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June 22, 2017

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Q & A with Academic Coordinator Isabel Holmes

Isabel joined the Pacific Quest team in 2016 after graduating from Vanderbilt University with her M.Ed in Human Development Counseling. She worked as a Young Adult Program Guide for seven months before moving into her current role as Academic Coordinator.  As the AC, Isabel strives to integrate the curriculum into our students’ daily process through groups and experiential learning opportunities.  This Q & A is an opportunity to learn more about Isabel and her valuable role at PQ!

Isabel Holmes, Academic Coordinator

What drew you to PQ?

I was drawn to Pacific Quest by the unique way our program combines mental health treatment, social-emotional learning, and experience of the outdoors. I was excited by the community approach to care, and have come to respect that even more during my time here. On a personal level, I thought that living on the Big Island and working at Pacific Quest would allow me to live and experience my own life in a radically different way, and that has absolutely proven true! My time here has challenged me in ways I didn’t previously know I could rise to meet, and has opened doors that I never knew existed.

What is your favorite part of PQ?

When I was working as a Program Guide, I used to joke that my favorite part of the job was sitting outside the luas at the end of the day, waiting for students to shower or complete their nightly routines. While it makes for an easy laugh, I meant it honestly, because it was in some of those moments, rolling around on a dirty floor in exhaustion verging on delirium, that I forged some of the best connections I ever had with students, whether through hilarious laughter over something completely silly or in a quiet moment of serious reflection on that day. I think what this really points to, and my real favorite part of PQ, is that the structure of our program gives us the opportunity to observe and help our students recognize and change their own patterns of behavior in a way that just doesn’t exist anywhere else.

What is your academic background?

My parents were both teachers, so I grew up in the world of academia. I attended Bryn Mawr College for undergrad, where I majored in English. I wasn’t the most motivated high school student, and it was at Bryn Mawr that I really found my own drive to learn and explore. I was able to take a wide variety of classes just because they interested me. After graduation, I ended up working at a boarding school outside of Boston, MA. The school environment was a comfortable one for me, and I had many opportunities to experience all the different things that make a school run. What I enjoyed most about that period of my life was my work with students in a residential community setting, and that led me to Vanderbilt, where I earned my M.Ed. in Human Development Counseling from the Peabody College of Education and Human Development. I completed my internships for my degree in a variety of school settings, gaining first-hand knowledge and experience in both counseling and academic program administration.

What about the PQ academic program is unique?

The PQ academic program is unique because it teaches our students to appreciate their environment, to appreciate their history, and to appreciate and care for themselves. Before they can be healthy learners, they must also be healthy people, and we provide access to a wide range of supports, structures, and skills to aid them in that quest, as well as opportunities to practice becoming both of those things.

What does Sustainable Growth mean to you?

In my eyes, sustainable growth means becoming the person you want to be slowly enough that it’s actually possible. We’ve all woken up on January 1st and named a litany of resolutions that we are going to enact to become a completely new version of ourselves right away. And we’ve all woken up on February or March 1st and bemoaned all the ways in which we are failing ourselves yet again, before waking up on August 1st and remembering nothing at all about any of it. These types of resolutions are often unsuccessful because they ask too much at once. A flower doesn’t bloom from a seed overnight, and humans are not capable of such rapid development, either. In order to really change, we must find our own rate of sustainable growth and incorporate new patterns and behaviors into our lives slowly.

How does Sustainable Growth tie into the PQ academic program?

Rather than seeking to completely change or “fix” a student during their short 8-12 week stay with us and consider them a finished product, the PQ curriculum teaches lifelong skills and concepts that students can take with them when they leave, to continue their process of sustainable growth over their entire lifetime.

June 12, 2017

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One Year Later – Meeting with a PQ Alumna

By: Erin Marcus, Clinical Admissions Director

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

Erin Marcus interviews alumni student Celest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What were your favorite parts about being in the program?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anything else you’d like to say?

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

June 9, 2017

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Pacific Quest to Donate a Portion of Profits to PQ Foundation

We are pleased to announce that Pacific Quest will now be donating a minimum of 1% of our profits annually to the Pacific Quest Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity whose mission is to support the Hawaii County community and its existing non-profit organizations.

Pacific Quest was founded in 2004 and over the years we have developed relationships with more than 60 different local non-profit organizations through donations from our company, its employees and its clients. With the generous support and donations from alumni, families, community members and businesses, we are excited to continue our tradition of stewardship within the Big Island community.Pacific Quest Announces Formation of Pacific Quest Foundation

Martha Bouchard, PQ Foundation Director, reflected on this decision to donate profits to the foundation, “It is essential to our mission to both be sustainable and in right relationship with the community in which we work and in which Pacific Quest has built such life changing programming for students. This has to go beyond the community service that our staff and students do. For us, being able to increase our capacity to give back to the island by helping to fund organizations that are the heart and soul of our local communities is a direct reflection of that commitment.” Donations to the foundation help to fund the organizations that sustain our island’s diverse communities, which benefit both residents and visitors alike.

Pacific Quest Foundation will begin accepting applications in Fall 2017. Requests will be considered from Hawaii Island based non-profit organizations in four general categories, including:

  • community or public service
  • environmental issues
  • health and education
  • youth and senior citizens

For more information on how to help support the Pacific Quest Foundation, please visit:

http://pqfoundation.org/donate-now/

May 30, 2017

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Dr. Freedle Published in Routledge International Handbook of Sandplay Therapy

Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Clinical Director at Pacific Quest Wilderness Program, was asked to contribute her original work to The Routledge International Handbook of Sandplay Therapy.  Dr. Freedle’s chapter, “Healing Trauma through Sandplay Therapy:  A Neuropsychological Perspective” explores the underlying mechanisms of Jungian sandplay therapy that promote neural integration and wholeness of personality.  It also chronicles the sandplay journey of Liv, a teenager who came to Dr. Freedle to heal from traumatic grief following the sudden and violent deaths of loved ones.

Dr. Lorraine Freedle

“This chapter is not just a brain-based theory, it’s anchored in depth psychology.  And so as we explore how sandplay helps traumatized people safely access and reprocess their pain, we don’t lose the importance of connection to the deeper Self,” Dr. Freedle shared.

As a board certified Pediatric and School Neuropsychologist and international Sandplay Teacher (STA/ISST) Dr. Freedle has practiced and lectured at the crossroads of neuropsychology and sandplay therapy for over 25 years.  The contents for the chapter emerged over a number of years building upon her prior presentations and publications.

When asked about what makes this chapter unique, Dr. Freedle shares “The chapter makes the neuropsychology of therapeutic change accessible and explains how sandplay works.  This is very important for people and programs who would like to utilize sandplay to effect meaningful change.”

This text will be used worldwide in universities to teach sandplay therapy. Pacific Quest congratulates Dr. Freedle on this prestigious honor and accomplishment!

For more information on The Routledge International Handbook of Sandplay Therapy as well as information on how to purchase, please visit: https://www.routledge.com/The-Routledge-International-Handbook-of-Sandplay-Therapy/Turner/p/book/9781138101692

For more information on Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Programs, please visit: www.pacificquest.org

May 21, 2017

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Pacific Quest Presents at IECA Denver

By: Teresa Bertoncin, LPCC, LMFT

Two Pacific Quest team members recently co-presented at the 2017 Independent Educational Consultant Association conference in Denver.  Teresa Bertoncin, Primary Therapist, and Dr. Robert Voloshin, Integrative Psychiatrist, presented “Breaking through Trauma: EMDR in Outdoor Behavioral Health”. It began by engaging the audience in an experiential sensory integration resourcing exercise using elements of sight, sound and smell which are abundant in the natural environment at PQ. This instillation of a calming effect, with dual attention stimuli offered a brief example of the immediate impact of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and how resourcing tools can be utilized to self-regulate.

teresa-bertoncin-PQ

Teresa Bertoncin, Primary Therapist

Teresa shared that EMDR psychotherapy is recommended as an evidence-based effective treatment for trauma by the American Psychiatric Association, The Department of Defense, and the World Health Organization, and that it interfaces comfortably with all other psychotherapies.  At Pacific Quest, EMDR has proven to be tremendously helpful for multiple adverse life experiences, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and addictions. Teresa explained how maladaptive “undigested” memories and the negative beliefs we maintain about ourselves as a result of those incidents, keep us ‘stuck.’  She comments, “Our brain is a very natural healing mechanism, and just like the rest of our body it wants to heal. EMDR can help us go back to when a root was laid down for a negative belief system, and replace that negative belief system with a positive one.”

Dr. Voloshin integrated the relevance of trauma and memory, and the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACE) and how these untreated experiences directly correlate to a decline in social, emotional cognitive impairment, later life health and well-being; particularly depression and substance abuse, disease, and early death.

Dr. Voloshin went on to explain the neurobiology of the formation of memory and how our experiences shape us, as well as how the process of EMDR reshapes and creates adaptive newly ‘digested’ memories.

“When we are able to ‘look back’ at a traumatic memory from an empowered stance, the recollection can be updated as though this agency had been available and fully functional at the time of the original trauma. This newly reconsolidated experience then becomes the new updated memory where the empowered present somatic experience profoundly alters the past memory. These emerging resources become the bridging of past and present, the remembered present. The memory updating in no way takes away from the truth that a particular traumatizing event really did happen, that it caused harm, and that grief and outrage may be significant components to restoring dignity and a deep honoring of self. From this present-based platform of self compassion, the memories can gradually be softened, reshaped, and rewoven into the fabric of one’s identity.”

Several attendees remarked about their interest in the psychotherapeutic and neurobiological aspects of the presentation, and how it reflects the unique integrative approach that Pacific Quest embodies, as well as the mind-body-nature connection in the importance of overall healing.

May 17, 2017

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How does living near a volcano fit into Recovery?

By: Mark White, LPC – CDC II
Primary Therapist

Kuleana – Hawaiian for ‘personal responsibility’

Kuleana is also the name of the second phase of the Pacific Quest (PQ) Young Adult Program. This powerful experience challenges students to dig deep and take charge of their individual (and group) process each and every day. The Kuleana Camp is located not far from the slopes of a volcano near the southernmost point in the United States – meaning that there are few external distractions for students access – except the resources within themselves.

Mark White therapist photo

Mark White, Primary Therapist

Having worked in the field of addiction treatment for many years, I understand that internal motivation for change is needed for students to implement and sustain lifestyle change(s) over time. Moreover to really provide the best opportunity for these changes to ‘take root’ is for the student to develop strong ownership and/or personal investment in the change(s) they are committing to.

This is a different dynamic than simply telling the therapist what the student thinks we want to hear, or coming up with a great story to tell mom and dad. Kuleana demands student investment in the form of action. Simply put, if the garden isn’t tended it will die – there’s no running over to Home Depot to grab some more plants. Talking about taking responsibility is simply not enough. Success of the community is 100% dependent on student actions in this phase.

In turn our treatment team has the opportunity to challenge students to contemplate how to take Kuleana for their own Recovery, as this process is also 100% dependent on themselves. For we know that time passes quickly and soon enough students will no longer be living by the sea near a volcano. They will be at school, at work, with family or adventuring alone in life. As a licensed professional counselor and certified chemical dependency counselor who’s worked with hundreds of youth in treatment since 1999, I’ve very aware that I won’t be around to help them with their choices in-the-moment. I also know that mom and dad won’t be able to make choices for them either.

That being said, the good news is that PQ students can have Kuleana and are able to harvest this powerful resource at anytime/anyplace to choose to further their Recovery. Once they’ve found this power within themselves no one can take it away – it is truly the fertile soil for lasting life change.

May 16, 2017

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Queering Wilderness Therapy: Bringing Inclusion to the Forefront

By: Clementine Wilson, Adolescent Field Manager

**A note on the word Queer: “We recognize and honor that the word “queer” has been used in the past as a derogatory term and is still very hurtful for some in the LGBTQIA+ community. Many LGBTQIA+ organizations and communities have reclaimed the word “queer” and this has been both empowering and uniting of the multiple complex identities within the community…” (wording borrowed from the School of Lost Borders Queer Quest description)

I had the privilege of co-presenting and representing Pacific Quest at the Regional Wilderness Therapy Symposium in Asheville, NC last month. Myself, Martha Ratliff, and Samantha Field (collaborators from different organizations) presented a 3-hour workshop on the importance of LGBTQIA+ inclusion and support in the outdoor behavioral health industry. We had 20 participants attend our workshop including field guides, therapists, admissions counselors, educational consultants, and program management representatives.

Our workshop addressed the importance of catching up with Gen Z’ers as they pave the way for inclusion. Through lecture, self-reflection and short experiential activities, we illustrated what it means to build an inclusive and accessible program, asking the questions: Who is not being included? Whose voice is not being heard? Our main focus was field considerations, staff training and facilitating rites of passage ceremonies designed for queer youth and adults.

According to the J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group, in 2016, more than 52% of Gen Z’s (ages 13-20) reported they identify as something other than heterosexual. In the same study, 56% of Gen Z’s said that they knew someone who went by gender neutral pronouns such as “they,” “them,” or “ze.” At Pacific Quest, according to our surveys in conjunction with the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) taken during the student’s first week of treatment, approximately 28% of our student population (adolescent and young adult) identifies as something other than heterosexual. This number does not include those students who have yet to come out but may do so during the treatment process. In addition, we also serve many trans* identified and gender nonconforming students. With these stats, it is abundantly clear that a significant portion of our student population doesn’t fit into an assumed heterosexual/cisgender identity framework. Therefore, it is important for programs to make their curriculum inclusive and relevant to support healthy queer identity development. It is vitally important that programs are reviewing their policies and procedures to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their transgender students.

One of our foundational guiding principles at Pacific Quest is Rites of Passage, and many other outdoor therapeutic programs use a rites of passage paradigm to frame the adolescent coming of age experience (i.e., The Hero’s Journey, Jumping Mouse, etc). Rites of passage can be defined as “intentional, meaningful markers of transition from one state of being to another,” (definition from Darcy Ottey) and initiation is defined as achieving adult status in one’s community. With no archetypes, lack of healthy role models, and no clearly defined cultural role; queer youth often feel lost, othered and lonely in their identity development. This makes it hard for them to claim and understand their role in the community. When rites of passage are made inclusive for queer youth, and they are able to learn about queer archetypes and role models, they are able to claim their gifts in meaningful and healthy ways.

Another guiding principle here at Pacific Quest is horticultural therapy and connection to the natural cycles. Through this lens, LGBTQIA+ students are able to see nature as a mirror of their identity experience. They can see that there is queerness in nature and it happens naturally in both the plant and animal kingdoms. Rare and beautiful bilateral gynandromorph butterflies that are half male and half female, and “parrotfish that start out as male or female but have sex organs of both sexes; they are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning they can change from female to male. Some females will become supermales: larger males with brilliant, lively coloring.”  Seeing queerness reflected in nature helps students see that they are rare, special and gifted rather than different, othered, and ultimately shamed for who they are. This shift in lens can mean the world of difference for a young person struggling to claim and be proud of their marginalized identity.

After participating in our queer inclusive rites of passage experience at Pacific Quest, one student drafted this statement of intent to bring back to his community:

“I am a shameless queer warrior who is fearless, loves himself, and trusts himself unconditionally.”

May 4, 2017

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Recap of Autism Symposium 2017

By: Lynne Mollo, LCSW
Primary Therapist

I was honored to begin the celebration of Autism Awareness month with a group of Educational Consultants, Wilderness therapists, Social Workers, Psychologists, Doctors, Parents and many other professionals working with children and adults on the Spectrum.

On April 2nd and 3rd Asheville North Carolina was host to the 4th Annual Autism Symposium sponsored by several programs in the therapeutic education field. The symposium’s focus was to have a place where professionals could come together and better understand the best practice when dealing with Autism.

A panel of therapists, parents, medical doctors and other professionals answered thought provoking questions from the audience on how to best serve clients and families with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Some of the questions asked of the audience included:

  • Why are there more boys than girls diagnosed with Autism?
  • What are the causes of Autism?
  • Why are the numbers increasing?
  • What are the best ways of supporting people with Autism?

The overall summary of the panel discussion was that there are more questions than answers and more research is needed to understand how to best identify and improve the lives of those touched by ASD.

Dr. Liane Holiday Willey, EdD began the second day of the conference with a witty, interesting and honest presentation entitled “Vulnerabilities and support of women on the Autism Spectrum Disorder”. Not only has Dr. Willey authored several books on the topic of Autism, she herself was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 35 by one of the leading experts in the field, Dr. Tony Attwood. Liane has been a strong advocate for those on the Spectrum and provides support and information on her website blog Aspie.com.

One of the most applicable things she mentioned was how helpful and effective horticultural therapy is for people with Autism. She recommended having a garden (or “even just a pot with something growing in it!”) as an easy, accessible way to help individuals with Autism regulate their emotions. She also noted the high effectiveness rates for horticultural therapy. This speaks to how powerful this intervention is and also why it is so fundamental in our approach at Pacific Quest!

After a meet and greet lunch with a group of professionals and parents all the participants were able to join in on several breakout sessions for the rest of the day. I chose to attend the two sessions that addressed the neurological aspects of ASD. First, I attended an experiential session by Cameron Allen who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome as a teen. He found that neurofeedback supported his development and now is a specialist with a private practice. He and Taisir El-Souessi, LPC facilitated activities that showed how a person on the spectrum might be processing information. The last breakout session I attended was a collaborative case study presentation of a young adult on the spectrum. The professionals walked the audience through this young man’s journey to independence. In the end this young man was able to identify when he was Limbic Dominant. The research presented identified that the limbic system grows super fast in the brain of a person with Autism.

May 3, 2017

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A Letter to My Therapist: One Year After PQ

By: PQ Alumni

I was a student at PQ last year. I just received my letter from a year ago* and I wanted to let you know that I really appreciate what you did. Words cannot express my gratitude.

I know that not all of the students at PQ take the program completely to heart all the time, and many of them do return to old habits after they leave, but I was not one of those people. Pacific Quest was a turning point for me in my adolescent life, as corny as that may sound. Without it, I’m honestly not sure where I would be today.

The gardening, the nature, the outings, and Huli all made a significant difference in how I thought and approached what my life had to offer. And most of all I thoroughly enjoyed our conversations together.

I’m in the last quarter of my senior year in high school, and I’ll be graduating in June. When I started PQ, I was sure I was going to drop out of high school, and college didn’t even seem like an option back then. Now I’m choosing between multiple colleges to attend in the fall, and sometimes I wonder how I made it this far.

My relationship with my family has improved drastically. I still fight with my mom sometimes, but who doesn’t? I talk with my dad a lot, and we actually go do things together, like going to the gym, and taking road trips to Lake Tahoe. I love my dad, and I like spending time with him, which is something I didn’t think was ever possible a year ago. Pacific Quest helped me learn to appreciate everything my family has done for me, and I want to thank you for saving us. PQ was a wake up call if there ever was one, and I am so grateful to be lucky enough to have experienced it. Soon hopefully I’ll be starting a new chapter in my life at college, which will bring its own set of challenges. But I have the confidence that I’ll be able to work through them.

Finally, I want you to know that if you ever feel like the kids you work with don’t have any chance of bettering themselves or you feel like you haven’t done enough to help them, that that simply isn’t true. Because there is one kid from California out there in the world, and he is forever grateful.

Best,
PQ Alum

*The letter this alumni is referencing is a letter that students write to themselves that PQ then mails out a year later. It’s an incredible reminder of all the hard work and progress they made at Pacific Quest.

April 19, 2017

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Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep

By: Pauli Richardson, Wellness Coordinator

It’s not unusual for students to come to Pacific Quest and have difficulty with sleep. It’s a combination of jet lag, anxiety, poor sleeping habits at home, inability to relax, among other factors. Most students are not familiar with “sleep hygiene” or what proper rest looks like. For this reason, sleep is my favorite Pillar of Wellness to teach the students. Sleep hygiene is your lifestyle routine that helps promote sleep. Without it our bodies would not be able to get the sleep it needs naturally. During sleep the body heals itself and balances hormones.

The first question I ask the students is what their sleep routine looks like at home. Then we compare that list to a list of healthy sleeping habits and see how it differs. After taking a closer look, many students realize, they do not have a consistent sleep routine.

Tips for Healthy Sleep Hygiene

CIRCADIAN RHYTHM

For good sleep, it’s important to strive to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday. At Pacific Quest, the students wake up at 6:45 AM and they are in bed by 8:30 pm. We teach that this habit is important in helping reset the body’s circadian rhythm, the body’s natural sleep/wake cycle.

For some of our students this is the first time they have gone to bed before midnight in a long time. The later you go to sleep the less likely you are to reach deep restful REM sleep.

PEACEFUL ENVIRONMENT

In addition, it’s essential to create an environment that promotes sleep. Our bedroom needs to be a place that helps us relax. There are many people that eat on their bed, look at phones while in bed, watch TV, play video games, etc. Your bed should be for rest only. When it is not, your brain won’t instantly know it’s time for sleep and the screens may interfere with the brain’s production of melatonin, an important sleep hormone.

At PQ, students get a break from electronics but we discuss what to do once they face those temptations outside of this environment.  I encourage them to journal or color right next to their bed if they need to, and then get snuggled under the covers once they feel sleepy. Students can also request a calming tea to help them relax or learn to make their own with herbs from our garden! Drinking lavender, lemon balm,or chamomile tea is soothing for the body.

HEALTHY HABITSHelpful Tips to Improve Sleep - Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy

  • Avoid Caffeine after 12pm
  • Use essential oils before bedtime
  • Listen to relaxing instrumental music
  • Exercise during the day
  • Close your eyes and visualize a calming nature scene
  • Eat foods with Tryptophan (banana,yogurt,turkey)
  • Get a massage

Meditation is an important aspect of our program and it’s key for preparing students’ minds for sleep. It can look very different from day to day. For example, we have staff play guitar, teach deep breathing, read a poem, do soft yoga poses and sometimes students like to lead their peers in their own guided meditation.  I enjoy teaching the students Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). This is where students start at the top of their head and work all the way down to the feet squeezing and relaxing each muscle group.

It takes effort and dedication to develop good sleep hygiene habits. It is my hope that students will take what they have learned at Pacific Quest and continue to practice taking care of themselves. Quick fixes are not sustainable, and when students learn this they are on their way to living a healthier life. Sweet dreams!