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Established 2004

January 13, 2018

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Why is Group Therapy Important?

By:  Genell Howell, Primary Therapist

Every week, therapists at Pacific Quest lead two group therapy sessions with students in the field.  Why is this form of therapy important?  This setting allows for greater accessibility of students to share some of the issues that they’ve been holding on to as well as develop greater trust within the group.  In addition, it helps students develop a psychoeducational understanding of some of the areas they struggled with at home.

Genell Howell, MA, CSAC

I recently led a session with an adolescent Kuleana group, where we began to examine the concept of our life narrative through art therapy depicting peaks and valleys.  In this group, we used pastels and paper and drew mountains to signify the wonderful aspects of our lives, and valleys or gulches depicted the more difficult times. Students were given creative reign and interpretation to create as many canyons, rigid cliffs and elated peaks within their artistic depictions. We discussed how the peaks represented the high points of their life and the valleys the more challenging times.  Once students created their masterpieces we processed the experience of creating our images, as well as interpreted what they signified to us.

By creating a narrative that allows students to reflect on their life story they build greater emotional resiliency, introspection, and rational detachment. Instead of staying stuck in limiting beliefs such as “it will always be this way” or “it will never get better” students reflected on the ebb and flow of life as well as ways to modulate the highs and lows through healthy coping strategies.  Some of the initial coping strategies that we discussed was what worked to pull one through the harder times in their lives prior to attending Pacific Quest, and what they were using now that they were in the program. Some of the new strategies included working in the garden, incorporating mindfulness, and learning how to play the ukulele.

Due to the forming aspect of the group we were able to incorporate some of Dr.Brené Brown’s psychoeducational research on shame resiliency.  According to Dr. Brown, “shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.”  Dr. Brown’s shame resiliency theory bases the ability to gain connection by practicing authenticity within healthy prosocial communities. In the art of developing shame resiliency there is greater movement towards compassion and self empathy and movement away from fear, blame and disconnection.   Students were able to define how they often hide their emotions and life experiences due to the shame of feeling different or the fear of rejection.

In addition, we discussed the importance of being in a prosocial community where one can feel heard, authentic, and have a sense of belonging, which is a vital component to the healing process. The seed of vulnerability was planted as an area of growth as they continue to form a positive peer group throughout their stay, which is a vital part of the program.

See Dr. Brené Brown’s Ted Talk here:

The Power of Vulnerability

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.

March 7, 2017

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Pacific Quest Video Series :: Dr. Robert Voloshin, Integrative Psychiatrist

“Happiness, fulfillment, and joy in everyday life should be the bar we set… instead of taking an extreme view, I strive to take a wise, balanced, and integrative approach.” -Dr. Voloshin

Pacific Quest has an incredible new member of our Clinical and Wellness teams, Dr. Robert Voloshin, Integrative Psychiatrist. Dr. Robert Voloshin is leading the Integrative Psychiatry team at Pacific Quest with the goal of cultivating mental health for our students. The Pacific Quest integrative psychiatric model is unique in its methods of treatment.  It combines psychiatric care with naturopathic medicine allowing treatment to be individualized to the needs of each student, achieving a dynamic and comprehensive treatment approach.

Dr. Robert Voloshin: Pacific Quest Integrative Psychiatrist

“Integrative psychiatry is a way of approaching adolescents and young adults from multiple different perspectives. We use the perspectives of modern psychiatry, naturopathic medicine, developmental psychology and family systems to understand the young people and families we work with …”

As a lifelong observer of the human condition, he was innately curious about “what makes us well and what makes us sick.” Through medical school, residency, fellowship and beyond, his training in psychology and psychiatry led him to the conclusion that the origins of our mental health or lack thereof stems from our early years and our family systems, which led to his pursuit of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Read More

February 20, 2017

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Eating Disorder Treatment: A Different Approach at PQ

By: Andrea Sussel, MSS, LCSW

It’s time to talk about it

Eating Disorder Treatment: A Different Approach From Traditional Models | Pacific Quest

Andrea Sussel, MSS, LCSW

The National Eating Disorders Association has created National Eating Disorders Awareness (#NEDAwareness) Week to shine the spotlight on eating disorders and put life-saving resources into the hands of those in need. This year’s theme is It’s Time to Talk About It. Andrea Sussel, PQ Therapist, shares how we can make that happen without doing further harm.

Eating disorders, food and body image are not easy things to discuss. Conversations can be riddled with unintended triggers, for example, I have heard from many people who are in recovery say that when someone tells me I look “healthy” they instead hear “you look fat”. So how do we discuss these issues without contributing to the struggles of another?

  1. Focus on what our bodies can DO and how they FEEL, not on how they LOOK.
    Because our approach is one of whole-person wellness, students can begin to focus on what their bodies need and how their bodies feel versus how they look. While this is occurring, we are simultaneously providing a lot of education – including lots of research – about whole-body, whole-person wellness. From a programmatic perspective, shifting this focus includes de-emphasize mirror gazing (at PQ we have very few to begin with) and also having students wear clothes that are loose fitting and uniform.
  2. Remember that exercise and movement is for our physical and mental health, not for weight loss.
    Experiencing what are bodies can do, and moving them shamelessly is an essential part of healing from an eating disorder. At PQ, we educate our students about metabolism and how food as fuel translates into a greater capacity to live our lives with more vibrant energy. Movement takes the form of working in the garden, yoga, swimming, weekend hikes, and daily core workouts. It takes reinforcement to rewire the societal messages that tell us to exercise to control weight. At Pacific Quest, we move for a higher quality existence, one that helps us feel more connected to our bodies and our passions.
  3. Speak up when we hear “Fat Talk”, don’t let it go unaddressed.
    Pacific Quest is a Fat Talk free zone. Having appropriate boundaries about what we can and can’t talk about helps not only break the pattern of negative self talk, but gives space to encourage new and healthier patterns to emerge. PQ is also “lookism free”. Lookism is defined as a “construction of a standard for beauty and attractiveness, and judgments made about people on the basis of how well or poorly they meet the standard.” At Pacific Quest, you can be healthy at any size. We don’t subscribe to one “look” being beautiful – all looks, shapes, and sizes are!
  4. Remember, food is medicine.
    Sometimes what isn’t being said is just as important as what is. Getting involved in food preparation can be a healing activity, as individuals start to rebuild their relationship with food. And at Pacific Quest, growing your own food is akin to teaching someone how to fish; learning and beginning to appreciate that entire developmental process can lead to lifelong shifts in understanding and healing. Students have the opportunity to learn about their own relationship with/to food as well as the relationship with their body. The place where these two relationships overlap is in the garden, making Horticultural Therapy a powerful therapeutic modality. There is also a lot of healing that comes from preparing your own food in a community setting. Because Pacific Quest is not a primary eating disorder program, students with eating disorder patterns are able to observe and “rise to” the normative eating habits of the rest of the group.

The Pacific Quest model imparts skills to make progress and healing sustainable for eating disorder recovery for a lifetime: You learn how to truly feed all your hungers at Pacific Quest.

February 23, 2016

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Time for Change: Horticultural Therapy Can Help Your Teen this Spring

The seasons are a powerful force; they affect all human beings—our behaviors, choices and even moods. The reasons behind this are science-based; greater exposure to sunlight, has been found to decrease melatonin production and increase dopamine release, lessening our urge to sleep and brightening our outlook on life.

“The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.” -Harriet Ann Jacobs

With a little boost from Mother Nature, spring is the optimal time to consider enrolling a depressed teen in a Horticultural Therapy program. It’s a time for rejuvenation and fresh starts, and it begins March 19.

Horticultural Therapy at Pacific Quest

Pacific Quest’s program parallels the stages of growth and change natural to mother earth. The garden is our classroom, and its natural wonders teach students life skills that are easily transferable in all aspects of life. This experiential environment is life-affirming and pairs well with a clinical treatment plan that seeks to motivate and inspire positive change. From promoting a healthy lifestyle to creating a true sense of purpose, Horticultural Therapy can benefit most teens and young adults struggling with depression.

A Budding Healthy Lifestyle

Horticultural Therapy puts students in direct contact with the food they eat. By planting, growing and gathering their own crops, students learn the importance of organic, whole foods that come from the earth. Simultaneously, students engage in moderate physical activity outdoors (both structured and unstructured) and end the day with a full night’s sleep. This daily schedule has a significant impact on mental well-being and has been proven to help reduce symptoms of depression.

A Growing Purpose

As students develop their routine, a growing sense of purpose naturally develops within. By working together in the garden, students develop the positive feelings of being able to give back something valuable to someone who has given something to them (reciprocity), building self-esteem and self-worth. It’s lessons like these, learned in a Horticultural Therapy program, that transfer to real life and make an impact long after spring has faded into summer, fall and winter.

A Blossoming New Outlook

Practical coping skills that teens can stick to provide the foundation for a new outlook on life and what it means to each individual. Depression is a serious illness that should be treated with proven, effective methods. Horticultural Therapy has been documented as a successful method for treating depression, anxiety and trauma since the dawn of humanity. Egyptian pharaohs were prescribed daily nature strolls to treat mood instability, and Greek philosophers preferred green, lush gardens as their classrooms for teaching meaningful life lessons. Going back to basics helps depressed teens see themselves, and the world around them, in a fresh way. Students who participate in a spring Horticultural Therapy program plant the seeds of recovery that will blossom and serve them all year long.

For more information on Pacific Quest’s Horticultural Therapy programs, and how we treat teen depression, download our free brochure today.
Download our Defining Features brochure

February 16, 2016

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5 Secrets to Successful Parental Support

Successful teen recovery starts with an understanding of the things parents can do to help. The foremost of support groups, parental aid revolves around recognizing not only the things that cause trouble for teens, but identifying what parents themselves can improve on, and various paths we can take to help our teens recover. Below are five often overlooked tips that may illuminate the proper course of action.

  1. Don’t be a Secret Monger

Parents tend to have a proclivity for maintaining an overbearing presence. Somewhere between monitoring social streams and doling out repercussions for misbehavior, the sense of appropriate discipline is lost. By preparing every step of the way, teens lose the ability to learn from their mistakes; to think independently. Parents want transparency, but helicopter parenting is becoming the prominent cultural phenomenon, rather than the alternative, a reinforcement of independence.

Teens need to be able to keep some secrets. Privacy given to teens can be empowering, because the responsibility and integrity involved is crucial in development of character. Without trust, defiance and rebellion occur more naturally, and the process of opening up in times of turmoil becomes difficult. By jumping into the breach for them, parents stunt cognitive functional growth and confidence.

>>> For more information on the overparenting trap, click here.

  1. Participate in Therapy

Family involvement in the therapeutic model, including therapeutic wilderness programs for teens, provides a foundation for recovery. Struggles found in a teen are often mirrored in the strain faced by the family system at home. It goes without saying that parental participation in the recovery process is essential. At Pacific Quest, family involvement is an integral part of the program. Incorporating weekly counselor discussions through phone calls, and what we refer to as “meaningful communication,” students progress from letter-writing to phone and Skype calls, learning all-the-while the weight of therapeutic interaction. When the time comes, and a teen is ready to talk about more important subjects: listen attentively and offer input, but avoid unnecessary admonishment.

  1. Stop Walking on Eggshells

Contrary to common action, pampering teens in their defiance does not correlate with genuine good behavior. “It’s just a phase” is no longer acceptable in the vernacular of a responsible parent. In reality, challenging the teen’s poor decisions often leads to a self-reflective questioning of behavioral choices, and encourages them to take a step back. Therapists use this tactic frequently.

Alas, teens can’t always take this kind of advice directly from their parents. The discipline associated with parent-child relationship removes the ability for some adults to be an unconditionally receptive audience. Instead, teens need to hear these challenges from someone on an even keel, such as a peer or counselor—someone who sees the error in their action, has the ability to express it without reservation and does not invoke disdain due to a difference in opinion.

  1. Consider a Change in Environment

Parents tend to fall victim to ingratiating behavior mentioned above when dealing with defiant teens and, gone unnoticed, the relationship can border on sycophantic. When tactics used at home fail to constructively address poor conduct on multiple occasions, one of the most important options to consider is a new environment.

The same repetitive consequences and benign atmosphere will not cater to a positive recovery. Either the stimuli or the people must change. One effective approach is to consider a complete overhaul, and to change locale. What better place than Hawaii?

  1. Find the Proper Support

Direct one-on-one counseling may not be the best option, if a teen’s issues get out of hand. Consider the alternative in wilderness therapy, a holistic approach to health and wellness that combines the calming effect of natural surroundings with the support of individualized therapy. Pacific Quest offers an all-encompassing take on wellness and recovery by offering therapeutic wilderness programs for teens that redefine behavioral therapy and motivates change.

As a Pacific Quest alumni parent once said, “Our family is extremely grateful for Pacific Quest! Our son has returned to his true self. There really are no words to say what we want to say, ya’ll are amazing!”

The peaceful environment perpetuated at Pacific Quest supports positive peer culture, and allows students to gain a greater understanding of self and their own place in the world. This outlook is intended to influence them throughout their lifetime in significant ways. If you are interested in finding out more about our programs, please feel free to call us at 808.937.5806
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February 2, 2016

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Battling Anxiety with Group Therapy for Teens

The results of group therapy vary from one participant to the next, but the benefits are well documented. Group therapy presents a different model of recovery that removes some of the variables present in one-on-one sessions, particularly for those suffering from social anxiety. Group therapy does away with a more severe approach, and offers further motivation for goal-setting and progress.

Some doctors who study cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) believe group therapy should be one of the first choices for treatment. Group therapy offers effective treatment in certain settings where limited resources exist for mental health treatment. Also, the structure of group therapy offers a unique dynamic that is difficult to recreate in one-on-one treatment.

In-vivo Exposure

Some may read this post and immediately think: How does group therapy help a teen get over social anxiety? Isn’t group therapy, by nature, a social activity? Won’t group therapy for teens aggravate the condition? On a surface level, this is true, but the issue itself is directly addressed by the action of participation. Experts studying cognitive behavior therapy call this approach in-vivo exposure. The benefit of this therapeutic model is that through exposure to the triggers of anxiety, the disquieting signals that the brain sends in times of distress are trained to readjust to a more accurate train of thought. The brain stops sending misinformation, and the situation seems less daunting.

A Collaborative Effort

Though the difference may seem clear to some, many people fail to see the collaborative therapeutic nature of the relationships built from group therapy for teens. With the presence of facilitation, the impartiality of peer therapy-goers lends a comfort to a participant that is otherwise absent from sessions. In essence, the formality is laid to rest because the comments of the other participants are, in some cases, taken more seriously than those made by the therapist. The result is a more open and free-form adoption of the therapeutic model chosen by the counselor.

Negative emotional responses to key triggers are also diminished, because of the structure of group therapy. By listening to their peers identify similar problems, a process of normalization occurs. Participants are then capable of not only putting away feelings of deficiency and isolation, they can replace them naturally with camaraderie and acceptance.

Group Therapy for Teens and Young Adults

Group therapy for teens at Pacific Quest focuses on family dynamics and group mechanics with shared struggles and experiences. The peer relationships formed within therapy lend their way to active participation in talks about pressures the students are facing in their personal lives, and the troubling aspects of topics such as: academics, social media, drug use, dating, family dilemmas and more. This, in combination with community meetings, program-guided sessions and challenges, provide students a forum to work through their trials and accomplish their goals.

If your teen is dealing with anxiety or depression, click here to download this parent’s guide:

Download Guide

December 18, 2015

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PQ Therapists Immersed In Art and Sandplay Therapy Training

Sandtray Hale- Kau-1Eight Pacific Quest therapists are currently immersed in the Empowerment and Transformation experiential art and sandplay therapy training program based on the principles of Jungian psychology and the neuropsychology of expressive therapy.  Training began in September and will continue until May, 2016. Therapists meet monthly to practice art therapy techniques using mediums such as paint, oil pastels, collage, nature art, and sandplay therapy. Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Clinical Director and international teacher in Jungian sandplay teaches the course.

Freedle states, “It is an honor to bring this powerful training to our team at Pacific Quest.  These methods deepen the already robust treatment experience for our students and can really accelerate progress, especially for those who struggle to express their emotions.”

Carl Jung defines the goal of psychotherapy as wholeness of personality through successive encounters with the “lost parts” of ourselves.  These parts include our wounds as well as inner resources. Expressive methods like art and sandplay therapy provide a safe and intensive way to access and work through emotional pain to uncover potential – making it possible to move forward in life with a sense of wholeness, meaning and purpose.

Here’s what Pacific Quest therapists are saying about the training:

“This training presents me with a unique opportunity to learn professionally and grow personally.  It shows me through direct personal experience something powerful that I can share with my students. I’m very grateful to be a part of it.” 

Melissa Fuka, LMSW, LSW

“Sandplay is another modality to help students explore their inner stories, integrating their logical mind with their emotions without relying on words. This training affords practitioners a deeply personal opportunity to understand the healing process from the student’s perspective.

-Theresa Hasting, LPC-S, LMHC

“As a practitioner I like sandplay because I can do more while talking less; I just find it easier to get in-depth without all the limits of language.”

-John Souza Jr., DMFT, LMFT

“This training makes me a better therapist.  Lorraine instills a great respect for the inner quest of the human experience and the relationship between the world we see with our eyes and the world we feel with our heart. I am humbled by the opportunity to weave together the mystery of the sand with the mystery of the Earth and for many of our students, nothing could be more therapeutic!”

-Travis Slagle, MA

December 10, 2015

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Experience Family Counseling, The Pacific Quest Way!

The “nature of the family” or family life, can feel like its own ecosystem sometimes, rife with all the flora and fauna, predators and prey one would find in nature, and in this way, family counseling can be an equally confusing and intimidating venture. In his defining work challenging the modern understanding of family dynamics, Dr. Murray Bowen introduced a core set of concepts to help define and understand these complex relationships.

Now referred to as “Family Systems Theory,” this method has begun to supplant traditional family therapy (that tends to focus on the individual family members) by focusing on the family as a wholly connected unit. This way of approaching various contentions within the group allows the family to heal itself organically through shared learning, and to really get at the root of discovering the kinds of behaviors and personality types that may be causing issues to arise.

Into the Wild

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “Psychologist Scott Bandoroff, PhD, launched the field of ‘wilderness family therapy’ in 1990 when he observed that young people who had made great gains on wilderness therapy trips tended to lose ground when they got home, the result of returning to negative family dynamics.”

However, Wilderness Therapy has been shown to be highly effective not only for the individual, but also for family groups—and it seems these results tend to be long lasting for the families involved as well. Studies of the effectiveness of wilderness therapy performed at the Menninger Residential Treatment Program in 2001 determined that “parents and youth reported a significant decline in problems from admission to three months after completing the program, and these gains from treatment lasted up to 12 months after completing the program (Leichtman, Leichtman, Barber, & Neese, 2001).” A later study at the Alpine Academy in 2005 found “families reported significant improvement in child behavior, parental effectiveness, and parent–child relationships when compared with similar difficulties in families who were referred for the service but not served (Lewis, 2005)”.

Blazing a Trail Together

To put this approach into practice, organizations such as Pacific Quest have led the way in founding Wilderness Therapy programs to offer help to struggling families. Many of these families may be seeking a break in the negative cycles of their own family dynamics, and the therapeutic models of “sustainable growth” as cultivated in Pacific Quest’s family therapy programs seek to address this through targeted aims such as:

  • Enhancing Communication
  • Increasing Empathy
  • Developing Usable Conflict Resolution Skills
  • Increasing Awareness
  • Sustaining Familial Growth

Untangling the knots in family relationships can be difficult and painful, and the environment can sometimes seem to make things worse.  Allowing for a change in locations alone can be a powerful instrument for change, and taking the steps to learn and accept the family dynamic as a whole just may be the natural catalyst a family needs for positive growth. If you believe your family may need help, feel free to reach out to us at 808.937.5806.

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November 30, 2015

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Parenting an Adopted Teen

Parenting a teenager is no small feat. As children work their way through adolescence, they struggle with issues of identity, independence, peer pressure, and anxiety about the future. For adopted teens, these issues are often compounded with thoughts about their birth families and why they were given up for adoption. That combination of stressors can sometimes be volatile, leading to risky or out-of-control behavior, which, in turn, can negatively affect the entire family’s well-being. Adoption Awareness Month, November, is a good time to take a look at some of the issues that are known to manifest in adopted teens.

Drug and Alcohol Use

Many teens experiment with drugs and alcohol, but adopted teens may abuse these substances to deal with, or numb their feelings about issues concerning adoption, who or where their biological family is, whether they have siblings. In addition, adopted teens with a history of substance abuse in their biological families are twice as likely to develop their own substance abuse problems.

Running Away from Home

Teens most often run away in a misguided attempt to solve a problem. For adopted teens, that could mean endeavoring to escape from the pressures of having to figure out who they are, and where they fit in the world. Some teens run away in an attempt to find their biological families. This is even more likely if the adoptive parents react negatively to the teen’s request for information about their birth families.

Problems with Sibling Relationships

Sibling rivalries occur in almost every family but can happen more frequently when an adopted teen has siblings who are the parents’ biological children. The adopted teen may feel like an outsider, while the siblings may resent the turmoil caused by the adopted teen.

While almost all adopted teens can benefit from working closely with a counselor, struggling teens exhibiting these behaviors may need more intensive help. Family therapy can be extremely beneficial, especially if the adopted teen’s struggles are impacting the well-being of the entire family. Another option is to enroll the teen in a wilderness therapy program like the one offered by Pacific Quest. Pacific Quest gives teens a safe, positive environment where they can work through their problems with the guidance of a highly trained staff and the support of a peer group. We’re here to answer any questions you may have about how to help the adopted teen in your life.