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January 20, 2017

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Newfound Hope: Our Daughter’s Story at PQ

By: Alumni Parent

Where were we prior to PQ?

Our daughter has always been a bright, and charming person who excelled at school and sports, not to mention having a lot of friends. But underneath all of her success was a dark area in her life that reared its ugly head when she was in the 10th grade…social anxiety.

We started to notice that our daughter was complaining of being sick and needing to stay home from school. We didn’t make a big deal about it since she was nearly a straight “A” student. But we started to notice a trend that she was stressing out about what were seemingly trivial details. She also started to stress about how her friends perceived her. While a struggle, she completed 10th grade and went on a summer trip to a program in Europe and seemed to have had a great time.

11th grade year at her school (a highly competitive prep school) started out seemingly just fine. She was into her classes and taking in the grind that we knew to expect. But then the absences started to pile up again. She was becoming withdrawn and refusing to leave her bedroom. If she did make it to school she often complained of being sick, calling my wife or I to complain. Finally, mid-way through the first semester she just couldn’t get herself to leave her room anymore.

I didn’t have a clue what was going on. The thought that my child was having an emotional issue just didn’t compute. I mean, when I was upset about stuff in high school I just hit the gym and worked it out. Why couldn’t she do the same? It just didn’t make any sense to me. So I just remained angry a lot with her, not understanding this was something she couldn’t control. I also closed myself off emotionally towards her in a lot of ways.

My wife had more of an idea about what was going on. There is a bit of family history with struggles in this area on her side so she had a better comprehension about what was going on inside our daughter’s head. She was also the one to bear the brunt of the early struggles with our daughter. She got her into see a therapist. She talked to her for hours about what was going on in her head. And she also took the brunt of the angst and vitriol that was spewed out of the ever morose and despondent daughter.

For the next four years, our daughter was in therapy for what we came to find out was a severe social anxiety disorder. The years had a lot of ups and downs. Successes and more than a few betrayals by people she thought she could trust. She did finish high school, but too late to apply to college. She tried a semester at a gap program in Paris but again couldn’t handle the anxiety. After that, she took a gap trip abroad that had a lot of support for kids with issues and came back like a new woman. Full of piss and vinegar and ready to seemingly get on with her life. So it was off to college and right into another failure. After barely finishing one semester she fled home. Transferring to a school closer to home this time she was ready to try again, failure. To top off the final failure she was in a car accident that totaled a brand new car.

At this point our daughter finally realized that she had hit rock bottom and needed to make a radical change to get help. She had been told about wilderness programs that could help teach her skills to help regulate her behaviors and not succumb to her fears and anxieties.

Coming to PQ

One day in December 2015 our daughter came to my wife and I and asked about applying to a place called Pacific Quest. She had been researching a number of alternatives and this was the program that she thought would be best to help her. After looking into the program and consulting with her therapist we agreed to her going. We spoke with Kellyn about the possibility of her starting as soon as possible and he said he would see what they could do. Less than two weeks later she was on an airplane to Hilo with just her clothes on her back.

PQ was a startling wake-up call for our daughter. She had lived a bit of a spoiled lifestyle never having to do without anything. At PQ she was all of a sudden met with expectations that had never been placed upon her. The idea that she didn’t have instant access to mom and dad were particularly hard for her, but we clearly saw the value in this. The early parent meetings were intense for us. We heard about the struggles of having to conform and do what was expected. Her therapist, who was terrific, brought the idea that she might write a letter asking us to rescue her.

But we had faith in our daughter’s will power to succeed and survive. We told her therapist it was her decision that she needed to go to PQ and because of this she wouldn’t want to run away from the program. We were right. After the initial phases of the program we started getting regular letters from our daughter talking about what was going on. The fact that she had to write rather than speak, made her slow down and process, rather than just to spew out a bunch of words, and was a great idea. We were also getting reports from her therapist about what she was working on and how she was progressing. He was also digging into our history with her to find out what made her and our family tick.

The work on both sides was ongoing for 6 or 7 weeks before the fateful day when we finally got to have our daughter in on a phone call. We didn’t know what to expect. She immediately fell back into an old pattern with my wife and I, she had sprung a trap laid by the therapist. He immediately pounced on it and called her for how she had reacted and spoken to us. Boundaries were crossed and she was out of line!

My wife and I were astounded to hear the reaction. Dead silence from our daughter. She was using one of her new tools to compose herself so that she could speak to us as an adult. They call it her toolbox, skills that they work with the participants to develop to face situations that in the past would derail them. Our daughter was a willing learner.

We spent a number of other sessions working with the therapist, sometimes with our daughter on the call and sometimes not. We were clearly seeing growth on her part so we were happy. Near the end of her stay at PQ a family weekend was planned for those parents who could make the trip to Hawaii. Our daughter was very anxious for us to come out for it. Since she had been making such good progress we decided one of us should go out. I was selected since I had the most leeway in my work to take such a trip. I don’t know what I was expecting when I got there, maybe some sort of super school play or something. I didn’t realize I was being thrown into the therapy fray.  Best thing that could have happened to my relationship with my daughter.

During this two-day weekend, parents were given the opportunity to experience some of what our children were going through. I was forced to confront some of my issues surrounding what our family had gone through during the worst parts of our daughter’s suffering. I came to realize that I had walled myself off from her and the rest of the family with the excuse I didn’t want to get angry with her anymore. It was pointed out to me that instead of being a solution it was actually a contributing factor to the bigger problem. It wasn’t fair to my daughter and it sure wasn’t fair to my wife. I was devastated. Once I confronted this part of myself it was about finding forgiveness and figuring out a path to help us all go forward.

After PQ

Shortly after the parent’s weekend our daughter was ready to move onto the next phase, a transitional program. PQ recommended an educational consultant and between our daughter, the therapist and the consultant, we found a program that we felt would best meet her needs.

Today our daughter is finishing a reintegration program that has continued to build upon and add to the toolbox she started to develop at PQ. Just recently she finished two college psychology classes and commented that it was the first time in nearly 5 years that she had actually finished classes on time. Next semester she will be taking a full load of classes and is actively planning a future as a full time student.

For the first time since this problem started, our daughter feels she has a fighting chance due to the skills she learned from the wonderful guides (some of whom she is still in contact with) and therapist at PQ. She also made some friends amongst the participants and remains in contact with several. The fact that she saw that she was not the only one with issues, and that she had the chance to participate in group therapy really opened her eyes about her perceptions and her harshness towards herself and got her thinking differently. There is now hope where before there was only despair. We recommend this program highly, and are so glad we decided to entrust our daughter into their care.

January 19, 2017

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Successful Collaboration with Sky’s the Limit Fund!

By: Mike Sullivan, Alumni and Family Services Director

Happy new year!  We are diving into another great year of collaboration with Sky’s the Limit Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming the lives of at-risk youth by providing grants, support and hope through outdoor therapy programs and beyond. Sky’s the Limit Fund has provided financial assistance to a large number of families over the years, and as a partner program, we have matched them dollar for dollar.  We enjoy giving back and catalyzing life changing experiences for families who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access the amazing benefits of outdoor therapy.

Mike Sullivan and colleagues at STLF event

2016 was a powerful year.  As a Sky’s the Limit Fund grant recipient said: “Outdoor therapy saved my son’s life.  I don’t know where we would be without Sky’s the Limit Fund and Pacific Quest.”  That young man arrived at Pacific Quest in a depressed and anxious state, and emerged with confidence and charisma.  The combination of evidence based therapy, whole person wellness, and this particular young man’s decision to grab life by the horns were all pivotal in his growth.  This is not an isolated story. Having attended several STLF fundraisers throughout 2016, I was able to witness grant recipients share their success stories in front of large crowds. These are tear jerking personal accounts of suffering and healing.  Thank you to Sky’s the Limit for making such things possible!

Looking Ahead

2017 is shaping up to be another great year.  Nancy Moore has completely transitioned into her new role as Executive Director, allowing STLF founder Rochelle Bochner to step away and focus her energy on her grandchildren.  Pacific Quest is excited to host Nancy and an STLF Chairperson on campus for a site tour later this spring, continuing to showcase the unique horticultural and wellness platform that makes PQ so powerfully therapeutic.

 

January 15, 2017

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Rites of Passage Video: Tying the Threads of the Past to the Future

By: Darcy Ottey

Meaningful, intentional rites of passage have been a critical part of raising healthy adults for tens of thousands of years, and are no less relevant today. At Pacific Quest, rites of passage have been part of our program since our very first client. The speaker in this TEDx Talk, Darcy Ottey, helped design Pacific Quest’s innovative rite of passage programming, and continues to provide support and training for our staff. The talk shares the story of why rites of passage are so important, both for young people and for their communities.

 

Pacific Quest is part of an Youth Passageways, an international effort to bring rites of passage back into the lives of young people. For more information on Darcy Ottey and her work, please visit: www.darcyottey.com.

January 7, 2017

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Winter Solstice Celebration at PQ!

By:  Clementine Wilson, Adolescent Field Manager

Pacific Quest hosted our annual Winter Solstice celebration for our students and employees last month! We were able to hold it on the actual date of the Solstice – marking the shortest day of the year.

Students preparing for the Winter Solstice celebration

““Solstice” comes from two Latin words: sol meaning “sun” and sistere meaning “to stand still” because it appeared as though the sun and moon had stopped moving across the sky. This longest night of the year, followed by a renewal of the sun, demonstrates the cyclical order of the cosmos. In this way, celebrating the solstice can be a beautiful remembrance that our lives are part of a larger order, always changing, always renewing.”

The solstice holiday focuses on the natural cycles of life, connection to the land, and the winter harvest. Program Guides led students through themed land lessons and activities in camp leading up to the meal. The students choreographed and performed a “Mele Kalikimaka” hula dance, a live performance of the Lorax, and a guided meditation walk over to the imu where the meal was prepared. They ended the activities with a gratitude circle before sitting down to eat together.

Preparing the imu, traditional underground oven

Sharing food, an important part of any celebration, is particularly meaningful during the solstice, as it represents faith in the return of the sun and the harvest. We prepared pork, turkey and tofu in our imu, a traditional Hawaiian underground oven.  To make our imu, we dug a hole in the ground and placed rocks and wood inside.  Then a fire was started, creating a bed of coals and heating up the rocks.  Next, banana leaves and other plant materials were placed in the pit, which created steam. The foods to be cooked were placed inside, and more plant materials got piled on top, followed by water soaked burlap sacks. Finally, everything was covered and weighted down with rocks and dirt to prevent steam from escaping. The food steamed in the imu for hours, until it was moist and tender. In addition, we used much of our own PQ harvest (especially our kabocha squash) as part of this meal.  We enjoyed a delicious feast and it was so beautiful and inspiring to see the students and guides take time to prepare for this celebration. Throughout the day I witnessed a wonderful balance of laughter and reverence!

December 20, 2016

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Cooking with PQ: Golden Milk Recipe

By: Kate Goodwin, Wellness Medical Supervisor

Check out the previous blog post on the history and benefits of turmeric, something we grow plenty of at PQ! Below is the recipe mentioned in that post. Perfect for a warm and healthy alternative this time of year!

Golden Milk Recipe

Got [golden] milk?!

Yield: 2 cups
Active Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk, preferably coconut milk beverage or almond milk
1 (1-inch) piece turmeric, unpeeled, blended, or 1/2 teaspoon dried turmeric
1 (1/2-inch) piece ginger, unpeeled, blended
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
Ground cinnamon (for serving)

Preparation

Whisk coconut milk, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, honey, coconut oil, peppercorns, and 1 cup water in a small saucepan; bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer until flavors have melded, about 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into mugs and top with a dash of cinnamon. Golden milk can be made 5 days ahead. Store in an airtight container and chill. Warm before serving.

Cooks’ Note

Using fresh turmeric adds a clean, bright flavor to this drink, but dried turmeric can be substituted when fresh is not available. Keep in mind that dried turmeric will settle to the bottom of the mug, so stir well before drinking.

Read more about turmeric and it’s medicinal properties in this blog post!

December 20, 2016

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Harvesting Turmeric at PQ!

By: Kate Goodwin, Wellness Medical Supervisor

Turmeric – a distinctly earthy, orange-golden spice is often overlooked in many kitchens, but proves to be a great culinary addition with a fantastic and bright presentation. For over 5,000 years, this plant has been cultivated and harvested in tropical Asian countries as well as its homeland, India, where it is considered auspicious and holy. Turmeric is well known in many countries to add health benefits to any meal and has a strong presence in Ayurvedic medicine. In its early history it was used as a dye and then later for its health benefits.

The turmeric spice is derived from Curcuma longa which is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant in the ginger family. This means that the turmeric root not only grows vertically, but horizontally. This can result in the finger like nodules that are typically present. Inside the turmeric root is where the wonderful curcuminoids, or biologically available parts, are found. Curcumin is the most powerful of the curcuminoids found in turmeric and usually only composes 3.14% of turmeric powder found in stores. Curcumin in a concentrated form is sold as an herbal supplement, cosmetic ingredient, food flavoring and coloring.

The amazing health effects that Curcumin has are credited to it being a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound. This golden ingredient has shown to help with joint pain and other inflammation and/or pain, as well as having anti-tumor, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Turmeric has been used for centuries to aid in liver detoxification and promote stomach and gut healing.

When turmeric is used with black pepper, the effects are greatly increased and it adds another dimension to this earthy flavor. The piperine in pepper helps our bodies absorb and use the curcuminoids more effectively.

During today’s wellness lesson, this information was shared with the Ohana (students and staff) and brought to life by making Golden Milk. The recipe found in the next blog post was used to make a big, 15 person batch of beautifully earthy golden milk for the Ohana.

Just three days ago, the Ohana harvested an entire 5-gallon bucket (13 pounds!!) of turmeric from our garden. The roots were then processed and either set aside for meal additions this week or used for the golden milk (see recipe in next post). After the lesson today, Jack, one of our new Akahi students, said “Wow. I didn’t really know what turmeric was before this. This stuff is so neat…I have never really gardened before and this stuff is pretty cool.”

December 16, 2016

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Family Fridays: Getting Her Sparkle Back

By: Alumni Parent

As a little girl, our daughter was always the life of the party. She was a bright and sunny kid who loved to have fun. She loved to sing and would often belt out the words to Nat King Cole’s “Love” while dancing around the room. She had a whacky sense of humor and always had a sparkle in her big blue eyes.

Our daughter loved to plan parties, decorate our house for just about every occasion and plan menus for the holidays. In middle school everything started to change. She desperately wanted to fit in and have friends. She became obsessed with social media and how others viewed her. The drama started to take over her life. It got worse when she was bullied by other girls in school. Often it was so bad that she refused to go to school so she didn’t have to deal with the fear and anxiety. She became increasingly anxious and depressed and difficult at home. Little things would set her off in a frenzy. She would go to her room and lock herself away, refusing to come out or open the door.

In 8th grade she was diagnosed with ADHD and went on medication. While things were better for about a year, the old issues resurfaced with the pressures of high school, only now the stakes were higher. She began to put off her homework to hang out with friends. She started smoking marijuana and hanging out after school at a nearby park. We would find evidence of her smoking almost every morning in her room. And while the punishments escalated, they did nothing to change her behavior. She would constantly lie about where she was and who she was with. Hours would go by where we had no idea of her whereabouts. When she came home she refused to talk to us. Rather than do her school work and ask for the help she needed, she would just avoid it all together only to fall further and further behind. Our house became toxic as we were either franticly trying to track her down or arguing with her. I became consumed with trying to find her the right help. She went to therapists, tutors and psychiatrists. We tried DBT and CBT and nothing helped. She became my second full time job. Finally, it hit us that we couldn’t help her at home. An educational consultant recommended wilderness and after talking with several programs we decided on Pacific Quest.

It was a very difficult decision to send our daughter so far away. The day the transporter came to get her was like a bad dream. I’ll never forget my husband’s words in the early days after she left. Whenever I felt worried and scared about our decision he would say “I am more worried thinking about what would happen if we kept her here.” As the days went by, and they did go slowly at first, I started to get more comfortable. We would get updates from the staff at PQ as well as her therapists about her progress. During our weekly therapy sessions, we also received feedback about our communication style with our daughter and how we could make changes in how we communicated with her and each other. Every week we received photos from PQ and we started to see big changes. She looked healthier. There was a visible calmness that soon turned to huge smiles which we hadn’t seen in ages. At first, we couldn’t have imagined our city kid adjusting to life outdoors in Hawaii with none of the comforts of home. Not only did she adjust, she began to blossom. Her letters home became increasingly reflective. She expressed pride that she could do the hard work required and move through the phases. She also began to appreciate so many of the things she had at home, including parents who believed in her. She even thanked us for that.

When we went to see her for family program, I will never forget how she put her hand in mine and walked me to her little hut. We spent an incredible two days with her where the work we all did culminated in a reunion of acceptance, forgiveness and appreciation for each other. We talked, we listened, we cried and we laughed. The PQ staff was kind, nurturing and supportive. They taught our daughter the importance of loving herself and owning up to the choices she made and the power to make new choices going forward.

The day before we moved her into a therapeutic boarding school outside of Phoenix, she and I went for an evening swim. It was nearly 90 degrees that evening. It was only the two of us in the pool. She again placed her hand in mine. We stood there eyes locked, stars shining down on us and she said…”mom, I’m nervous about my new school.” This time, I just listened and validated, so happy that she was able to share and seek comfort in my presence. As I looked at her in that moment, I noticed something else. The sparkle was back in those big blue eyes.

December 14, 2016

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Makahiki Celebrations at Pacific Quest

By:  Janna Pate, Academic Coordinator

Makahiki is a holiday season that marks the end and new beginning of the yearly farming cycle in Hawaii. It is similar in timing and purpose to Thanksgiving, Oktoberfest, and other harvest celebrations. At Pacific Quest, we celebrate Makahiki throughout the month of November.

Our celebrations culminate in a day of cultural lessons, including storytelling, games, crafts, chants, and dancing. At the end of it all, there is a Makahiki feast that we cook in a traditional Hawaiian imu, or underground oven.

Hand painted garden sign

Hand painted garden sign

During the days that lead up to our culminating celebration, students at Pacific Quest turn their attentions to harvesting fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs from the garden. Some of this bounty goes toward our meal preparations for the Pacific Quest community, and some is donated to the local farmer’s market.  During Makahiki season, Pacific Quest students make a special effort to donate to the farmer’s market in abundance. Our donations may include handmade bundles of fresh herbs, greens, or flowers; seedlings and shoots from our nursery; hand-painted gourds and garden signs; hand-picked avocados and citrus fruits from our fruiting trees; a wide-array of organic vegetables; and more.

Traditionally, once tributes like these were collected from around the island, communities gathered to celebrate Makahiki with feasts and games. Both men and women and everyone from chiefs to commoners competed. Pacific Quest students celebrate in a similar way.  Throughout the month of November, we teach our students traditional Makahiki games. In ancient Hawaii, the main purpose of these games was to train warriors. As such, Makahiki games tend to focus on building strength, stamina, and agility. We focus on building those skills with our students as well by facilitating traditional Hawaiian games like ikaika (lifting of stones), moa pahe’e (sliding of wooden darts or, at Pacific Quest, lengths of bamboo), and foot races.

In addition to physical challenges, we also teach Makahiki games that challenge the mind. For example, we teach konane, or Hawaiian checkers. Traditionally, konane is played on a board with 64 playing pieces made of black lava stone and white coral. At Pacific Quest, we use black lava stone and red cinder from the paths of our gardens.

Traditional Hawaiian craft-making, Lauhala weaving

Traditional Hawaiian craft-making, Lauhala weaving

We teach traditional Hawaiian craft-making as well. One such practice is lauhala weaving, or weaving with the leaves of the hala tree. Lauhala weaving has been a part of Hawaiian culture for thousands of years. In ancient times, weavers transformed hala leaves into everything from floor mats to pillows and sails. At Pacific Quest, we teach our students how to craft lauhala bracelets and headbands using hala leaves from the trees in our camps.

We are also lucky enough to have staff who are trained in hula dancing and traditional Hawaiian chanting and who graciously bring those lessons to our students with permission and well-wishes from their own kumus, or teachers. Hula and chanting go hand-in-hand, and both were a major part of Makahiki celebrations in ancient Hawaii, especially in the creation of ceremonial spaces. We use them to create ceremonial spaces at Pacific Quest as well.

In ancient Hawaii, it was a processional ceremony that marked the beginning of the Makahiki season. The chief carried a staff topped by a small carved figure and a crossbar supporting a white sheet of kapa, or cloth, around the island in a clockwise direction. Stopping at the boundary of each ahupua’a, or land division, the chief collected gifts and offerings from a stone ahu, or altar.

Hawaiian staff members from across multiple departments at Pacific Quest came together to create a replica of the traditional staff for students in the adolescent program to observe. This replica stood in the dining area where students brought offerings of food from their camps for the community to share. Some camps made organic salads and homemade dressings while others made honey-glazed carrots, stuffing, or mashed potatoes and gravy.

This year, we cooked kalua turkey and pork in the imu at Pacific Quest. For vegetarians, we also prepared a dish called tofu laulau, or tofu wrapped in taro leaf. And of course, there were also desserts: sweet potato haupia pie and kulolo, a sweet taro dish.

Here is a recipe that our logistics team uses for kulolo:

Kulolo (PQ Style)

Ingredients:
4 cups taro
12 oz honey
1 cup coco milk
8 pc ti leaf

Directions:
Grate taro until you have 4 cups.
Put taro in a ziploc bag. Mix in honey and coconut milk.
Line pan with ti leaf, leaving half of the leaf sticking out from the pan.
Add mixture to the pan on top of the ti leaf and flatten out.
Wrap the remainder of the leaf over the flattened kulolo mixture.
Cover with aluminum foil.
Bake in oven at 400 degrees for 1.5 hours.
Remove foil from tray and cook for another 30 minutes.

Yield 1 half pan

Poi pounding

Poi pounding

In addition to this taro-based dessert dish, students in the adolescent program had the opportunity to experience poi, a taro paste that was the main staple of the ancient Hawaiian diet. The Hawaiian cultural liaison at Pacific Quest provided the community with traditional stone poi pounders, and students learned to pound the pa’i ‘ai, or freshly cooked taro, with short, quick strokes and little dabs of water to keep the poi paste moist. This can be a bit of a sticky process, but also a satisfying one, even for students who remain a bit skeptical about the flavor of poi. It’s hard not to enjoy this type of “work.”

Once all of the cultural activities conclude and the food is prepared, therapists at Pacific Quest set the tone for the culminating feast by holding a therapeutic group in each camp on gratitude. Gratitude is culturally significant to the Makahiki season, and, as our therapists teach, it is of great personal significance as well. Gratitude has been shown to improve physical and psychological health, promote healthy relationships, enhance empathy, reduce aggression, promote better sleep, improve self-esteem, and increase mental strength. Whatever our struggles in life, a daily dose of gratitude is surely a part of the cure.

And so, after students bring forward their food offerings and chant the Oli Mahalo, a Hawaiian gratitude chant, the feast at Pacific Quest begins, carrying our Makahiki celebrations to a joyful close. Traditionally, Makahiki begins and ends with the timing of the Makali’i, or Pleiades, in the night sky. At Pacific Quest, students can observe the Makali’i during their nightly meditations, though perhaps it is during the afternoon Makahiki feast when they have the brightest constellation of stars in their eyes.

December 8, 2016

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Thanksgiving Blessings: Gratitude and Grace

By: Theresa Hasting, LMHC
Primary Therapist

As I sat in my dining room with my seven guests for our annual Thanksgiving meal, I recounted what I was grateful for in my life. Thanksgiving is actually my favorite holiday, not because of what it represents in terms of American history, but because it is a day that I am able to celebrate my friends and family without the messy pressure of gift giving that comes with the Christmas holiday. As I sat down with my family and we exchanged our thoughts of thankfulness, I realized that I am most thankful for grace. The grace that gives me forgiveness when I have screwed up, that has taught me to be a better person, the grace I was given as I learned table etiquette and proper socialization (though I rarely employ those strategies these days), the grace to stumble as a daughter, wife, and mother, and finally the grace to be a human. I realize the amount of grace I have been given as I have navigated the years of my life and think about the students with whom I work and the amount of grace that they need.

Theresa Hasting PQ

Theresa Hasting, LMHC

I am grateful for the students and families I get to work with and feel honored to have the privilege to help these young people start the process of reworking their lives. It doesn’t always take on the first try, but the courage and bravery that I see when I am working with teens and their parents often amazes me. To allow themselves to be vulnerable about their deepest pains, even if they do in the messiest of ways, earns the right to given the same amount of grace I have been given in my life.

At Pacific Quest, we work hard to provide them with the grace they need to explore their inner experience, their family dynamics, and how they can learn to give themselves graces. Through my own years, I have realized that grace must ultimately come from within. To do this, we have to offer our students a firm but loving hand, working to join with them through creative, fun and meaningful interactions. The work in our gardens offers such a wonderful medium for this relationship to grow in. We are able to destroy and create whatever needs to be for the student to find meaning. At our fingertips is the ultimate metaphor for destruction and creation, death and renewal, loss and rejuvenation; the island itself, formed by the very fertile Pele.

The idea of grace is at the very core of what we do at Pacific Quest. We must give grace to our students having their process and acknowledging that change does not occur because we simply will it or give insight to it. Change happens because someone gave us the grace of their time and energy so that we could then transform our own inner grace into accepting cognitive change.

November 21, 2016

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PQ Presents at IECA Conference in New Orleans

By: Yvette Slagle, Communications Manager

Pacific Quest’s Clinical Director, Dr. Lorraine Freedle and Medical Director, Dr. Britta Zimmer recently co-presented at the 2016 Independent Educational Consultant Association conference in New Orleans.  Their presentation “The Gut Brain Connection: Emerging Trends in Integrative Health” began with the simple question, “What comes to mind when you hear the term ‘gut feeling’?”  Audience members commented “intuition,” “instinct,” and “trust”.  With more than 90 % of the body’s serotonin being created in the digestive tract, this collaborative presentation highlighted how “gut feelings” are real, and how a “second brain” consisting of millions of neural networks and micro bacteria work together to send signals from the gut to the brain.  Research suggests an imbalance in the gastrointestinal tract can lead to an imbalance in the brain resulting in a myriad of issues ranging from anxiety, depression, mood dysregulation and autoimmune disease.

Dr. Britta Zimmer and Denise Westman at IECA New Orleans

Dr. Britta Zimmer and Denise Westman at IECA New Orleans

The session focused on the importance of treating the whole person in an informed and targeted manner to maximize the effectiveness of treatment.  Dr. Zimmer shared current research that suggests inflammation in the gut directly correlates to inflammation in the brain, and the ways in which gut microbiota affects the state of mind.  She highlighted the importance of consuming probiotics found in yogurt and fermented foods.  In addition, she discussed inflammatory substances – processed foods, environmental toxins and emotional stress and the importance of decreasing inflammation in the body through sleep hygiene, physical activity, deep breathing and stress resiliency.

Following the presentation, Pacific Quest’s Outreach Director, Denise Westman, commented, “I’m always so energized after hearing my colleagues engaged and excited to learn more about this important work we are doing with our students. We are so fortunate to have Lorraine and Britta collaborating on such a timely subject and working closely together to positively impact our students.”

To learn more about Pacific Quest and our integrative, whole person approach, please visit the following links: