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October 11, 2017

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Healthy Self = Heal + Thy + Self

By: Cynthia Albers, Admissions Coordinator

Harvesting fresh green beans from the garden

There is an onslaught of advice, cautions, directives and warnings supposedly to guide us toward a healthy lifestyle.  So, what, exactly, does it mean to be healthy?  What does healthy feel like?  At Pacific Quest students are given the opportunity to ask themselves this same question and discern what that means to them by practicing the five pillars of health…and nutrition is on that list. I asked myself those questions starting around age 16 and now into my 7th decade, many choices, actions and paths have brought me to the happy condition of enjoying health.  Undeniably, food and all that surrounds it, has played a big part.  Here’s part of that story…

I grew up with 8 siblings, birth position 2, in Maryland, just south of the Mason-Dixon line. At age 6, our brood moved into a home my parents built in the country, where we kids quickly learned the joy and freedom of roaming the woods, waterfront and fields that were part of our new domain.  Our diet was like that of most Americans of the era: 3 squares a day, with flesh featured at dinner; milk, kool-aid, water and the occasional soda pop for beverages; sandwiches of lunch meat or tuna on white Wonder Bread for school lunch, and hot or cold cereal with milk for most breakfasts. Stony Creek, an inlet to the Chesapeake Bay, supplied fresh fish and crabs, caught by our own hands, so seafood was frequently on the menu. A garden plot was carved out and tended by the clan.  As kids, we hated it!  All that work that took us away from exploring. But then, came the strawberries, cantaloupes, green beans, kale and corn on the cob, which we frequently ate right off the stalk ~ raw and full of  sweet goodness!  I began to realize how yummy these foods were, especially compared to the slimy, horrid mash that is canned spinach in the dead of winter.  I was developing a deep connection to sourcing my own food, though I had no idea at the time.

Late summers were spent helping my mother with canning: prepping and blanching corn, tomatoes and green beans, then ladling the hot veggies into sterilized jars; turn ‘em upside down to wait for the tell-tale “Pop!” signaling the seal. In the damp coolness of Autumn we took frenzied forays into conifer forests, with cousins galore, each of us given a large brown paper grocery bag and entrusted with a serrated knife. We were set loose to find and sever the wild mushrooms that lay hidden in beds of pine needles.  Now that was my kinda fun! Many bushel baskets were fungi-filled, and the families joined at our house for cleaning and sautéing the ‘shrooms with onions and butter, then filling quart plastic bags to be frozen. The bounty was distributed among the families and was served at holiday dinners all winter.

The desire to gather and grow food had inculcated my sensibilities and would last a lifetime.

Preparing a healthy meal at PQ

Fulfilling that desire has waxed and waned over the years, changing with occupation, domicile, region and season.  On the shores of Hood Canal, Washington, oysters were free for the plucking and shucking, along with wild blackberries copious along roadways. Montana mountains gave huckleberries by the bucketful, boletes and coral mushrooms to fill the pot; hunter friends who shared venison, bear (yes, bear) and elk sausage satisfied my omnivore leanings. In Hawaii, where a third of my years were lived, our jungle homestead boasted 4 varieties of avocado, papayas, bananas, citrus, and required the patience of 2 years for white pineapples; collards were endless and found their way into nearly every dinner dish.

Now, home is the high desert mountains of the Southern Sierra, gardening in this arid climate with mostly granitic soil beckons an entirely new approach. Apricot, pomegranate and mulberry trees grow most willingly here and also resist the nibbling of deer above ground and gopher below. I’ll undoubtedly find ways to forage and grow food to fuel both the yearnings and health. Doing so feeds more than the just my body…it feeds my soul.   Pacific Quest fosters ways for students and staff alike to build a meaningful connection to food and nutrition.  May connections realized at PQ stay with each of us for a lifetime and fuel health for years to come.

October 10, 2017

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PQ Featured on LA Talk Radio

Wilderness Therapy Hawaiian-Style

This week Dr. John Souza, Primary Therapist and Mike Sullivan, Alumni & Family Services Director were featured on LA Talk Radio “Answers For the Family“.  During the program they shared their experiences with developing and implementing family therapy with young adults, often referred to as “emerging adults”, in an Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare setting. Additionally, Mike and John compared the common “myths” with the facts of emerging adulthood, while also providing insights into the importance of deepening family engagement with this population, as well as how nature-assisted therapy can promote both immediate and long-term improvements in family functioning.

Listen to the full radio show here:

http://www.latalkradio.com/sites/default/files/audio/Answers-100917.mp3

At Pacific Quest we fully utilize family participation in the therapeutic process.  By involving the whole family in the healing process, we strive to improve communication, increase empathy and develop usable conflict resolution skills, which help deepen each individual’s understanding and trust in the greater process.

For more information about our Family Program visit:

https://pacificquest.org/our-programs/young-adults/family-involvement/

September 27, 2017

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Hawai`i Hosts International Sandplay Therapy Congress

By:  Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Clinical Director

Sandplay therapists and researchers from 24 countries gathered in Kailua-Kona this summer to explore the latest trends in Jungian Sandplay Therapy and to participate in the 24th Congress of the International Society for Sandplay Therapy (ISST).

With support from my Pacific Quest ohana and the Hawai`i sandplay community, I served as the primary conference organizer and host.  After two years of planning and anticipation, we were excited to realize that the conference surpassed all expectations!

Kahu Kauila Clark offered lessons in Hawaiian culture and ceremony, providing grounding each morning while eight PQ therapists participating in this advanced training opportunity spread the Spirit of Aloha with our visitors.

Research was presented on the effectiveness of Sandplay Therapy in treating individuals with anxiety, trauma, parental distress, and co-occurring disorders.

Neuroimaging data revealed how people access and reprocess memories through Sandplay and also provided evidence for neural synchronization between the therapist and the client during Sandplay Therapy.

I presented original research on the neuropsychology of Sandplay Therapy and the role of Sandplay in the treatment of adolescents and young adults with co-occurring trauma and substance use disorders.

Sandplay Therapy is offered to students at Pacific Quest. This nonverbal method has roots in Jungian psychology, play therapy, and eastern contemplative practices.  Touching the sand, using symbols for self-expression, and entering a state of mindful presence activates multiple brain systems for healing.  We have found that Sandplay Therapy complements our holistic approach and helps our students to express and resolve emotional and personality issues that may be inaccessible in verbal therapies alone.

On September 29, 2017 twelve therapists on our team will begin a year-long intensive and experiential training in Sandplay Therapy.  This series not only allows me to provide STA/ISST-certified training at Pacific Quest; it also improves quality of care for our students and helps my team practice self-care and grow stronger together.

Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Pacific Quest’s Clinical Director is an international sandplay teacher (STA/ISST), serves on boards of the Sandplay Therapists of Hawai`i and the Sandplay Therapists of America and is the Research Editor for the Journal of Sandplay Therapy.

For more info, visit:

International Society for Sandplay Therapy (ISST) https://www.isst-society.com/

Sandplay Therapists of America (STA) http://www.sandplay.org/

September 22, 2017

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Spreading Aloha to Victims of Hurricane Harvey

By: Kellyn Smythe, Admissions & Outreach Manager

This week Pacific Quest’s Executive Director Mark Agosto and I traveled to Houston to share the aloha spirit with victims of Hurricane Harvey.  With support from the team at Academic Answers, needs like diapers, mattresses, food, refrigerators, clothing, bedding, and a full set of new kitchen appliances were identified and fulfilled.  However, in a whirlwind of shopping, moving, organizing, and delivering, it became clear that the Aloha Spirit was already there.  This community has rallied to support each other in the face of a devastating natural disaster.  In the wake of gutted homes, flooded cars, and soggy photo-albums, a sea of smiles and busy hands are wringing out the dampness and putting lives back together.  The task ahead is daunting, but the seeds of recovery are being sown in the gulf. PQ is honored to be a part of that effort and plant a few seeds or our own.

 

September 15, 2017

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Pacific Quest Fall Tour 2017

By:  Yvette Slagle, Communications Manager

Pacific Quest recently hosted a program tour for some of our referring professionals visiting from the mainland.  It’s always a special treat to provide guests the opportunity to see first hand our beautiful gardens, meet our talented team and spend time on the island getting more familiar with what our program entails.

For some, this was a first time visit, while others had been to PQ in the past and were eager to see what has evolved and developed since their last visit.  The first day of the tour kicked off with PQ’s Clinical Director, Dr. Lorraine Freedle, who introduced guests to our camp system model and the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics and Sandplay Therapy.

Afterwards, our visitors were able to see the Adolescent camps as well as the Young Adult kuleana camp in Ka’u and share a healthy lunch while learning more about our Wellness Program and Integrative Psychiatry with Dr. Britta Zimmer, PQ’s Medical Director.  The afternoon was spent participating in several student led activities, including making fresh garden salsa and learning about the 5 pillars of health, planting taro in the nursery, and learning more about Polynesian history.

The second day of the visit included a presentation with our Horticultural Therapy Director, Travis Slagle who shared insight on the importance of creating connection and meaning in the work in the garden and how this translates to other areas of a student’s life.  Afterwards, we visited the young adult program at Reeds Bay in Hilo and met with a panel of young adult students who shared their experience at Pacific Quest.

Overall, it was a great experience and we are thankful to everyone who made it out to the Big Island as well as to our dedicated team who made this visit a success!  Denise Westman, Outreach Director comments, “We appreciate everyone for taking the time to join us for this full two-day intensive visit.  This is an incredible opportunity to gain a better understanding of our program and take a glimpse into the powerful work occurring at PQ as well as feel the authenticity that shines through our staff.  Mahalo to all!’’

August 31, 2017

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PQ Announces New Video Library!

By: Sharon Findlay, Admissions & Communication Manager

Pacific Quest is excited to announce our new Video Library for parents, students, and referring professionals! Viewers can easily filter the videos by category and featured staff member. Categories include: Advice for parents, Common Questions, Medical + Wellness Questions, Therapeutic Approach, and Why Pacific Quest. Parents can get to know our team from afar and hear their personal and professional perspectives on what makes Pacific Quest the special and healing place that it is.

With this new video library and new content, we worked hard to anticipate the needs of parents considering Pacific Quest for their child. Videos like “Being so far away, how effective is Pacific Quest at reconnecting the family system?” and “Gardening seems a little soft. How effective can it be?” are just two examples real questions we’ve received. This video library gives parents the opportunity to get candid answers from multiple team members.

The videos provide new and engaging content, as well as informative visuals for what Pacific Quest looks and feels like. Parents are able to see the many areas of campus from these videos. These resources are accessible to parents and professionals at whatever time of day is most convenient for them to learn more about Pacific Quest and get specific questions answered.

August 29, 2017

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Alumni Visit, 3 Years Later!

By Ashley Cipponeri, Alumni & Family Services Liaison

Summer in Hawaii brings a steady stream of new students and visitors to experience Pacific Quest! Not only do we see an influx of student admissions during the summer months, but we also see a steady stream of alumni students returning for a visit. Pacific Quest is often times the catalyst for student’s long term growth. Students identify their time at Pacific Quest as one of the main turning points for their wellbeing. The roots of reflection, responsibility, community living, and mentorship began here.

Alumni student, Juliette, recently visited Pacific Quest’s Adolescent Program. She was eager to experience Pacific Quest with the new outlook she has developed since her time at Pacific Quest. We had the opportunity to interview Juliette during her visit:

How old were you when you attended Pacific Quest and how old are you now?
I had just turned 14 when I arrived to Pacific Quest and I am 17 making it three years, almost exactly, since I was last here.

What were some of the challenges you faced while at Pacific Quest and how did you learn to cope with those challenges?
I had never been away from home for more than a week so I missed my home, my parents, and my family a lot. I had to deal with these challenges because I wasn’t able to overcome them. I wrote letters a lot and I tended to distract myself with landwork or writing letters. I also sang a lot and wrote lyrics in my journal to songs I enjoyed. I also did not do exercise before PQ so having to do work and exercise everyday was a big struggle at first. That was the hardest physical thing for me.

From the start of the program to the end, did you feel any difference with your physical activity and how you felt?
I felt a lot better. Just from eating super healthy and drinking a lot of water and working out everyday, I felt stronger and clearer, both physically and mentally.

Did you set any goals while you were at Pacific Quest that you continued to work on these past couple years?
My intent statement. I am a brave, smart, and beautiful young woman who accepts that the choices she has made are all a part of her journey. Accepting the past and recognizing I can’t change it and I have to move forward.

Have you been able to sustain any of the changes you have made starting at Pacific Quest?
I am trying to eat healthier, it doesn’t always work out because you have to make it versus just going somewhere, but I do try to eat healthier and I definitely eat healthier compared to before coming to Pacific Quest but not as healthy as the Pacific Quest diet. I also drink plenty of water.

Have you made any changes in how you deal with challenging emotions?
Before I came here, emotions were a big thing for me because it was hard to identify what I was feeling so I didn’t know how to express myself so I learned how to be aware of my emotions and not give up.

Did the emotional vocabulary you learned while at Pacific Quest help when you went to other programs after Pacific Quest?
Yea, it was the start of expanding it.

What was your favorite part of being at Pacific Quest?
I loved cooking. That was my favorite thing to do and I was good at it. People liked it when I did it because I was creative. I really enjoyed learning about plants. I don’t get to use it much now but I still remember most of it.

Do you have any Malama* words of wisdom?
*Malama means “to care for” or “steward”. It is the pinnacle phase at Pacific Quest.
Even if something is hard, it doesn’t mean it is bad. I really like quotes and one of my favorite is, “it’s always darkest before dawn” and I agree with that. It gets really hard before it gets better.

What would you say to parents who are on the fence about sending their child to Pacific Quest and maybe are worried about their child not enjoying?
I’d say they do not have to enjoy it for it to be good. I doubt there will be any student that enjoys it the first couple weeks. Some enjoy it in the end but the important thing is they will look back on it and be glad that you sent them there and in the long run they will thank you.

You spoke about how the healthy eating and drinking has had an impact on you, what about the other pillars of health taught at Pacific Quest?
Yea, deep breathing is the best way I have found to help with my anxiety and calm myself down.

Anything else you want to share before we close?
Even if you believe you might make it through without PQ, it will still be good for you. I don’t think this will be bad for any person. Even if you think you can do it by yourself, with the program you will progress better and faster.

August 20, 2017

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Adventure to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

A group of PQ students recently has an adventure at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park! The group packed up the cars and headed up the Southeastern coast towards the park, listening to music and playing fun games along the way. The car ride followed a highway that took the group past stunning panoramic ocean views over Whittington beach park, where everyone could see the Pacific ocean spanning off into the horizon. The group also drove through the Ka’u desert, into the lowland Ohi’a Lehua forest on the gentle slopes of Mauna Loa, and finally into the national park and its vast, lush expanses of tropical forests.

The first stop on this outing was the Thurston Lava Tube.  Known as Nāhuku, the lava tube was discovered (or possibly re-discovered) in 1913 by Lorrin Thurston, a local news publisher at the time. The group stopped for a brief lesson on how lava tubes are formed before setting off on a winding trail through a forest of tree ferns.  At the bottom of the trail the large, ominous mouth of the lava tube became visible and the group was soon inside it’s lighted passageways. The group entered the tube and took a moment of stillness to observe the cavernous silence of the tube, imagining a river of molten lava flowing through the spot where they were standing over one hundred years ago. After this moment, the group took a few group photos and then made their way through the remainder of the tunnel, pausing to touch the walls of the tube, feel the moisture and moss, and observe spiderwebs hang from lights lining the tube. At the end of the tunnel, everyone made their way up a series of winding staircases that joined a path to complete the trail loop.  After the lava tube, everyone was ready for lunch. The group enjoyed a picnic while a student read stories about Pele, the goddess of fire, and her journey through the Hawaiian islands before finally finding a home in a crater at the national park.

After lunch, the group was ready to head out on the next excursion, a trek that would take them around and across the floor of the nearby Kilauea Iki crater. Descending again through the lush rainforest, the students arrived on the crater floor. The crater’s most recent natural history is dominated by a 1959 vent eruption that spewed a curtain of lava 1900 feet into the air for five weeks. This eruption filled the valley floor to create a lake of lava weighing an estimated 86 million tons and rising to a depth of 400 feet. As the group walked and talked together, they couldn’t help but pause periodically to marvel at the natural beauty of the crater as everyone looked out in awe over the crater, under Mauna Loa, and across the steam vents.

As the group continued across the crater floor, everyone paused to learn about and observe some of the steam vents, and look for interesting geologic marvels such as ‘Pele’s Hair’ – thin strands of rock lifted from the lava lake of Kilauea’s caldera and blown by the wind to settle in cracks and crevices all over the surrounding area. Students marveled at the Ohi’a Lehua trees that took root in the otherwise desolate crater floor, ruminating on how life finds a way to endure, even in the harshest conditions.  Everyone hiked back up the switchbacks on the opposite side of the crater and made the short hike back through the rainforest to where the cars were parked. Just before leaving the crater, the group stopped at an overlook to take one last look at how vast the crater was and how far they had come. A tired, but very fulfilled ohana climbed back into the cars to relax and reflect on the ride back to Pacific Quest.

July 27, 2017

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Family + Rites of Passage: A Unified Approach

By: Mike McGee, BS
Family Program Manager

For anyone who has participated in a Rites of Passage experience, structured or otherwise, one of the toughest tasks is explaining the significance to loved ones. The feeling of transformation or the significance of a falling leaf or animal encounter can be easily lost in translation. For students in wilderness therapy, the lack of words to express the significance can be frustrating. Having a Rites of Passage experience that includes an examination of the family unit and the family system itself allows for shared language, experience, and growth.

Rites of Passage at PQ

At Pacific Quest, our Family Program is an extension of our Rites of Passage experience. By examining our families through the lens of the Four Shields Model (an approach overviewed below), we are able to see the value and viewpoints of each phase of life. The Four Shields Model examines the joys and naiveté of childhood in the south shield, the identity formation and differentiation of adolescence in the west, the responsibility and drive found in adulthood in the north, and the simplicity and wisdom found in elder-hood in the east. Without a holistic view of the human experience, adolescent Rites of Passage can end up an extension of the unintended selfishness of childhood. And the true intent of a Rite of Passage is to not only benefit the individual but the community at large as well.

This is not just work for the adolescent. Our society often fails to see the value of viewpoints from our children, adolescents, and elders. Who hasn’t been moved by the joy and honesty found in children? Our music and art stems from the passion and pain found in our teenage years or the wisdom and strength of an elder who can listen and share from a place of experience. When we, as adults, fail to see the value of knowledge from the entirety of human existence, we can fall into the trap of monotony, money, and the mundane. One of my teachers shared that our primary purpose of adulthood is to show adolescents that being an adult is ‘worth it’. Adulthood and responsibility, when viewed through a nonlinear model are a choice, and why would anyone choose to be miserable?

Mike McGee, Family Program Manager

When I ask our students who the most impactful person in their life is, the most common response is a grandparent. They often see their parents as independent of their grandparents. Students often fail to see that their parents most likely had issues with their parents, and sought solace with their grandparents.

We work with our families to highlight the strengths and acknowledge the flaws in each generation’s way of thinking. I cannot count the amount of times a family has come back from their experience blown away by the newly articulated views of their children. Many parents and adults have lost the language of expression found in those tumultuous years. The rawness of feeling that has been tampered down to be polite and acceptable in all settings. And our students can walk away knowing that their voice has been heard and that the adults in their lives have their best interest in mind. Only by listening, are we able to finally hear the value in the other’s words.

July 11, 2017

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Severance and Intention – A Family Rite of Passage

By Mike Sullivan, Alumni & Family Services Director

I recently presented at the Rocky Mountain Regional NATSAP conference in Whitefish, Montana. Before I continue, I will have to profess that this was one of the most beautiful settings for a conference – situated in a lush mountain valley near the entrance to Glacier National Park.  Further, the conference drew many attendees from therapeutic programs scattered throughout Northern Idaho and Montana, lending to an intimate and rich networking event.  The seminars were stellar and I hope to return to this conference again next year.

Mike Sullivan, MA, LMHC

The conference specifically targeted the theme of “addressing family systems work,” which especially piqued my interest due to my career focus in family therapy and parent involvement in the treatment process.  I chose to present on experiential techniques for promoting a “rite of passage” experience for families, wherein, the family collaborates in deepening awareness into maladaptive patterns and ruts that they wish to sever from, and works together to set goals and intentions of positive characteristics and communication styles they want to work toward.  I opened the presentation by defining aspects of a rite of passage. I then shared a case vignette, and highlighted a particular families’ process engaging in family therapy and an actual garden ceremony.  The presentation concluded with the audience breaking into small groups where I assigned them to brainstorm experiential approaches that they utilize to engage families in ROP type experiences, and report back to the group at large with ideas generated.  It ended up being a neat combination of networking and idea sharing across models, allowing each professional to walk away with applicable tools.

I have always been intrigued with the role a rite of passage can play on a family systems level. Outdoor therapy provides a seemingly paradoxical model.  The identified patient (adolescent or young adult) is sent thousands of miles from home, isolated from access to family.  The child’s parents describe the deterioration of communication, care, and respect within the family, and trust that the outdoor model will enhance family relationships.  Some would question how effective this model can be; that sequestering a child in the woods can’t possibly address the complexity of the family system.  So therein lay the paradox – how does the outdoor program address the family system, with members of the family spread out across the country?

Outdoor programs nationwide have invested significant resources in bolstering family treatment, recognizing that individual treatment gains quickly diminish if the primary caregivers aren’t growing alongside their child. Outdoor therapy, when applied correctly, leverages the geographical distance to first foster individual growth and then reunite the family in an intentional manner to facilitate growth needed to sustain therapeutic gains.

As the NATSAP outcome study gains momentum and the sample size continues to grow, quantitative data supports claims that family systems benefit from outdoor therapy.  The Family Assessment Device, a trusted measure developed to identify problem areas in family functioning (Epstein, et. al, 1983), has demonstrated that families engaging in outdoor therapy make clinically significant progress.  This is remarkable and leads to the question – what factors contribute to that success? Having worked in outdoor therapy for 10+ years, I have observed the power of engaging families in a rite of passage experience.

A traditional “rite of passage” entails a ceremony, clearly marking the transition from one life stage to another. Individuals identify “severance,” or an “old story” that they wish to leave behind.  This includes limiting self-beliefs and maladaptive behaviors.  The individual then focuses on cultivating the best version of themselves, their “new story,” or “intention.”  The process of identifying “severance” and “intention” increases insight and allows for specific goals to emerge.  Individual growth is critical, and this same phenomenon can be applied on a family level. Families collaborating in identifying maladaptive family patterns informs the process of family “severance,” and working together to name a shared vision of how the family strives to function creates a family “intention.”

Types of family “rite of passage” experiences may vary.  Valuable approaches include exploring themes of severance and intention in a family therapy context, followed with a ceremony to mark the transition.  The ceremony may be creating an art project, hiking a mountain, or overhauling an overgrown garden bed and planting seeds.  Many approaches exist. The activity itself is not important per se, but the meaning assigned to it.  The family should collaborate in identifying what the actual rite is, and assign meaning within a guided context.  The process of guiding a family rite of passage is extremely powerful and programs would benefit from continued dialog about family interventions to use in the short duration of outdoor therapy journey.