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November 15, 2017

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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.

May 21, 2017

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Pacific Quest Presents at IECA Denver

By: Teresa Bertoncin, LPCC, LMFT

Two Pacific Quest team members recently co-presented at the 2017 Independent Educational Consultant Association conference in Denver.  Teresa Bertoncin, Primary Therapist, and Dr. Robert Voloshin, Integrative Psychiatrist, presented “Breaking through Trauma: EMDR in Outdoor Behavioral Health”. It began by engaging the audience in an experiential sensory integration resourcing exercise using elements of sight, sound and smell which are abundant in the natural environment at PQ. This instillation of a calming effect, with dual attention stimuli offered a brief example of the immediate impact of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and how resourcing tools can be utilized to self-regulate.

teresa-bertoncin-PQ

Teresa Bertoncin, Primary Therapist

Teresa shared that EMDR psychotherapy is recommended as an evidence-based effective treatment for trauma by the American Psychiatric Association, The Department of Defense, and the World Health Organization, and that it interfaces comfortably with all other psychotherapies.  At Pacific Quest, EMDR has proven to be tremendously helpful for multiple adverse life experiences, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and addictions. Teresa explained how maladaptive “undigested” memories and the negative beliefs we maintain about ourselves as a result of those incidents, keep us ‘stuck.’  She comments, “Our brain is a very natural healing mechanism, and just like the rest of our body it wants to heal. EMDR can help us go back to when a root was laid down for a negative belief system, and replace that negative belief system with a positive one.”

Dr. Voloshin integrated the relevance of trauma and memory, and the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACE) and how these untreated experiences directly correlate to a decline in social, emotional cognitive impairment, later life health and well-being; particularly depression and substance abuse, disease, and early death.

Dr. Voloshin went on to explain the neurobiology of the formation of memory and how our experiences shape us, as well as how the process of EMDR reshapes and creates adaptive newly ‘digested’ memories.

“When we are able to ‘look back’ at a traumatic memory from an empowered stance, the recollection can be updated as though this agency had been available and fully functional at the time of the original trauma. This newly reconsolidated experience then becomes the new updated memory where the empowered present somatic experience profoundly alters the past memory. These emerging resources become the bridging of past and present, the remembered present. The memory updating in no way takes away from the truth that a particular traumatizing event really did happen, that it caused harm, and that grief and outrage may be significant components to restoring dignity and a deep honoring of self. From this present-based platform of self compassion, the memories can gradually be softened, reshaped, and rewoven into the fabric of one’s identity.”

Several attendees remarked about their interest in the psychotherapeutic and neurobiological aspects of the presentation, and how it reflects the unique integrative approach that Pacific Quest embodies, as well as the mind-body-nature connection in the importance of overall healing.

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.

February 22, 2017

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PQ Offers First Annual Free CE Workshop for Hilo Community

By: Kristen Sutton, Therapist, & Lauren Meyer, Field Coordinator

Over 80 people attended a recent continuing education (CE) event offered by Pacific Quest (PQ). Community service and the ability to “give back” are essential cornerstones of the program, therefore, PQ offered this CE event free of charge to Big Island mental health professionals.  Attendees included psychologists, play/sandplay therapists, school counselors, social workers and other mental health professionals who had the opportunity to earn three continuing education credits through APA and NASW- Hawai`i Chapter.

Pacific Quest offers free continuing education event

Dr. Freedle presenting at CE Event in Hilo

Dr. Lorraine Freedle, PQ’s Clinical Director, presented “After the Towers Fell:  Healing Trauma with Sandplay Therapy, A Neuropsychological Perspective”. Dr. Freedle shared her expertise and passion for both Sandplay Therapy and the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics® (NMT). The presentation focused on the case study of Jimmy (pseudonym), who as a young boy lost his father in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.  At age 22, Jimmy was overwhelmed with OCD, alcohol abuse, guilt and shame and was unable to meet the demands of college.  As a result, he sought treatment at Pacific Quest where he engaged in sandplay therapy as part of a comprehensive, holistic treatment approach.

Workshop participants explored a neuropsychological perspective on how sandplay heals trauma and took a journey through Jimmy’s treatment process. They walked away with an understanding of the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics and a better awareness of the Sustainable Growth model utilized at Pacific Quest. The attendees were also touched by Jimmy’s story and created artwork to express how his story connected with their own experiences.

Lauren Meyer, PQ Field Coordinator, who was in attendance, comments, “Dr. Freedle took her audience through a journey of images Jimmy created in the sand. There were tears throughout the room, as well as in my own eyes, when we saw an image of ‘that fateful day’ through the eyes of an eight year old child.”  An intimate look at how Jimmy, as a young adult, accessed healing resources through meditation, horticultural activities and sandplay therapy followed.

“Multiple attendees spoke about feeling moved and inspired by the presentation and Dr. Freedle’s work,” noted Kristen Sutton, PQ Therapist. “One therapist in private practice shared her gratitude for being able to gather together with other professionals to discuss her passion – Sandplay. I left feeling grateful and privileged to do the work that we do.”

January 19, 2017

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Successful Collaboration with Sky’s the Limit Fund!

By: Mike Sullivan, Alumni and Family Services Director

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

Pacific Quest's collaboration with Sky's the Limit Fund is a Success

Mike Sullivan and colleagues at STLF event

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

Looking Ahead

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

October 19, 2016

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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 8, 2016

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Dr. Lorraine Freedle Presents at STA Conference; Receives Research Award

By: Denise Westman, Outreach Director, and Erin Marcus, Clinical Admissions Director

Pacific Quest’s Clinical Director, Dr. Lorraine Freedle, was a keynote speaker at the National Sandplay Therapists of America (STA) Conference in June. With over 200 doctors, clinicians and consultants in attendance, Dr. Freedle shared her expertise and passion for both Sandplay Therapy and the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics® (NMT) in her presentation, “Making Connections: The Neuropsychology of Sandplay Therapy.” Attendees represented Jungian sandplay professionals from all over the world, including the United States, Switzerland, Australia, Brazil, South Africa, and Italy.

Dr Freedle Presents at Sandplay ConferenceThe global group of attendees were presented with a case study of Jimmy (pseudonym) that involved traumatic loss and profound healing through re-connection to self, others and the environment. Due to Jimmy’s implicit traumatic memories and emotional dysregulation, it was essential that the clinical interventions matched his neurodevelopmental stage. He thrived in a multi-sensory natural setting through horticultural therapy, meditation, and a wellness foundation to complement the therapeutic work being done.

We were deeply touched by Jimmy’s journey and mesmerized by the increasingly sophisticated interventions that are available to those that need healing support. The ability to help young people like Jimmy experience a discernible change that is sustainable and portable as they move through life was nothing short of inspirational. Pacific Quest provides a safe place for young people to work through the barriers that are keeping them from functioning at their full physical and emotional potential. Every part of the Pacific Quest treatment model is neurologically informed and designed to help settle the nervous system so that meaningful work can take place. The Sustainable Growth™ Model ensures that our students have the corrective experiences needed to move through developmental blocks and that they develop mastery of the strength based behaviors necessary for a successful transition.


Also while in attendance at the STA Conference, Dr. Freedle was honored with a research award. She was recognized for “Outstanding Contributions to Research in Sandplay Therapy” for original research titled:

  • Freedle, L.R., Altschul, D.B., and Freedle, A.M. (2015). The Role of Sandplay Therapy in the Treatment of Adolescents and Young Adults with Co-occurring Substance Use Disorders and Trauma. Journal of Sandplay Therapy, XXIV (2), 127-145.

This is Dr. Freedle’s second STA award for her exceptional research on Sandplay Therapy. Please join Pacific Quest in congratulating Dr. Freedle on this honor!


In addition to being Pacific’s Quest’s Clinical Director, Lorraine Freedle is a board certified neuropsychologist, psychotherapist, and trainer in the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics®. Dr. Freedle is an award-winning researcher for her work with sandplay therapy and individuals with trauma. Dr. Freedle is an international presenter who illuminates current theory, neuroscience and the principles of depth psychology with compelling case studies. She has published numerous professional journal articles and currently serves as Research Editor for the Journal of Sandplay Therapy.

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!

May 20, 2015

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How to Help a Student Struggling with Mental Health Issues While Away at College

The transition from high school to college life is an exciting one for many young adults. But as with every transition, it is one full of change and stress. Colleges and universities provide a comfortable atmosphere intended to serve as a bridge between home and the professional world. Nevertheless, the college experience is ripe with stressors and mental health issues can arise. As a concerned parent or loved one, it’s imperative to be aware of the risks, and monitor the well-being of your college student while they are away.

Keep an Eye on Mental Health

Fortunately, most college students do not experience severe mental health issues and are able to deal with stressors using mature coping mechanisms. However, for some students, issues of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and Internet gaming and overuse, will have a deep affect on their quality of life and result in great, and often quiet struggling.

As a parent or loved one, it’s important to monitor for any warning signs that might indicate your college student is experiencing a mental health issue. Listed below are some typical signs of depression to be mindful of:

  • Loss of interest in daily activities, such as attending class or playing sports
  • Disruptions in sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Feelings of anxiety and sadness
  • Changes in appetite (over- or under-eating)
  • Loss of energy
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Internet or gaming addiction

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 30 percent of college students report feeling so severely depressed that it’s “difficult to function.”

Furthermore, many young adult mental health issues are co-morbid, meaning that they lead to other issues, often as a misguided source of relief or respite from pain. For instance, depression frequently results in substance abuse, leading to cycles of intoxication, short-term cessation, regression and withdrawal.

Finding Help for Your College Student

If you believe that your college student is experiencing mental health issues, help is readily available at Pacific Quest. Pacific Quest’s wilderness therapy program utilizes a neurodevelopmental approach, combined with horticultural therapy to promote whole-person wellness and motivate change in both adolescents and young adults. If you are far from your loved one and are unable to visit them and take care of them regularly on campus, consider coordinating therapy through a Pacific Quest program.

Stay in Touch

Thanks to technology, keeping in contact with your college student is as easy as sitting down at your laptop or opening an app (like Messenger or FaceTime) on your smartphone. While nothing compares to the personal touch of a visit, where you can truly connect and get a sense of your loved one’s environment, demeanor and overall sense of well-being, technology increases the ability to communicate and converse in person. Schedule regular face-to-face chats with your loved one using Skype and use finesse when bringing up any mental health issues you may think are bothering your loved one. Visual cues of their ongoing mood and energy will prove an invaluable asset in ascertaining the nature of their adjustment.

Ultimately, every college student—even those not experiencing a mental health issue—can benefit from your love and advice. College can be an exciting and novel experience, but the shock of any drastic change can be overwhelming and stressful. Just because your college student has flown the nest doesn’t mean that your guidance and love are of any less value—in fact, it is even more vital during this uncertain time, especially as a reliable grounding source for structure, stability and support.

Interested in learning more about Pacific Quest’s approach to therapy? Read more here:




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November 6, 2009

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Dr. Zimmer’s Wellness Topic on Strong Immune Systems

This week we discussed the pillars of health and how they contribute to strong immune systems. The pillars of health are:

1.The Mind/Body Connection

2. Digestion / Nutrition / Water

3. Sleep

4. Breathing

5. Exercise / Movement

At Pacific Quest all five of these pillars are reinforced daily leading to healthier and happier students.

Stay tuned for a more in depth bloq about these five pillars.

With the arrival of flu season in the northern hemisphere a discussion about the swine flu was sparked.  Receiving the vaccination and proper hygiene are important and seem to be the main focus of the news reports regarding the swine flu. But how about also emphasizing a healthy, robust immune system to lessen your chances of contracting the swine flu and to mute the course of the flu if you happen to catch it.

I asked the students what weakens the immune system and their answers were:

Sugar, Stress,  Poor sleep, Eating junk food, Not exercising, Stuffing your emotions, Smoking,  Alcohol

That’s Correct!

They have learned about the negative effects of these elements over the course of their wellness classes.

I asked them what they are doing here at Pacific Quest on a daily basis to keep their immune systems strong and healthy and they replied:

Exercising every morning, Eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, Talking about our feelings, Sleeping at least 7 hours a night, Breathing fresh air, Drinking a lot of water,  Breathing exercises, Eating garlic, Getting vitamin D from the sun and Not eating all of our favorite junk foods.

A Recipe for Health!

I was very satisfied with their answers because one, they have learned these concepts during their stay here and two, they are engaging in these activities daily- creating healthy immune systems ready to withstand the flu season back on the mainland.

Yours in health,

Dr. Britta Zimmer