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Established 2004

June 10, 2018

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Crossing a Threshold: A Parent Testimonial

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

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

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

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

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

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

– PQ Alumni Parent

Dreaming In Red


May 1, 2018

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Personal Reflection: A Parent’s Testimonial

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

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

– Parent of PQ alumni student

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.

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.

August 19, 2016

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Family Fridays: We Have Our Son Back

By: Alumni Parent

If you are reading this, you might be a parent who is at the end of your rope and desperately looking to solve one of the biggest problems you have faced in your lifetime. I am so sorry you are where you are, it is excruciating. I know intensely how you feel, since I sat right in your spot about four months ago.

Prior to leaving for Pacific Quest my sixteen year old son was knee deep in a major depressive episode, self medicating with marijuana, and completely stalled in school. He was hopeless, demoralized, mostly shut down and his low points triggered suicidal thoughts. Our local doctors felt he was “showing improvement” but we never really made it off rock bottom for the good part of a year. My husband and I took a leap of faith and decided to be proactive instead of waiting until our son landed in the hospital or worse, which we knew was imminent. Remember you as parents are the only people who truly know your child. Trust your instincts!

Right now you are standing in a position to potentially save your child’s life. It is time for an intervention, and you are faced with the decision of where to turn for help. Do your best to take the guilt, pain, sadness, fear, anger, frustration, and disappointment you are feeling at this moment and toss it out the window. You need to find clarity to make the best decision to benefit your child’s long term health and well being.

If I had only known how well my son would be doing after a month at Pacific Quest it would have been a much easier decision. PQ was like a breath of fresh air after beating our heads against the wall for over a year. Each person that came in contact with my son was the best we had ever seen and had an unbelievable passion for their work. Pacific Quest provides a top notch platform for your child to completely reboot.

Alumni Parent Reflections | Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

A painting of my son that I did from a photo taken during his first month at PQ

Like many wilderness programs, PQ transports your child back to 1900 and they will live as their great grandparents did as children. Leaving behind TV, Netflix, Instagram, Snapchat, texting, Facebook, their music, video games, junk food and all the vices they were using to cope. Also left behind will be their friends, family and in my son’s case his varsity lacrosse team. Everything they have ever known gone in a flash! Just your child, the garden and their thoughts, hard work with tons of support.

Yes, it will take time to adjust but you will all survive. Pacific Quest stands in a category unto itself. Horticultural Therapy and overall wellness are the heart of the PQ approach. The kids learn how to restore the health of their mind and body through a clean diet, sleep, exercise, lots of internal work and lessons in the garden. As they progress through the challenging stages of growth in the program the reality of what they need to do to change the trajectory of their life comes into focus. Yes, this is all in a tropical environment, but it is no vacation your child will work hard and begin to own their choices.

Right now you most likely cannot imagine what it will be like to see a glimpse of that kid you raised, not the stranger living under your roof at the moment. That child who loved you unconditionally. Their lost essence will eventually reappear at Pacific Quest, and you will be eternally grateful.

When my husband and I saw our son at the Family Program we could not believe the transformation. The light in his brain had turned back on and he was absorbing everything he learned in the garden. He also stayed focused on the curriculum since it is a requirement of progressing towards graduation. How many wilderness programs have an academic curriculum in tandem with the therapeutic and wilderness component? Your child will be so happy to have those credits when they put the academic pieces back together.

After graduation from Pacific Quest, the focus will be on reintegration back into modern society. Your child will need continued support stepping back into their world, to face life’s challenges and pressures head on. Sustaining good habits takes practice, time and support. We chose to send our son directly to a therapeutic boarding school where he is continuing all the work he started at Pacific Quest. We are also working hard as a family to do the work we need to do to support our son and brother. We have implemented family behavioral goals which we created in the garden at PQ. At this point we are looking forward to reuniting as a family in six weeks for the first time in 8 months.

Change does not come easily, if it did everyone would do it overnight. The kids make tons of progress in wilderness weekly and are motivated to get home and back to their lives. Once they realize PQ may not be their only stop and it is going to be a marathon not a sprint, reality sets in and the life sustaining work begins. From that point forward they have to choose to really own their future choices. For our family the key was to find a place where our son could grow, learn, achieve success and also fail with the help of qualified staff supporting him every step of the way. At his new school he is working on regaining traction in his education, positive coping and social skills, positive identity development and we are all working on improvement of our family dynamics.

Sending your child away might be the most courageous decision you make in your life time. Wishing you peace as you embark on your journey.

May 20, 2016

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Family Fridays: Walking the parenting path together

By: Alumni Parent

I have stood in your shoes. I still wear them, although I am further up the path. My child was struggling to the point that sending him to Pacific Quest became our best choice. I had been scared, frustrated, sleepless and worried and deciding to send him so far away added a new, and unwelcome, level of fear to me. If this sounds familiar, then I bet it will also ring true that you are also afraid to hope that this will work. Our hope for our children is fragile, and though surprisingly tenacious, we have learned to hide it for fear that one more failure will finally crush it. I sent my child and my hope to Hawaii. Here’s how it turned out.

Before PQ: Our son had struggles on and off during high school. He was uneven in his academics, but passionate about his extracurriculars. During college however, he spiraled down into a serious depression. He had reached out to the mental health services at school at the urging of friends who saw him changing. He was going to therapy and was on medication. Then I had to drive to his school after he stopped responding to calls and texts. I found him in his room with the curtains drawn, piles of dirty clothes and garbage around him as he slept in his bed. He had barely gotten up, showered, eaten, etc. for the past few weeks. Take a picture and put it in a text book – this is full blown depression. We packed him up and took him home.

The next steps: therapy, medication, a day program that seemed to help him get some traction, then working during the summer full time but still exhausted from that effort. He insists that all the work he did over the past 5 months has given him enough knowledge and preparation to return to school for the Fall semester. By Thanksgiving he was struggling. He failed many classes due to absences and didn’t return for the Spring semester. Now what? He stayed home. More intensive therapy and changes in medication as he worked as a laborer. He was growing hopeless that his situation would change. He was embarrassed to fail and it was hard for him to watch his friends move on without him.

We started with a new therapist who said: weekly therapy and medication will help, but what your son really could benefit from is a more intensive experience to really do the hard work and process what is at the root.

What program could be right? Our choices were traditional wilderness programs or Pacific Quest. Traditional wilderness programs focused on physical challenge and isolation to lead to mental strength. Pacific Quest focused on horticultural work, exercise, diet, whole-being wellness and community along with therapy and processing to build the idea that people, like nature, are imperfect, but by adaptation, experience, and using resources we learn to thrive.

We had so many questions about programs: Can a program get someone mentally healthy in 10 weeks? Can a program modify his behaviors in 10 weeks? For us, the goal was wellness – inside and out – and to start to understand what it takes to maintain wellness. Everyone has overarching issues that will be broken into smaller pieces. He will struggle with practical and emotional obstacles with support of peers and professionals. He will begin to identify ways to grow and support the changes he experiences at PQ.

During the time at Pacific Quest: My son set the following goals for himself: accept the past and the future, love himself, think about the future as opposed to worrying about the future and look in the mirror to see — not to criticize.

Your child is not the only one doing work during this time. You and your family will work too. Weekly calls with your child’s therapist and working through the parent manual is an opportunity for growth for all of us. Confession: I wanted to avoid this component. Isn’t this program for him? The reality dawns on me that I want him to work at this hard stuff and I don’t want to work on this hard stuff. My child has to accept and do the work and I have the same choice. I chose to walk with him. I made the time and put forth my best effort.

What did my child learn at Pacific Quest? Increased ability to handle stress because he experienced stress in a healthy, safe place where the focus is learning these skills. Also, how to make healthy choices when stressed, how to reach out to process stress and discomfort and finding a way to move forward in a way that is healthy and sustainable. Another focus was the power of opening up and being vulnerable and how better relationships lead to self-acceptance.

How was this accomplished? There’s a lot to that answer, but here is some of it. First, individual therapy happens twice a week minimum. Therapy groups are also a part and they are staff-led and peer-led at times. Working with staff one-on-one to develop goals and impromptu peer one-on-ones where they reach out to one and other for support. Finally, there is exercise, in depth wellness with nutrition, curriculum and a lot of horticultural therapy and work.

ya-rites-1An interesting example for me was that my child struggled with quiet. Therefore, something like meditation was very difficult. A therapist discussed this with him and suggested that he learn about it by teaching it. So, my child was assigned to learn about meditation, practice it, journal about it, refine it and then he taught a class on it to his peers. The thinking was: Learn what you don’t know.

This is a lot of work for your child. It may be located in Hawaii, but it’s no vacation. There were many ups and downs that would be too long to chronicle. Again, it is by design that there is discomfort in this supportive environment so that the person actively learns the skills to handle obstacles in the real world.

Post Pacific Quest: During transition from PQ, our therapist took time to prepare us thoroughly for the road ahead. PQ is a start. It can be a foundation, but life isn’t easy and there will be setbacks and pitfalls ahead. A wise man that we know said: “Success isn’t measured in the day-to-day stuff. Success is measured by what happens when he falls into the same old hole. What is he doing to get out of the hole?” He is saying that by identifying what works and using what works, then the holes gets shallower. You build on those skills and build resiliency. Next, can you see the hole coming and avoid it?

When my son left PQ, he was excited to go back into the world. It took about five weeks for the first hole to appear. Somehow, he hadn’t embraced the idea that the “hole” or that a challenge would happen. It was very hard. He felt like a failure, but the foundation held. He got out of the hole and began again. There have been other holes. He is disappointed when they happen, but from the long view, some have been shallower and, more importantly, he does go back to the skills he learned and practiced at PQ.

Parting thoughts to those who are walking the path
If I could take away this struggle from you and your child, then I would. Just like you would like to spare your child what he or she is facing. However, there is no way around it. The only way is through it. I hope that you find the best fit for your family. The key thing to remember is that there is no magic. Neither Pacific Quest, nor any other program will take away the challenges of life. The real goal is to develop skills and form a foundation in a safe, therapeutic place so that our children are well prepared when their challenges occur.

May 6, 2016

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A letter of appreciation: Our son’s growth and our journey as parents

We are thankful to the entire Pacific Quest team who have chosen to help others in such a meaningful way. Our son graduated the program and has entered a new and healthier chapter in his life. While we know our son’s journey will continue to have ups and downs, it is nice to know he is moving on in a good place.parent_testimonial

We enjoyed reconnecting with our son when he transitioned out of Pacific Quest. He was in great spirits, very talkative and open and surprisingly, not very anxious (wow, what a change!). We talked about his experience at PQ and he shared some fine memories, including cooking chili for everyone. He shared some of the growth that he experienced, and importantly, demonstrated it through his mood and demeanor. He continues to be in a good mood and a joy to be around. Wow.

Integral to our son’s experience, and our’s as parents, was his primary therapist, Erin Gustin. We must admit that this has been a journey for us as parents as well. testimonial pic 2We feel like we have welcomed Erin into our homes and our family these past three months. We will miss those Wednesday evening pre-dinner phone sessions. It has been so instructive, helpful and insightful, including the ‘ups and downs’ of our son’s journey, sharing hopes and triumphs and frustrations. We want to thank Erin more than she can know for all she has done for our family!

April 8, 2016

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A Story of Hope: My Daughter’s Journey of Healing

By: Alumni Parent

My daughter spent three and a half months on the Big Island in your program and I will be forever grateful for all that she gained from being part of your program. I am writing this review in the hopes that other parents can gain a sense of hope.

My daughter started her life as a happy, dynamic, strong kid.  She had plenty of friends and was always engaged in whatever life had to offer her with a smile on her face. Her father and I divorced when she was 13, and she started to lose her ability to cope with life the following year. Her first negative coping mechanism was anorexia. Her weight went from 145 to 95 in a matter of three months. After many eating disorder programs, she turned to self harm by cutting herself. Extensive therapy helped but she still had a need to be numb from her pain of not being able to cope. She then turned to alcohol and lastly drugs. She had five psychiatric hospitalizations when she was 16. Her fifth hospitalization was when her dad and I knew she would not live if we kept her in regular society.  We needed help but did not know how to help her or us in finding help. Internet research and an educational consultant, pointed us in the direction of Pacific Quest.  I remember the first phone call and hearing the costs and feeling like it was so impossible to come up with that amount of money. We knew we needed to do everything in order to help our daughter.

I asked her father to bring her to PQ because I knew that drop off would be tough. I had no idea just how tough the first part of her PQ journey would be until we were in that first week together. She was stripped of every single negative coping mechanism that had carried her for the past two years. I knew she needed to go through that period but I also knew how hard it would be for her. That week was the first week in two years that I was able to really sleep. I knew we were starting a profound journey.PQ alumni review

As the PQ process continued, we were asked to participate in parenting therapy sessions.  We thought our divorce had gone so smoothly because we didn’t yell or hire expensive lawyers to fight anything out in court. We were very wrong. All of our anger had been under the surface and needed to be expressed. It was during this process where I started to realize that our way of coping with our divorce of not expressing feelings…had been passed on to our daughter.

Flying to PQ for parents’ weekend was another hurdle for us: we knew it would benefit her, but neither of us really wanted to do it.  We did though… and it did help our daughter. The lessons of how to talk to teenagers in a healthier space so that the words can actually be heard, was invaluable to me. Thank you so much PQ! Later, my youngest daughter has benefited greatly from that lesson. We were also faced with the realization that she could not be brought back to mainstream society yet.  After attending a longer term therapeutic program, she graduated from high school in December and is now a full time college student living in off campus housing with five other girls in her suite. She has a job and is taking classes to get her Bachelors in Sociology. She now says how grateful she is for going to PQ, and talks about working at PQ someday to give back to kids who have gone off course.

I cannot stress enough how close to leaving this earth my daughter was. The only coping skill that soothed her was to be numb from drugs. Pacific Quest not only saved my daughter but it saved me too. PQ provided a much needed basis of removing all the negative coping mechanisms and beginning to chip away at my daughter’s inability to find healthy coping skills. She was also taught the very important lesson at PQ that there is no such thing as normal. There are many different ways to be a human being and express the feelings that we all experience. My daughter was part of a program that encouraged health for her body and her mind when she was with PQ.

The appreciation for PQ can been seen in her most recent Facebook profile picture. Thank you PQ!

February 19, 2016

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A Letter of Gratitude: My Son’s Journey

Life-is-what-you-make-of-itAs many of you know, I don’t post much on FB and when I do, it’s rarely personal.  This is a long one and many will not finish.  I’m not posting it for sympathy or kudos.  I’m posting it for a few reasons – to let others know they are not alone, to thank a handful of people and for those who know someone to give them some support.  

Many years ago my son was asked ‘Did your mom prepare you for the path, or did she prepare the path for you?’ Interestingly enough our answers were different.   Over the past few years, my son has struggled with what is now being called ‘A Failure to Launch’.   It seems pretty rampant in kids of his generation – we as parents take care of everything and so our children never really learned how to cope with the negatives in life (aka We Prepared the Path!)  My son would go for periods of time where I didn’t worry about him and then something ‘bad’ would happen and he would turn to alcohol and drugs.  This had been going on for about seven years. I was told to kick him out, put him in the military, etc. Not an easy thing for a parent to do – he’s my son and I love him, how could I do that? The timing wasn’t right for either of us, until this past fall.   I’d reached my limit and told him he needed to get help or he was no longer welcome in my life.   You’d think that was the hard part, boy did I learn a lot over the next few days!

There are so many programs out there, how do you know what is the right one?  We both used the internet to try to find the right place – we wanted to deal with the cause, not just the the symptom (abuse).  Didn’t want somewhere local – at 23 he could check  himself out and his ‘friends’ would rescue him, didn’t want one that was AA or religion based, etc..   With so many options – how do you know what works, what doesn’t.  I’d heard stories of people going bankrupt and of kids that were on their nth program.  We’d been told not to send him to any type of program in Florida, we wanted a wilderness program… it was daunting!   And then we lucked out when we called a program that recommended an Educational Consultant.   What a god send.  So here is my first THANK YOU –  Dick Baroody!  Dick spent hours with my son (and I) to find out what the issue was, what motivated him, my thoughts and feelings and then he recommended four places.  Places that he had personally been to and he felt would work for my son.  We looked at them, but my son got the final say.  He picked Pacific Quest – in Hawaii (I know, I should have a problem that sends me to Hawaii!), based on horticultural therapy and Hawaiian principles of life.   All in my son’s wheelhouse!   He decided on October 23rd  that PQ was the program that he would go to ‘for me’.  The next morning at 9:00AM we boarded a plane to DC, that would eventually find us in LAX. He to continue on to Hilo and me back to PA.  Dick worked with PQ to expedite the process and while we were in the air, my neighbor faxed all the paperwork!  Putting my son on that last leg was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  I watched the gate close and as we texted each other our final good-byes and love you’s the doubt and insecurity was overwhelming.   And right on cue, Dick was texting/calling me – giving me the support I needed to stay strong.    My son landed some five hours later and PQ sent me a text that they had him.  They took his phone and his laptop and I was now dependent on others to take care of my baby!

Here is my second THANK YOU – Andrea Sussel!  She was my son’s therapist during his stay at PQ.   She and Dick kept me informed and kept me SANE.  While their main goal was to help my son, they also helped me.   When I had my doubts they gave me encouragement, when my son signed himself out, they were right there with me in spirit, helping me to stay strong, they prepared me for his ‘rescue’ letter (that letter that says this place is a prison, they abuse me, etc… — come on who won’t believe their kid over complete strangers!)   They gave me weekly updates and PQ sent me pictures. Over the first 6+ weeks I felt that my son was gaming them, I worried that it wasn’t working.  And then something clicked – maybe it was just time, maybe it was the Impact letters- don’t know and don’t care, I started to see a difference.  And then he did his Rite of Passage.  I will not go into the details – they are kept secret for a reason, but that phone call on December 24th – it was the BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT EVER.   My son was committed to being sober, he was looking forward to going to a Transition House, he knew that he couldn’t come home now and maybe ever… all the arguments I was prepared for – were gone.   Dick and I talked and he came up with three Transition programs for us to look at.    So here’s my third THANK YOU, to the program manager at the Transition program.   He and my son had a long talk (as did I) and it seemed the right fit.

On January 6th my son completed his stay at Pacific Quest.  We got to spend two days trying to fit in as much as we could before he left Hawaii (yes, he wants to go back, who wouldn’t!) and on January 9th we parted in Phoenix, him for Denver and me back home.  Was it hard – Yes.  But as he said to me on October 24th as he boarded the plane to  Hilo – “I got this mom”.   He was ready to face the next step in this journey.  He’s been in Denver for a little over a week and he seems happy, he’s working on finding an internship, he’s settled in, has gotten back into rock climbing and disc golf…

And it is a journey… he needs to learn how to cope, how to pick himself up when life knocks him down, to be independent.    I need to learn to let him make his mistakes and let him clean up after!  I need to  embrace the positive and forget the negative (forgive and forget!)   We both have a long way to go and for the first time in years I really believe that we can make it.   And now to my last THANK YOU – to those friends that were there daily over the past three months (okay past seven years!) – you know who you are!   There were others that showed support – but not a day went by that one of these amazing women didn’t reach out just to see how I was doing (my neighbor had an edge as we walk our dogs together every day!).  All texted me in Hawaii on my first day there asking how I was doing and how my son was.    While Dick was wonderful – they were extraordinary!   And I know they will continue to be my support team.

There is so much more I could write and that will have to wait for another day!   And one last THANK YOU to all that have helped my son and I on this  journey…

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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