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October 22, 2019

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Staff Training at the Farm!

Last week Pacific Quest staff members participated in a company-wide training focused on Horticultural Therapy and Rites of Passage.  It was a great opportunity for the team to come together on our new farm property and have time to connect while learning new skills and strategies to work with our students.

Horticultural Therapy Director Travis Slagle teaching a workshop on “Rites of Passage in the Garden” highlighting the Polynesian voyage and canoe plants.

The training began with an introduction to the Four Shields and the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics that’s utilized at Pacific Quest and an integral part of our program.  After the intro, the team divided up and spent the morning at various “stations” that focused on different learning objectives.  Staff members had the option of picking which workshop they wanted to participate in. Some of the options included: Meditation & Mandala workshop, Cordage and Ti lei making, medicine walk and planting skills, soil & compost, and hard project skills & “imagineering”. 

Field Manager Anthony Florig leads a workshop on “Tools for Relating with Tools”

One of the main goals was to emphasize the importance of how to incorporate these various lessons and projects into the daily routine with students. PQ Field Therapist Sarah Blechman, who helped organize and facilitate the training comments, “The whole day was so engaging! It was abundantly clear the facilitators were authentically passionate about the rich union and incredible effects of the interplay between horticulture, rites of passage and how to facilitate the two using the neurosequential model. My favorite part was when our program guides, managers and therapists all worked together to create our first garden bed in our ethnobotanical garden. Working on such a large project together felt like the whole community was working on a gift for our new farm.”

July 25, 2018

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PQ’s Clinical Model Published by CTA Press

Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Clinical Director and Travis Slagle, Horticultural Therapy Director received notice that their article on Pacific Quest’s clinical model has been published through the ChildTrauma Academy Press. The article, titled, Application of the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) in an Integrative Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Program for Adolescents and Young Adults provides a research-based overview of PQ’s clinical model with an emphasis on the neurodevelopmental applications of horticultural therapy.

First, the article reviews the research behind PQ’s clinical model including its foundations in neuroscience, outdoor behavioral health, horticultural therapy and integrative health care.  Next, the article provides an overview of the five components of the Clinical Model. The camp system and horticultural therapy activities are then discussed in the context of neurodevelopment and the four functional domains of NMT: Sensory Integration, Self-Regulation, Relational Functioning, and Cognitive Problem Solving. Finally, research on PQ’s model is presented.

This article is an excellent, accessible resource for parents and professionals interested in learning about Pacific Quest’s clinical model and how it works. The article is published in Proceedings of the Second Annual Neurosequential Model Symposium available on Amazon.

Read the article here!

May 15, 2018

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Oprah puts Dr. Bruce Perry and NMT in the Spotlight

By:  Kristen McFee, MA, LPCC

Kristen McFee, MA, LPCC

As Dr. Bruce Perry sat down to an interview with Oprah on 60 Minutes, we watched in anticipation as April marked two years of Pacific Quest being Site Certified in the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics© (NMT).  As Founder and Senior Fellow of the Child Trauma Academy (CTA). Bruce Perry, MD, PhD has expertise in child and adolescent psychiatry, neurodevelopment and traumatology.  Dr. Perry is highly respected internationally and has done extensive neurobiological research on the effects of trauma in young people.  He has led the Pacific Quest team into certification and maintenance of the NMT.

The Neurosequential Model© integrates neurodevelopment, developmental psychology, traumatology, sociology and other disciplines to understand individuals and the family.  Pacific Quest uses this model to inform program design and individualize interventions. Initially, the focus of treatment is developing regulatory capacities to support neurodevelopment and to optimize learning.  Next, students strengthen relational health and problem solving abilities.

Our trained clinicians use the NMT assessment process to collect developmental history, assess current functioning and inform clinical decision making.  This approach guides treatment through a selection of interventions and program design.

To support brain development Pacific Quest utilizes a “bottom up” approach following Dr. Perry’s sequence of engagement:  “Regulate, Relate and Reason.” This is the process of moving from the bottom of our brain (brainstem) up to the top (cortex).  The sequence is very important. When a person is regulated or feeling emotionally and physically settled, they are more able to relate or feel connected.  When a person is connected, they are more able to reason and engage in higher level executive functioning, which is critical for problem solving, prediction, perspective taking, etc.

At Pacific Quest, the garden lends itself to many opportunities to regulate. Regulation involves patterned, rhythmic, repetitive activity.  This includes digging, weeding, breaking apart lava rock to make room for new gardens, building rock walls and clearing land. Regulation also includes daily exercise, expressive therapies such as art, quiet breathing meditations or cooking, chopping and stirring in the kitchen.  Our integrative team works hard to build rapport and relationships with students so they can support and challenge them in their daily goals, living skills and group engagement. Through this regulatory and relationship support, students practice reasoning. Reasoning skills include being a camp leader and having to schedule an entire day and hold peers accountable to camp expectations. Students often create garden projects or legacy projects in which they have to plan, organize and problem solve allowing for a natural method to practice executive functioning.   Students often process and reason in their therapeutic work as they reflect, come into awareness and work to shift from their old story (negative behavior) into their new story (healthy behavior) . But first, they have to tell their story.

In a 60 Minutes Overtime report, Oprah reflects on her experience of doing this story with Dr. Perry. She described the process as “Life Changing” for her and expressed a hope that this story of trauma informed care will be revolutionary. Dr. Perry and Oprah expressed the importance of connection and having a sense of value.  Oprah emphasized the importance of sharing our story and asking the question, “What happened?” She explained, not only is this an important question for those who have experienced trauma, but it is the most important question we can ask of anyone.

To continue and share our work, Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Clinical Director and Travis Slagle, Horticultural Therapy Director will be presenting at the Neurosequential Model International Symposium in Banff, CA, June 13-15, 2018.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dF20FaQzYUI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqu54ZlhINc

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.

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