Call us at  808.937.5806
Established 2004

November 15, 2017

Written by:

Letting It Out, Letting It Go

By: Theresa Hasting, LMHC, Clinical Supervisor

As students come and go in waves, I have seen an upsurge in students experiencing complicated grief issues.  Mostly recently, I’ve worked with four students within a six month period who have experienced the loss of a parent; through long-term sickness, suicide, and unexpected accidental death.  What these students have in common is they had not previously experienced their grief and instead turned to unhealthy coping skills to express their emotional responses. Each of these students had experienced this loss several years prior to their enrollment at Pacific Quest.

Theresa Hasting, LMHC
Clinical Supervisor

As we work with each student in their journey, we have many tools for the expression and healing of grief.  One of the most successful interventions for this is using nature.  Through the life and death cycle of plants in the garden, students can safely relate their own experience.  As students explore this cycle in the safety of the garden, they are also working to care for the land and given tasks of nurturing untended garden beds.  Through this nurturance they are able to find a motivation for self-nurturance, which allows the defensive walls to tumble down, exposing the vulnerabilities they have covered with maladaptive coping skills and letting out their anguish.

Once in this place of vulnerability, we further utilize our setting to process and memorialize their experience.  Students have created memorial beds, worked in the compost, and used ceremony/Rites of Passage as ways to concretely mark their process.  In additional to the work on the land, I have seen tremendous work happen around grief in our Sandplay trays, where students are able create their inner experiences using symbols and the sand, where words have previously failed them. Having personally witnessed these students, it is amazing to me, each time, the healing power students are able to access through their work in nature and in relation to others as they let it out and let it go.

April 19, 2017

Written by:

Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep

By: Pauli Richardson, Wellness Coordinator

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

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

Tips for Healthy Sleep Hygiene


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

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


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

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

HEALTHY HABITSHelpful Tips to Improve Sleep - Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy

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

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

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

October 19, 2016

Written by:

Pacific Quest expands capacity to provide EMDR

By: Teresa Bertoncin, LPCC, LMFT, Primary Therapist

Pacific Quest is excited to announce that a cohort of 13 of its clinical staff recently attended EMDR training with Dr. Roger Solomon, a Senior Faculty Member of the EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Institute, as they work to join PQ therapists already certified in the practice of EMDR.

Trauma is the body and mind’s response to unprocessed disturbing life events. Unresolved trauma is at the core of many psychological disorders—some more obvious than others, for example Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Yet, trauma is often also at the root of many anxieties, phobias, panic attacks, eating disorders, pain, hyper-vigilance, interrupted sleep, self esteem issues and addictions—many of the symptoms we see here at PQ. Trauma symptoms are often difficult to resolve, particularly with adolescents or young adults, because it may not be obvious that the experienced symptoms are related to trauma.

EMDR training recently offered to clinical staff at Pacific Quest

Teresa Bertoncin, LPCC, LMFT

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a well-established approach to psychotherapy and is an evidence-based treatment proven to be effective in trauma resolution. EMDR therapy is very effective at calming and healing in a short span of time. By focusing on a thought associated with traumatic memories it is very specific and direct. It evokes and integrates information on three levels—cognitive, emotional and somatic—very often targeting a negative cognition or a negative self-belief; I’m unlovable, I’m ugly, I’m unsafe, etc. By tracking physical sensations and feelings in the body, and using eye movements and bilateral stimulations, the negative beliefs become dislodged, replaced with positive beliefs about oneself, while using this positive experience to support a future template of adaptive wholeness.

EMDR has proven to be particularly effective, when working with students in a contained and structured outdoor setting that PQ provides. So often it is not trauma per se, but the student’s unrelenting incongruent beliefs or negative cognitions they have about themselves, that drove the behaviors that led them to PQ. In the safe, tranquil and natural environment at PQ with limited distractions, we have the opportunity to get to the root of trauma more organically than in an outpatient setting. By using the detailed EMDR protocols and procedures therapists help clients activate their natural healing processes fairly rapidly.

As much as the body is capable of recovering from physical trauma, EMDR therapy shows that the mind can heal from psychological trauma. Let’s say you’re walking on a lava field and fall and cut your knee. It might be immediately painful, but the body works naturally to close the wound. If however, there are some lava fragments that had not been cleaned out properly, or you keep bonking your knee up against something, the wound will fester and cause ongoing pain. Yet healing resumes once the block is eliminated. We get stuck in trauma when the brain’s information processing system is blocked by the impact of a distressing event, intense suffering ensues, but once the block is removed the brain, like the body, moves naturally towards mental health. The brain is equipped to manage and handle adversity, and EMDR therapy helps the psyche activate its natural healing process.

June 18, 2015

Written by:

Five Tips for Meaningful Communication with Your Teen

Communication is a precious life skill, and teaching your teen how to effectively communicate will not only help them throughout their adolescence, but their entire adult life as well. However, preaching to, or nagging at, your teen to open up to you usually isn’t the best route. Common problems for teenagers, such as bullying, body issues, underage drinking and others can be difficult for your teen to talk about. Here are five tips to help you experience meaningful and effective communication with your teen:

1. Give them options

When teens shut down communication on a tender subject, Dr. Fred Peipman suggests giving them options on how they would prefer to communicate on the issue. Let your teen know they can talk with you later on, write to you in an email or risk losing out on the opportunity to influence your decision making. Preferences vary from teen to teen, so encourage your child to communicate their feelings via the medium that makes them feel most comfortable.

3. Maintain a respectful tone

One of the quickest ways to get your child to shut down is to use a condescending, “parental” tone. Make it a priority to keep all communication respectful and to never raise your voice. According to research published in the journal Child Development in 2013, yelling at your kids can be just as bad as spanking and can possibly lead to emotional development issues and/or behavioral problems including vandalism and violence. Slow down your reactions and remind yourself to practice active listening and heartfelt responses.

3. Incorporate a meal

“Hangry”: It’s a combination of being hungry and angry, and it’s a very real emotion for your teen. Always make sure your child has been well fed before attempting a heavy conversation. Talking over a meal is also suggested, as it gives all parties something to do with their hands, making everyone feel less awkward.

4. Be mindful of body language

When communicating with your teen, you must be aware of both your and their body language. Make eye contact (but not too intense) and keep your hands and feet still, avoiding wild gesticulation. Body language can lend clues to common problems for teenagers, so educate yourself on the signs.

5. No monologues

If you want your teen to communicate with you, you have to be open to listening. Approach the situation first with your undivided attention and understanding. Process what your child is really saying, rather than spending the time attempting to think up a response. Once it’s time for you to speak, keep it honest and to the point. You may feel like lecturing your child, but you will often get the best interaction when you allow room for a healthy rapport.

Engaging in meaningful conversation with your teen is the first step to a healthy, happy relationship. If you’re still having difficulties getting your teen to open up, Pacific Quest can help. Pacific Quest’s therapists utilize many communication techniques in our Wilderness Therapy program which have proven to be successful.

Download the Adolescents Program Guide

November 8, 2010

Written by:

Tweet Tweet

Tweet Tweet: The Negative Impact of Technology - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

I apologize in advance for the irony in the title, as I am using social networking to bring attention to the negative impact of technology.  It seems contradictory, but blogging and other social media tools are very effective in sharing information.  So later in this article when you read that you should limit your computer time, please wait until the end of the article to do so:)

Calling the attention of policy makers, school administrators, teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers, parents, aunts and uncles…  basically EVERYONE!  Children are in need of your undivided attention.  Children demand face to face interaction to promote psychological development and well being.  With the rise of technology, rough and tumble outdoor play and imaginary games are being replaced by the unilateral LCD screen, otherwise known as television, computer, cell phone, ipod, ipad, etc.   While research is emerging regarding the individual and societal effects of the rise of technology, momentum to teach balance to children is likely not going to come from the top down.  The movement has to start with educating parents and teaching them to role model and draw boundaries with their children regarding how much screen time is okay.

A group called Zone In, based out British Columbia, has assembled a fascinating “fact sheet” that addresses various facets of the impact of technology on child development, behavior, and academics.  They cite academic articles pertaining to developmental delays, obesity, psychological disorders, psychotropic medication, child development, academic performance, declining empathy, media violence, cyberbullying, and technology addiction.  Each article they present suggests a correlation between technology overuse and varying symptoms.  A 2010 article cited by Zone In reports a scary statistic:

Elementary aged children now average 8 hours per day using a combination of technologies (TV, video games, internet, cell phones and iPods), with total amount of exposure time averaging 11 hours per day. Two thirds of children report their parents do not restrict their access to technology, and 75% of these children have TV’s in their bedrooms (Kaiser Foundation Report 2010).

This fact is terrifying! Children demand dyadic interaction with real people.  This stimulates adequate development of sensory integration, motor skills and interpersonal attachment. It is difficult parenting in this day and age of technology.  Parents attention is often whisked away to their iphone or blackberry, as business, social networking, and news is at the palms of their hands.  How is mom or dad supposed to tell their child not to text at the dinner table when they have their blackberries out responding to work emails?

The answer is not simple but it can start with parenting.  Parents need to hold themselves to the same standard of that which they hold their children.  For instance, limiting technology interaction outside of school and work can be a solid first step.  Parents can model this by replacing technology time with family games, outings, and conversation.  Kids need help setting limits, and this is where parenting comes in.  Limiting time on facebook, twitter, youtube, television, and videogames is very important.  Parents should be hyperaware of their child’s technology use and help them to balance it.  The main thing for parents to teach is moderation, as technology skills are a crucial aspect of the 21st century work force.  Kids need to help to discern when to turn off the computer or put down the phone and go play outside.