDR and environmental therapy.  Selected youth from Polynesia are matched with youth from the Iroquois Nation, inner city Buffalo NY, and NE Ohio. Under LCSW and Qualified Mentors support, our “Kupuna” elders are selected from all those locations and from Hawaii and offer moral leadership, augment programming and provide direct support.

Future goals of Green Will Conservancy and how can people help?

The Puna region of Hawai’i Island is facing unprecedented ecological, social and economic upheaval as continuous eruptions from one of the world’s most active volcanoes (Kīlauea) are forcing thousands of residents to evacuate.

One of the only non-profit mental health agencies in the immediate area is The Green Will Conservancy, Inc. GWC is a 501(c)3 charitable, educational organization based in Nanawale Estates, which is closely neighboring Leilani Estates, Lanipuna Gardens and Kapoho, where to date, several hundred acres of land has been covered by lava (and hundreds more scorched by heat and gases).

The mental health practitioners within GWC specialize in trauma-capable and critical incident care such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).  GWC is navigating the innumerable changes their agency faces with many clients (most of whom are Medicaid recipients) now dislocated and uncertain of their futures, immediate or otherwise. Psychotherapists from the agency are currently working in shelters treating evacuees, many of whom have lost everything. The agency held strong in the face of previous years’ events, and is continuing to do so in the face of this current eruption.

If you would like to contribute, your donation will grow the capacity of this generous group of trained therapists and interns, to join the network of those providing counseling and other mental health services to affected residents and first responders in these very trying times. There is a wider community of trained EMDR therapists on the island as well, who are available to step in as local resources are exhausted.

Our goal is to be able to provide short and long term psychotherapy to those who need it, free of charge and regardless of insurance status or proof of it (which can be challenging when living moment to moment in a shelter).

$10,000 will provide over 200 people in shelters with critical incident professional psychotherapy, and allow the Green Will Conservancy to operate their weekly keiki and teen programming.  youcaring.com/mentalhealth4puna

Mahalo (appreciation) for your kōkua (support)!

June 10, 2018

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Crossing a Threshold: A Parent Testimonial

We recently received this testimonial from a parent whose daughter attended Pacific Quest.  Thank you for sharing your story!

“Eight months ago our daughter’s father and I made the most difficult decision we had ever made in our lives ~ we chose to have our daughter transported to Pacific Quest. She had been spinning out of control for almost a year prior to this, the source of her depression, self harming, running away and drug use was not clear to us but after trying to help her ourselves and seeking the help of local therapists we realized we might lose her if we didn’t make this very difficult decision to send her away from home.

Although she did not go willingly it did not take long for her to begin to feel ‘held’ in this new environment. Safe with herself and safe under the care of a compassionate and deeply patient therapist and staff. One of the elements that seemed to both challenge her and give her the support she needed were the highly structured routine of each day with equal parts opportunity for self knowledge and growth as well as opportunities to give to the PQ community. Encouraging her to spend time by herself (never without eyes on her) and become comfortable in her own thoughts and struggles was key in slowing her down in order to see herself in relationship to her lived experience of the previous year. In this unraveling and opening up to her therapist she was finally able to share with us the source of her trauma. This was a huge step but also one that had to be treated with enormous delicacy and patience. The guided weekly phone calls with her therapist were invaluable as were the many hours of self reflection and writing that we were asked to do as we navigated both the old and our new relationship with our daughter. One of the most significant aspects of the PQ therapeutic process in my experience was understanding the patterns in relationships within the family. Without the recognition of our independent roles in our family story, I do not believe that our daughter would have been able to arrive at the deep healing that took place while at PQ.

Another of the enormously powerful and I think unique aspects of PQ is the role of initiation and ritual. These are often student led with the guidance and support of other students, therapists and staff. Early in her stay, our daughter chose to change her name from her birth name to her given middle name. She wanted to begin anew and renaming herself was a part of this new identity, she continues to use this name to this day.

I began to refer to this time of our daughter living away from us as the “betwixt and between” times. We had crossed a threshold, initiating us to another level of consciousness. This has most definitely been a time when we are clearly leaving behind what we believed to be “true”, what held us in our lives and what we move towards becoming ~ what is before us is still unknown, the discomfort of this place of “betwixt and between”. As our daughter used painting as an expressive modality during her stay at PQ, I also began to explore the personal and collective ideas of transformation and initiation in my own work.

As ritualized initiation in our culture is all but lost we sometimes are given the opportunity to “wake up” and re-member our soul’s work through a great loss or a traumatic experience in our lives. This has been one of those experiences for me, not one I would have ever asked for but as our daughter is able to say today, without these experiences she would not have “found” herself. The sum of our experiences have the possibility of transforming us as if there has been a mythic alchemical process, stirring the soul, aiming us towards our lives in a new and profound way. Along with both specific and mythic life challenges, this soul work through initiation and transformation has been at the root of this recent body of work: Dreaming in Red.”

– PQ Alumni Parent

Dreaming In Red

 

May 15, 2018

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Oprah puts Dr. Bruce Perry and NMT in the Spotlight

By:  Kristen McFee, MA, LPCC

Kristen McFee, MA, LPCC

As Dr. Bruce Perry sat down to an interview with Oprah on 60 Minutes, we watched in anticipation as April marked two years of Pacific Quest being Site Certified in the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics© (NMT).  As Founder and Senior Fellow of the Child Trauma Academy (CTA). Bruce Perry, MD, PhD has expertise in child and adolescent psychiatry, neurodevelopment and traumatology.  Dr. Perry is highly respected internationally and has done extensive neurobiological research on the effects of trauma in young people.  He has led the Pacific Quest team into certification and maintenance of the NMT.

The Neurosequential Model© integrates neurodevelopment, developmental psychology, traumatology, sociology and other disciplines to understand individuals and the family.  Pacific Quest uses this model to inform program design and individualize interventions. Initially, the focus of treatment is developing regulatory capacities to support neurodevelopment and to optimize learning.  Next, students strengthen relational health and problem solving abilities.

Our trained clinicians use the NMT assessment process to collect developmental history, assess current functioning and inform clinical decision making.  This approach guides treatment through a selection of interventions and program design.

To support brain development Pacific Quest utilizes a “bottom up” approach following Dr. Perry’s sequence of engagement:  “Regulate, Relate and Reason.” This is the process of moving from the bottom of our brain (brainstem) up to the top (cortex).  The sequence is very important. When a person is regulated or feeling emotionally and physically settled, they are more able to relate or feel connected.  When a person is connected, they are more able to reason and engage in higher level executive functioning, which is critical for problem solving, prediction, perspective taking, etc.

At Pacific Quest, the garden lends itself to many opportunities to regulate. Regulation involves patterned, rhythmic, repetitive activity.  This includes digging, weeding, breaking apart lava rock to make room for new gardens, building rock walls and clearing land. Regulation also includes daily exercise, expressive therapies such as art, quiet breathing meditations or cooking, chopping and stirring in the kitchen.  Our integrative team works hard to build rapport and relationships with students so they can support and challenge them in their daily goals, living skills and group engagement. Through this regulatory and relationship support, students practice reasoning. Reasoning skills include being a camp leader and having to schedule an entire day and hold peers accountable to camp expectations. Students often create garden projects or legacy projects in which they have to plan, organize and problem solve allowing for a natural method to practice executive functioning.   Students often process and reason in their therapeutic work as they reflect, come into awareness and work to shift from their old story (negative behavior) into their new story (healthy behavior) . But first, they have to tell their story.

In a 60 Minutes Overtime report, Oprah reflects on her experience of doing this story with Dr. Perry. She described the process as “Life Changing” for her and expressed a hope that this story of trauma informed care will be revolutionary. Dr. Perry and Oprah expressed the importance of connection and having a sense of value.  Oprah emphasized the importance of sharing our story and asking the question, “What happened?” She explained, not only is this an important question for those who have experienced trauma, but it is the most important question we can ask of anyone.

To continue and share our work, Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Clinical Director and Travis Slagle, Horticultural Therapy Director will be presenting at the Neurosequential Model International Symposium in Banff, CA, June 13-15, 2018.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dF20FaQzYUI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqu54ZlhINc

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.

May 1, 2018

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Personal Reflection: A Parent’s Testimonial

We always appreciate hearing updates from students and parents about their experience at Pacific Quest.  Here is a testimonial from a parent who shared their story as they reflected back on the decision to bring their son to PQ and how they are doing after his time in Hawaii.  Mahalo for sharing your story!

“Only a month into his freshman year of high school it became clear that our son did not have the tools, or emotional capacity, to deal with his anxiety and he shut down. He refused to go to school and when we did actually get him on campus he would not go to class or worse, escape off campus. A specialist in our town recommended Pacific Quest (PQ) for our son and within a few weeks we were on a plane to Hawaii. The hardest moment of parenting in our lives was dropping off a child who begged not to be left on an island to deal with his issues (it took two hours to get from the hotel room, to the driveway and into the car). That said, we do not have a single regret about the decision because PQ changed our son’s life so dramatically. His therapist was exceptional, the program incredibly thoughtful and effective, the staff so kind and gracious and though our son will say he hated every minute, he does not deny what a gift it ended up being.  He has re-entered high school and excelled academically, become involved in sports and established a nice group of friends.  But most importantly he is far more confident of himself, more self-aware, has a broader vocabulary to express his feelings, and he continues to own the hard work to deal with the anxiety that remains.”

– Parent of PQ alumni student

April 12, 2018

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The ‘Sustainable Recovery’ Model of Care at Pacific Quest

By:  Mark White, LMHC – CDC II

“Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. Its true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome. The part that appears above ground lasts only a single summer. What we see is the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.” (Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections)

Mark White, Primary Therapist

Jung theorized that human beings – like plants – seek to grow whole.  At the outset of our lives and through the lived experiences of childhood we send our roots out into the world and find what nourishes us and what doesn’t.  At a young age we inherently come to know the wisdom of playing more and touching the hot stove less. Our learning is largely instinctual; with knowledge found through trial and error.  As children, our brain’s Limbic system largely guides our exploration of the world and our place in it – we thus ‘fight, flee or feast’ in response to our making contact with our environment.

In a similar fashion, a germinating seed reaches out through the darkness of the soil seeking nourishment – sending it’s initial roots toward water and nutrients and away from rocks and other stressors.  It finds what makes it grow and seeks more of that.

As childhood gives way to adolescence and young adulthood we continue to explore and grow.  We have a series of firsts – a first crush, first time driving a car and for some of us our first use of alcohol and other substances.   Our Limbic system continues to guide us as the pleasure receptors in our brains feel the ‘high’ of the first buzz’. Our primitive brains tell us to do more of this (feast) and we oftentimes do – especially as the executive/consequential thinking function in our Prefrontal Cortex may not yet have fully developed.

For some youth, the process of addiction begins.  Tolerance increases and we need more of the substance to produce the same amount of pleasure.  Our focus becomes narrowed as we seek to find, procure and/or otherwise obtain our drug(s) of choice.  We spend growing amounts of time and energy thinking about and seeking the substance and less time engaged in pleasurable activities and familiar relationships we once enjoyed.  Essentially, as we send our roots more and more toward our drug(s) of choice and the behavioral patterns of addiction take hold.

At Pacific Quest (PQ) we utilize Horticultural Therapy (HT) to understand the equivalent of the human process of addiction in plants – a condition commonly known as ‘root bound’.  When a plant becomes root bound it has grown to the point where it exhausts the available nutrients. In an effort to thrive, the plant begins to consume itself to stay alive. At this point, if the plant is not transplanted it will inevitably suffer and is likely to meet an early demise. In our knowledge of addiction we understand that without intervention, a young person developing the behavioral patterns of addiction may unfortunately experience similar outcomes.

At PQ young people are both educated and empowered to become aware of how the process of addiction has impacted their growth and are supported in engaging in the process of Recovery.  Within our Sustainable Recovery tract students begin to actively send their ‘roots’ -time and energy- back toward the relationships/activities/values in their life that nourish them. Caring for the gardens, exploring the Big Island and all its rich diversity and engaging in sober fun with peers are all part of the growth process – in addition to Recovery-focused clinical services.

Our unique clinical process invites students to become mindful of their personal behavioral patterns of addiction and become both knowledgeable and skillful in preventing relapse into these old behaviors.   Recovery programming includes personalized Recovery coaching as well as HT-based clinical interventions that empower each student to learn effective relapse prevention skills to address their own, individual circumstances.

Students also engage in a weekly Recovery Group and become knowledgeable of practical ways to make meaningful behavioral changes to support their personal Recovery.  In addition to group and individual therapy, through our active daily schedule students are supported in making these life changes at PQ. Learning to actively manage peer and other social pressures, awareness of relapse triggers and cues and use of effective coping skills are all growth opportunities students have each day.  Our active approach to care ensures students partake in intensive preparation for sustaining important behavioral changes post-treatment. Additionally, for students also interested in learning about a 12-step approach, access to an on-campus ‘PQ- only’ meeting is available as is individualized ‘step study’ work as well.

Last and perhaps most importantly, our Sustainable Recovery model of care invites students to affirm who they are in this world and their opportunities and responsibilities in Recovery– a deep sense of knowing that for many of our alumni has served as the ‘rhizome’ for their sustainable growth into adulthood.

About the author:  

Mark White is Recovery Coordinator and a Primary Therapist at Pacific Quest.   Mark has a passion for wilderness rites of passage work and integrated healthcare.  He has worked with young people and their families since 1999. Mark believes Pacific Quest provides an unparalleled healing and growth experience.  

April 4, 2018

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Teresa Bertoncin Presents in Chicago

Primary therapist, Teresa Bertoncin recently presented at the International Society For The Study Of Trauma And Dissociation Conference in Chicago. This conference provided cutting edge information about dissociation, the dissociative disorders, and all forms of complex trauma related disorders. It was comprised of the most recent developments in clinical interventions, theoretical concepts and research in the field of complex trauma, abuse and neglect.

teresa-bertoncin-PQ

Teresa Bertoncin, Primary Therapist

Teresa’s presentation highlighted the trauma of Stigmatized Loss and the devastating impact of exclusion, isolation, invalidation and neglect. She discussed the benefit of therapeutic modalities specifically EMDR (Eye movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) psychotherapy and the wilderness setting.

Teresa’s discussion of stigmatized loss included the impact of divorce and family dissolution, suicide, illness, substance related causes, and psychological abuse.  Factors that garner resiliency in cultural preservation versus individual preservation, and those that lead to societal devaluation were addressed, utilizing contrasting case studies from rural South African villages, as well as the universal similarities that exist among adolescents and young adults in the United States.

In addition, Teresa explored the ways in which an intact cultural community helps members navigate these traumatic experiences; while identifying the internal, familial and societal factors of shame, disgrace and judgment that keep victims and those experiencing loss at an impasse.

The workshop explored the trauma of stigmatized loss and disenfranchised grief, and resulting identity disintegration. She shared how stigma devalues relationships and connection, and that stigma is at the root of rejection and ostracism.

The audience participated in an experiential example and lively discussion on the topic of rejection.  Teresa comments, “Rejection has a strong impact, even on the most minute level, and we react to it physiologically, emotionally, cognitively and behaviorally.”  She explained how our need to belong is so strong that we experience psychological and physical effects right away. She adds, “Rejection impacts our thinking, floods us with anger, destroys our self confidence and derails our sense of belonging.”

Brain scans show the same brain regions get activated when we experience rejection, as when we experience physical pain. The resulting long-term physical and mental consequences of disapproval and rejection can be extreme. Teresa shared research showing that children and adolescents may be impacted more negatively by rejection and ostracism than adults, with more extreme reactions. Brains of adolescents who experience rejection and ostracism may undergo long-term changes with normal development short-circuited. Adversely affecting cognitive ability, influence hormonal systems, and can induce symptoms ranging from paranoia to substance abuse.

Teresa went on to discuss the successful treatments and specialized interventions for these types of complex trauma, all of which are utilized at Pacific Quest in conjunction with the neurosequential model approach to treatment, including: EMDR, Horticultural therapy, Sandplay therapy, mindfulness, somatic and cognitive behavioral therapy, and the advantages of an outdoor behavioral health setting.

March 23, 2018

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A Personal Reflection – PQ Alumni Student Testimonial

We always enjoy receiving letters from past students – who share updates on how they are doing, how their experience at Pacific Quest has impacted them and how life post PQ is unfolding.  This is a letter from a student to her therapist – what an inspiring testimonial to the powerful work that takes place here!

“ …I’ve been thinking a lot about my experience at PQ since leaving and just wanted to share some of my major takeaways with you since you were an integral part of my stay. I am so grateful for you and the role you played in my growth at PQ and beyond. Since coming home, things have certainly not been easy but I have learned so much and become such a stronger person in the process and I feel like I am really headed in the right direction at this point. I’m amazed at how much things have changed since I was in Hawaii! Looking back it’s sometimes hard to believe I’m still the same person. I thought when I graduated that I had learned a ton, and I did, but so much of that learning came after I had time to process the whole experience and live it out on my own.

Okay, I’ll warn you now, this is definitely the longest email I’ve ever written in my life, but I’m just so excited about all the realizations I had that I had to share them!

I still at times struggle with recalling treatment as a positive experience, mostly because it was just such a difficult time in my life, but as I was journaling the other day, I concluded the following… PQ taught me a lot of things – like how my happiness, life, and well-being are not dependent on my parents. Even though I love them, they don’t have the solutions or answers to everything and they shouldn’t be my reason for living. I need to live for myself because I am worthy of life and have a lot to hope for in the future. I also worked a lot on quieting my inner critic and developing more self-compassion. Acceptance was huge – accepting my feelings and present reality. For a long time I fought against and stuffed my emotions, but at PQ I learned to feel and express them in healthier ways. Although I remember feeling like all my independence had been taken from me (like how I couldn’t even go to the lua by myself at times), I really did learn a lot about being more independent and functioning and making decisions on my own, based on what I needed, rather than what I thought I “should” do. I also learned about setting boundaries with people. Other’s problems do not have to become mine. And I undid my distortion that adulthood sucks and that I didn’t want to grow up. In reality, both childhood and adulthood have their challenges and high points, but being an adult is really cool!

I learned about pushing through discomfort after taking the time I need to process, I learned about being okay with not being okay and letting my emotions out instead of bottling them. Man, I did a lot of letting out! I didn’t know it was possible to sustain that much emotional upset for that long or cry that many tears, but I think it was just everything I’d been holding in for my whole life finally pushing out. And I proved to myself that I really can make it through anything even when I think I can’t. I realized how much I want authenticity for myself and in my relationships. I learned to deal with and embrace difficult and vastly different types of people and to allow them to have their own beliefs while standing strong in my own. I learned that even when I think I can’t go on, or sustain more pain, or not hurt/kill myself, that I can live and be okay. I learned that sometimes it’s best to push through the pain and stick it out for the long-term goal to be reached. I learned that even when and sometimes especially if people know your weaknesses/struggles/faults/fears/failures, they can still love you.

I learned a lot about gardening and loved it! (Although it’s winter in CO and hard to grow things outside, I have a bunch of potted plants inside that I love caring for). I learned about the importance of balance. I learned how I can use my story to relate to and positively impact others and make a good change in both our lives by being authentic, truthful, and open. I learned that even with all the pain, life is worth living and I will never give up! I learned how many people love and want to support me. I gained empathy for more people and human experiences and suffering. (This whole experience really gave me a lot more empathy for my sister which has and will continue to help mend our relationship).

I learned to express my needs. I was honest and open and vulnerable more so than I’d ever been before with myself and others. I learned about self-reflection and how to ponder and explore what was going on. I learned to feel instead of stuff and it was so liberating! I laughed. I cried. I screamed. I sobbed. I wept. I yelled. I spoke. I found my voice and I was heard! I survived. I learned. I grew. I changed. And now I can thrive! I became more authentically me than ever before. I really did cry a lot and feel a lot of loneliness, sadness, anxiety, fear, depression, grief, and hopelessness – more than I ever imagined possible. And (and I say “and” not “but” because both were equally true) I also felt deep love, empathy, and compassion for myself and the people around me. I felt proud of myself (and I feel so proud of myself right now as I reflect on these things which is really amazing). I felt victorious and accomplished and happy and whole. On my last day, at my appreciation ceremony, eating dinner out by ocean front, my eyes brimmed with tears of joy and gratitude. It was by far one of my happiest moments (and I love thinking back to it – everything about it – the way the sun sparkled on the ocean, the way I was there in community with all those beautiful people I was lucky enough to call my friends and they were there to love and support me).

PQ was so hard, those 81 days, but it was oh so incredibly worth it! It saved and changed my life. I didn’t want to admit it for a really long time, but I needed PQ. I needed to go far away, get out of my comfort zone, be in a new place with new people, to first lose but then find myself, in a group of people who finally, really, truly, understood me and now I am finally starting to understand and love myself on a whole new level I never saw as possible…”

– PQ Alumni Student