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December 12, 2017

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Horticultural Therapy Training Day

By:  Isabel Holmes, Academic Coordinator

This month Pacific Quest will host two company wide Horticultural Therapy trainings.  Last week, over 40 staff members gathered at Reed’s Bay for the first training.  We were able to utilize the full campus and make the most of our garden experiences for staff and the land. The day included plenty of high-energy horticulture-themed games and scavenger hunts to help people across departments and programs get to know one another and get excited about the land.

Square foot gardening at Reeds Bay

Expert facilitators who have extensive experience in the field, led lessons on everything from how to care for a tree and how to treat a seed to the science of compost and a practical approach to the square-foot gardening technique. There were also quieter break-out sessions during which Travis Slagle, Horticultural Therapy Director, shared his expertise and experience with everyone and his team of clinicians worked closely with small groups on how to lead horticultural therapy activities and manage student needs.  Travis comments, “At PQ, we believe the greatest thing we can grow in a garden is a genuine curiosity about life, and a deeper awareness of ourselves and our relationship with the environment.  The beauty of this training is the opportunity for all direct care staff at PQ to come together to learn and practice experiential methods that integrate horticultural activity with the most current evidence based practices and research from the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT). By participating in this training, therapists and guides join a growing movement in nature assisted therapies that goes beyond the hiking and survival approach of traditional wilderness therapy.”

New this year were the Learning Passports, a compilation of worksheets containing thoughtful questions about each lesson so that participants could take notes, cement their new knowledge, and begin to plan ways to take that knowledge and experience forward to our students. After a delicious lunch, the group rotated through regulating activity stations, learning to make cordage, practicing their drumming skills while learning about the regulating capabilities of bilateral movement, and learning about the Hawaiian concept of “Ha” meaning breath.

The experience culminated in a speed-dating style activity where participants prepared a brief pitch to convince a hesitant student to join them and learn something new about the garden. The group rotated round-robin style through two lines, counting how many colleagues they could convince to join their lesson!

The day concluded in handing out completion certificates, which everyone greatly appreciated. There were many thank-yous and positive responses to the organization and thoughtful content of the day, as well as much gratitude for our energetic facilitators! We look forward to the second training this week!

February 8, 2017

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Pacific Quest Video Series :: Student Testimonial

Pacific quest changed my life; I realize now that nothing is impossible. With just some water and a seed I can create a whole ecosystem of life. Life at Pacific Quest helped me express my emotions in a positive way. Pacific Quest will change your life, too, if you just let it.” – Pacific Quest student testimonial

Pacific Quest: True To Our Testimonials

Pacific Quest is an internationally-recognized residential wilderness therapy program based in Hawaii that serves struggling teens and young adults from around the world. Our testimonials show just how Pacific Quest goes beyond traditional wilderness therapy programs: by cultivating change through sustainable growth. Our outdoor wilderness therapy and horticulture therapy programs teach sustainable life skills in a clinically innovative and nurturing environment. It helps young people make better choices and live healthier, more productive lives.

The many amazing testimonials from both alumni and their parents point to the pivotal changes made to each and every student who was ready for positive change. The testimonials also speak to the invaluable lessons and experiences students have had that they will take with them for the rest of their lives. Read more incredible testimonials on just how and why Pacific Quest is consistently sought after as the best wilderness therapy program.

The Pacific Quest Program Through Testimonials

“My negative emotions were affecting everyone around me and I was out of control. I didn’t care about life and that was obvious by my behavior. It was a sad and difficult time for me and my family.”

Read More

January 31, 2017

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Pacific Quest Video Series :: Travis Slagle On Horticulture Therapy

“What I find in horticultural therapy that I couldn’t find when I worked in wilderness therapy, adventure therapy and even ropes courses, was the sense of purpose: A sense of purpose and adventure in creating a more sustainable life.” -Travis Slagle, Horticulture Therapy Director

What is Horticulture Therapy

Horticulture has been used as a therapeutic discipline since ancient times. As far back as 2000 BC in Mesopotamia horticulture was used to calm the senses and around 500 BC, the Persians began creating gardens to “please all of the senses.”

“Horticultural Therapy” is based on an ancient practice and has a relatively new title that combines horticulture and rehabilitation disciplines. It employs plants and gardening activities in therapeutic and rehabilitation activities to improve human wellness, showing tremendous positive results for troubled teens and young adults. However, despite its long use in the fields of physical therapy, psychiatric occupational and recreational rehabilitation, awareness about the efficacy of horticulture therapy is still limited.

Since human beings actually evolved from and in a natural environment, an intrinsic physiologic and psychological positive reaction to nature has developed that is involved in maintaining our homeostasis. As Travis says in his video, “One of the most challenging things in our world today is Read More

October 23, 2016

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Pacific Quest Receives AHTA Therapeutic Garden Design Award

By: Yvette Slagle, Communications Manager

Pacific Quest’s Horticultural Therapy Director Travis Slagle M.A. recently accepted the national award in Therapeutic Garden Design from the  American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA). The nomination process included an outpouring of inspiring testimonials from families, alumni, educational consultants, and mental health professionals from across the country. Travis comments, “The greatest part of this award is knowing that our gardens are saving lives, re-invigorating families, and changing the face of wilderness therapy.  Receiving this award is a humbling reminder that hard work pays off, and why healing gardens belong at the center of our communities as a reminder of our own resilience and of life’s endless possibilities.”

Pacific Quest receives AHTA Therapeutic Garden Design Award

Travis accepting award at AHTA Conference in St. Louis

Pacific Quest’s commitment to stewardship and their neurosequential approach to garden design and program structure makes them well deserving of this recognition.  Here is one of the many testimonials that the AHTA committee received during the award nomination:

“Our daughter was lost, struggling, and unhappy. She reconnected to nature and her healthy self through Pacific Quest’s horticultural therapy program.  Simple and hard work in nature helped her strip away unhealthy behaviors and unproductive patterns, and empowered her to understand how good process leads to good outcomes. In the garden, she learned how to work with others, delay gratification, tend weeds (psychological and natural), embrace discomfort, and envision a positive future. She developed resilience and sense of self by getting a little dirty and doing a little hard work. Every day, PQ’s guides and therapists helped her see how her work was helping her heal. We will be forever grateful to PQ and that patch of dirt for helping our daughter get past a dark period in her life.”

Upon his return from the AHTA conference and award ceremony, Travis shared, “Looking back to when PQ first began, we spent most our days hauling rocks and burning piles of dead grass to clear the jungle to make space for a visionary garden that would one day become the epicenter of our values as an organization.  As we cleared the land, one by one we planted fruit trees and built garden beds that have become a beacon of hope and inspiration for so many people.  I feel honored to be a part of it!”

March 8, 2016

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Pacific Quest Welcomes Sharon Findlay to the Admissions Team

Sharon Findlay

Sharon Findlay

Pacific Quest is excited to welcome Sharon Findlay to our team! Sharon comes to Pacific Quest with extensive experience working with families and professionals in the therapeutic education field. Sharon joins Erin Levine, JD Daubs, and Kellyn Symthe as part of the PQ Admissions Team and will also work closely with the Outreach and Communications Teams in her new role.

Sharon has worked in mental health, education, and management fields for over ten years;  she brings a great deal of personal and professional experience to Pacific Quest. Sharon is extremely dedicated to helping our students and their families heal. She appreciates the holistic and intentional approach that Pacific Quest utilizes. She says, “I’m very passionate about working with teens and young adults going through difficulty in their lives. Pacific Quest truly considers the whole person throughout the growth process, cultivating change and growth that occurs in a safe, healing way.”

After Sharon began her therapeutic program experience with a therapeutic boarding school, she earned her Master of Science in Organization Development, with a focus on resilience in individuals and groups. This emphasis, combined with the systemic and consultative approach her studies offered, inspired Sharon to return to the field with a new goal: helping clients reach their full potential while simultaneously addressing the health of the organization, its staff, and program as whole. Sharon had the opportunity to further hone these skills at a residential treatment center and transitional program. Sharon has witnessed first hand the powerful and life changing outcomes that occur at Pacific Quest as result of her tenure in secondary programs. She is excited to now be a part of the first stage of the change process for so many young people.

Pacific Quest has established an exceptional team of highly-respected professionals to assist families in need during the admissions process. Erin Levine, clinical director of admissions, adds, “Sharon is passionate, knowledgeable, and personable. She a natural fit at Pacific Quest. We are delighted to welcome Sharon to our team!”

December 8, 2015

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Wilderness Therapy in Hawaii Presents Year-Round Opportunity

For many of us, winter means snow-covered walkways, freezing temperatures and commutes lengthened by the presence of puddles and slush. However, winter in Hawaii is idyllic, with sunny days and average daily temperatures often hovering around 75°F. These pristine weather conditions mean that outdoor activities continue unabated during the Hawaiian winter. Specifically, winter is a wonderful time to experience horticultural therapy at Pacific Quest’s Wilderness Therapy camp, located on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Why Wilderness Therapy?

Wilderness therapy involves individual and group therapy delivered by mental health professionals in wilderness settings. Research has shown that wilderness therapy helps improve self-concept and well-being, and also helps develop adaptive social skills needed in the real world.

Wilderness therapy has been linked to many positive outcomes including the following:

  • Improved internal locus of control, which means that adolescents and adults believe that they are responsible for their own success and life decisions
  • Improved self-concept and well being
  • Improved functioning
  • Decreased problem behaviors.

Results from observational research studies have shown that participants in wilderness therapy often express great interest in change and want to discuss these changes with parents and counselors. Additionally, participants also appreciate the opportunity to reflect in a peaceful and caring environment.

Horticultural Therapy: A Type of Experiential Therapy

Horticultural therapy is a specific type of experiential therapy that uses plants and horticultural activities to achieve treatment goals. By participating in horticultural activities, students not only feel better but also learn new skills.

At Pacific Quest, students grow and nurture flowers, vegetables, fruits and trees in the therapeutic garden, all while being engaged in therapy that incorporates current theories in human behavior, neuroscience, and counseling psychology. The goal is to inspire change and improve social, cognitive, and physiological function. By adopting caregiving roles in an experiential environment, the student experience becomes growth-focused and life-affirming.

Why Wilderness Therapy in Winter?

You’ve likely heard of seasonal depression and know that weather has long played an important role in the human experience. After all, you can probably attest to the reality of feeling better on a sunny day. Research studies have focused on the beneficial effects of warm weather, like that experienced during Hawaii winters, on mood and cognition. Research has also focused on the psychic toll that a cold and bleak winter takes on the body and mind.

For example, increased exposure to warm weather has been linked to improved mood, improved memory and cognitive broadening. Cognitive broadening refers to a person’s openness to new information. Cognitive broadening also entails a shift in thinking wherein a person becomes more creative and willing to embrace change. Such cognitive broadening likely plays a big part in the life-affirming change experienced by students who participate in horticultural therapy at Pacific Quest.

Because of the warmth and year-round comfort of the islands, winter is just as good as any other time of the year to travel to Hawaii and participate in horticultural therapy at Pacific Quest.
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June 16, 2015

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Horticultural Therapy’s Unique Ability to Foster Healing

June is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month, and here at Pacific Quest, we offer horticultural therapy as a form a therapy for clients who may be struggling with trauma and/or PTSD. Horticultural therapy has long been used to help people with these conditions. In the 1940s and 1950s, American war veterans — many of whom were then diagnosed with combat exhaustion (now referred to as PTSD) — routinely engaged in supervised gardening as a means of therapy.

Horticultural therapy combines the cultivation of flowers, trees, fruits, and vegetables, with counseling provided by trained therapists. It’s a long-established nature practice, which has emerged as a powerful form of psychotherapy.

In addition to helping older adults, garden therapy also helps teenagers and younger adults deal with trauma and stress, secondary to many conditions like PTSD, depression, anxiety and so forth, according to a recent article published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine.

At Pacific Quest’s horticultural program, our clinicians and program guides present garden therapy for teens in a way that meets specific and individual therapeutic goals — which focus on health and change, all while immersed in nature.

The Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Horticultural Therapy

 A growing body of research focuses on the physical and psychological benefits of being outdoors and gardening in a therapeutic atmosphere. Here are some of the many benefits of garden therapy for teens:

  •         Improvement in immune system functionality
  •         Increased brain wave function
  •         Decrease in blood pressure
  •         Decreased muscle tension
  •         Decrease in stress hormones
  •         Decrease in pain
  •         Decreased anxiety
  •         Decreased depression

The Emotional Benefits of Horticultural Therapy

Horticultural therapy is especially good at promoting a sense of well-being among teens. First, gardening in a supportive and expressive environment instills feelings of hope, accomplishment and gratification. As many can attest, watching a garden grow and thrive is a transformative experience, which warms the heart. Second, by working with a team toward a common goal, social and communication skills improve. Also, by working with a cohesive group of counselors and peers, participants learn that they are not alone in their problems and draw support to cope with stress and trauma. Finally, horticultural therapy imbues a sense of altruism or a concern for others and the surrounding world.

In addition to the presence of compassionate and constructive counseling, garden therapy for teens works best when you or your teen focus your concentration fully on the task at hand. Thus horticultural therapy should be challenging. When concentration and dedication are intense, the weight of problems and worries fade away — a phenomenon known as “flow experience.”

At Pacific Quest, teens are given ample opportunity to attain a flow experience and learn to organize a nursery, prioritize crop rotation, plan planting schedules, design garden beds, compost and experiment with more efficient, sustainable and creative gardening techniques. These skills will no doubt last a lifetime.

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