By: 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.