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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.”

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!

March 16, 2017

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Horticultural Therapy Training at PQ

By:  Dara Downs, Alumni and Family Services Liaison

Pacific Quest recently offered a Horticultural Therapy training for all staff members at our Young Adult campus at Reeds Bay.  This training was a unique experience where field managers came alongside field guides, and logistics staff worked side by side with nurses. Therapists and administrative staff traded their computers and phones for a trowel and some compost. In order to participate everyone left their job titles in the parking lot and put on their close toed shoes, long pants, and work gloves. They all knew, it was time to work in the garden!

Horticultural Therapy Training at PQ - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Back to Basics Gardening Stations

One of the main goals of this training was to assist all employees in developing a relationship with the garden, and increase individual’s confidence on the land.  In addition, the training was designed to help staff members understand the role of Horticultural Therapy (HT) and the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics® (NMT) at PQ. In doing so, our Academic Coordinator was able to weave in parts of the HT curriculum into the training events to help set guides up with applicable lessons to use directly in the field.

The day was filled with numerous hands on activities and as every farmer knows, the best way to learn something is to get your hands dirty!  The group started off with a scavenger hunt in the ethnobotanical gardens at Reeds Bay called “The Village”. These gardens focus on growing traditional Hawaiian plants which are referred to as canoe plants. Everyone used the clues in the scavenger hunt to find specific plants. Upon finding each plant, participants followed a lesson from the curriculum based off the acronym CARE (Commitment, Awareness, Relationship/Responsibility, Effort).  They were able to practice caring for these sacred plants while also racing the clock!

After this competitive challenge, everyone engaged in “Back to Basics Gardening Stations” around campus. These stations focused on educating and providing hands on experiences in the following topics:

  • Compost and Soil Health
  • Tree Health and Bed Maintenance
  • Nursery and Transplanting
  • Square Foot Gardening

Presenters at each of these stations role modeled the three “R’s” of NMT: Regulate, Relate, and Reason. Each station started off with a breathing exercise, or something tactile and rhythmic, before jumping into relating to the environment, reasoning and teaching a lesson.

Following this, the group enjoyed lunch, and afterwards set up to process what they gained from the morning activities.  PQ’s Horticultural Therapy Director, Travis Slagle, MA, led the group discussion on how to use these activities to engage students in meaningful conversations. He touched upon practicing these gardening techniques while developing

Horticultural Therapy Training at PQ - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Travis Slagle leading group lesson

relationships with students who may be challenging or disengaged. He comments, “It is essential that we are able to successfully translate skills of intuition and observation from a gardening experience to our daily lives.”  Staff members began sharing their stories and openly discussing techniques and experiences of successes they’ve had on the land. Participants shared ideas and methods that worked and helped to reach a wide variety of students.

After this open forum discussion, everyone broke into their groups again for afternoon stations which were focused on specific activities for assisting our students in the NMT model (regulate, relate and reason). The groups included, cordage making, weeding/bilateral movement, planting play, and wellness. These groups introduced themes of music and play into the garden, while also demonstrating tools like cordage making where you can bring the garden to a student. The wellness department also led a group that focused on EFT (a breathing/meditation technique), the bucket theory, and connecting plant health with gut health.

To end the day, everyone was invited to a garden party where music was played and pineapple paradise was saved from weeds and invasive species like african tulip trees.  Amanda Moreno, PQ Therapist, mentioned that, “It was a gift to spend a day in the garden connecting with my peers and collaborating with my colleagues. I learned a lot about gardening and can’t wait to use it with the students.”  An Adolescent Program Field Supervisor also commented, “One of my key takeaways from this training was the value of regulate, relate, and reason. I learned so many ways to engage in each of these in the field.”

January 7, 2017

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Winter Solstice Celebration at PQ!

By:  Clementine Wilson, Adolescent Field Manager

Pacific Quest hosted our annual Winter Solstice celebration for our students and employees last month! We were able to hold it on the actual date of the Solstice – marking the shortest day of the year.

Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Celebrates Winter Solstice

Students preparing for the Winter Solstice celebration

““Solstice” comes from two Latin words: sol meaning “sun” and sistere meaning “to stand still” because it appeared as though the sun and moon had stopped moving across the sky. This longest night of the year, followed by a renewal of the sun, demonstrates the cyclical order of the cosmos. In this way, celebrating the solstice can be a beautiful remembrance that our lives are part of a larger order, always changing, always renewing.”

The solstice holiday focuses on the natural cycles of life, connection to the land, and the winter harvest. Program Guides led students through themed land lessons and activities in camp leading up to the meal. The students choreographed and performed a “Mele Kalikimaka” hula dance, a live performance of the Lorax, and a guided meditation walk over to the imu where the meal was prepared. They ended the activities with a gratitude circle before sitting down to eat together.

Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Celebrates Winter Solstice

Preparing the imu, traditional underground oven

Sharing food, an important part of any celebration, is particularly meaningful during the solstice, as it represents faith in the return of the sun and the harvest. We prepared pork, turkey and tofu in our imu, a traditional Hawaiian underground oven.  To make our imu, we dug a hole in the ground and placed rocks and wood inside.  Then a fire was started, creating a bed of coals and heating up the rocks.  Next, banana leaves and other plant materials were placed in the pit, which created steam. The foods to be cooked were placed inside, and more plant materials got piled on top, followed by water soaked burlap sacks. Finally, everything was covered and weighted down with rocks and dirt to prevent steam from escaping. The food steamed in the imu for hours, until it was moist and tender. In addition, we used much of our own PQ harvest (especially our kabocha squash) as part of this meal.  We enjoyed a delicious feast and it was so beautiful and inspiring to see the students and guides take time to prepare for this celebration. Throughout the day I witnessed a wonderful balance of laughter and reverence!

November 17, 2016

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Announcing Full Time Integrative Psychiatrist: Robert Voloshin, DO

Pacific Quest is pleased to announce a new member of the Clinical and Wellness teams: Dr. Robert Voloshin, Integrative Psychiatrist.  Dr. Robert joins Dr. Shelly Ham and will be on-site full time.  We are very excited to add another Integrative Psychiatrist to our team!

Pacific Quest Welcomes Dr. Robert Voloshin, Integrative Psychiatrist

Robert Voloshin, DO

Dr. Robert received his BS from UCSD in Biology where he graduated Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He went on to complete medical school at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in the San Francisco Bay Area, choosing osteopathic medical school because of its orientation towards integrative care and healing. In medical school Dr. Voloshin served as president of the Integrative Medicine Club. Dr. Voloshin went on to complete his Psychiatry Residency at the University of New Mexico as well as an additional year of fellowship training in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. During his residency and fellowship Dr. Voloshin was involved in cutting edge addictions research. He continued to pursue his passion for integrative psychiatry during his training through research, journal clubs, and conferences.

In addition to Dr. Voloshin’s formal psychiatry training, he has pursued external psychotherapy training in Somatic Experiencing and Hakomi. Both therapies utilize mindfulness and are somatically oriented. Some of Dr. Voloshin’s primary influences in the field of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry are Daniel Siegel MD and Bruce Perry MD, PhD. Dr. Voloshin places a strong emphasis on neuroscience in his work with young people. The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics which Pacific Quest utilizes and Interpersonal Neurobiology, the study of how our primary relationships affect the development of our brains and nervous systems, has a significant impact on his practice. His multifaceted approach to Psychiatry with an emphasis on family systems theory, developmental psychology, psychopharmacology, nutrition, mind-­body approaches, and reconnection to the earth and community makes Pacific Quest an exquisite place for Dr. Voloshin to practice.

In his spare time Robert enjoys playing music, surfing, hiking, reading, travel, yoga, and meditation.

Welcome to the PQ Ohana!

September 20, 2016

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Guiding the Guides: The Unique Role of the Master Guide – Part III

By:  Clementine Wilson, Adolescent Field Manager & Jody St. Joseph, Adolescent Program Director

This three part series focuses on the Master Guide position and the significance of this special role at Pacific Quest. The first entry looked at the role itself and highlighted Nikki Robinson.  Part II introduced Master Guide Alyson Alde.  In this third and final entry we meet Nick Olson and learn about his focus within this role!

Meet Nick Olson

Master Guide Position: Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Program

Nick working with a student on the land.

Nick hails from the high plains of Wyoming. There his wonderful parents worked diligently to instill in him a strong connection to a healthy diet, gardening and traveling. He studied International Studies at the University of Wyoming and in embracing his dream of vagabonding, traveled for two years following college. In the backwoods of Thailand with rambunctious kids, he realized that playing with youth in the dirt rules.

Nick started at Pacific Quest in March of 2015. He finds purpose in this job by helping students foster their own connection with the land, their food and their own self worth. He pulls from growing up in his tight knit community to help students build their sense of responsibility to their community, both here at Pacific Quest and back home. It’s a good day for Nick when his students find themselves deep in conversation, comfortably seated on the earth with their hands in the soil.  He comments, “What motivates me here at Pacific Quest  is when a student transforms a section of the garden and through their hard work they get invested and connected with the well-being of the land.”  As a master guide he hopes to help garden-shy guides feel more comfortable working on the land and getting their hands dirty.

In his off time he enjoys the quirkiness of Hilo, the comfort of his porch swing and the adventures with his community here on the Big Island.

September 7, 2016

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Guiding the Guides: The Unique Role of the Master Guide – Part II

By:  Clementine Wilson, Adolescent Field Manager & Jody St. Joseph, Adolescent Program Director

This three part series focuses on the Master Guide position and the significance of this special role at Pacific Quest. The first entry looked at the role itself and highlighted Nikki Robinson.  Part II will introduce Master Guide Alyson Alde.  Check back next week to meet another team member and their focus within this role!

Meet Alyson Alde

Alyson was raised in a small town in Illinois.  There, she learned how to climb trees, play in the dirt, and plant seeds. Her love for the outdoors has continued to grow throughout her life.  She graduated with a degree in psychology with a focus in environmental studies.  Prior to graduating, it was her dream to work with adolescents in a natural setting. Post graduation, she is living this dream at Pacific Quest. The combination of working with The Girl Scouts of America in New York state and working at an all boys residential treatment center in Tennessee gave her the inspiration to combine the two: wilderness and mental health.

The Unique Role of the Master Guide at Pacific Quest

Alyson working with a student in the garden

Alyson loves empowering her students through education at Pacific Quest. She has a firm understanding that there are several types of intelligences, and she utilizes this knowledge with every lesson she teaches. Through her lessons, students are able to draw parallels between themselves and the garden, relate their lives to the Hero’s Journey, and learn sustainability for themselves and the environment.  Not only does Alyson empower her students, she empowers her fellow guides as well. Alyson makes it a priority to work alongside her fellow guides to develop new lessons plans each week.

Of her role, Alyson says, “The most rewarding aspect of the job is seeing the students’ growth.  Typically, I work the earlier phases in the program – Nalu and Kuleana. Several times a week, a student mentor comes back to Nalu and Kuleana. I love to see how the students have created their own leadership styles and I love to hear their invites on life. Often times, they even teach me something about the garden.”

August 22, 2016

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Guiding the Guides: The Unique Role of the Master Guide

By:  Clementine Wilson, Adolescent Field Manager & Jody St. Joseph, Adolescent Program Director

This three part series focuses on the Master Guide position and the significance of this special role at Pacific Quest. The first entry looks at the role itself and highlights Master Guide Nikki Robinson. Check back next week to meet another team member and their focus within this role! 

clementine_wilson_450x566

Clementine Wilson, Adolescent Field Manager

The Master Guide role at Pacific Quest is a pathway for Program Guides to develop into dynamic leaders and mentors in the field. There’s a belief in mentoring and rites of passage work that “you can only take someone as far as you’ve been willing to go yourself.” All guides at PQ begin their journey as Apprentices, learning the trade of guide work in our unique environment from those who are seasoned and experienced. Master Guides have worked with the widest variety of student profiles and therefore have developed a comprehensive skill set in order to work safely and effectively with the students in our care.  In their extensive time in the field, they have uncovered joy and passion, faced challenges, navigated growth edges, earned respect, built confidence, and have now come full circle to give back to their peers.

Master Guides are an extension of the Field Management team.  They teach and coach their peers through role modeling, open authentic communication, direct leadership, and the feedback loop. With this, they aim to hold a safe and empowering container for our guides to learn and grow.  In addition to collaborating with various departments and being highly respected among peers, the Master Guides at PQ currently have a cumulative total of over 1,000 days in the field.

Each Master Guide has identified a niche they are focusing on in their role. Nikki Robinson has an especially keen eye for safety and risk management in the early phases of the program.  She  holds the big picture of structure and boundaries and is committed to supporting and mentoring Program Guides in this area. Alyson Alde is focused on ensuring our curriculum is being taught with creativity and passion, mentoring guides on lesson planning and dynamic teaching. Nick Olson is our land engagement guide, focusing on working with teams to further incorporate horticulture therapy into activities, and working with guides to increase experiential learning via the garden.

Meet Nikki Robinson

Guiding the Guides: The Unique Role of the Master Guide at PQ

Nikki working with a student in the garden

Master Guide Nikki Robinson graduated from Naropa University with a BA in Contemplative Psychology. She is captivated by human behavior and as a result applied to Pacific Quest to pursue her passions.  Nikki started as a Program Guide at Pacific Quest two years ago and found a passion for holding boundaries and providing a consistent safe space for students.

Now, as a Master Guide, Nikki brings her extensive experience to mentor, train and support the Program Guide team.  She comments, “I’ve worked as a guide for two years and have been involved in some highly intense situations.  As a Master Guide, I want to teach and guide others and be that supportive mentor I believe everyone needs, to not just survive but thrive!  The students are our future.  My passion lies in assisting in their growth and helping them be the change they seek for themselves.”

Nikki values honesty and genuine connection and in return offers that to the students and guides.  She has a strong desire to help others and is driven to create change and continuously grow. She is interested in the human psyche and finds fulfillment in providing support for people who deeply suffer.

When Nikki is not at work you can find her at coffee shops, the beach swimming in the company of friends or studying astrology. She has a passion for reading self help books, studying astrology charts and providing knowledge to others who want to know themselves more.

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.

May 30, 2016

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Teresa Bertoncin joins PQ Clinical Team!

Pacific Quest is excited to welcome Teresa Bertoncin to the Clinical Team! Teresa is a licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She is a certified EMDR Therapist, and also has advanced training in Emotionally Focused Couples and Family Therapy (EFT). Teresa earned her undergraduate degree from University of Michigan, and her Masters degree in Counseling Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute, and her thesis focused on trauma and rites of passage work.

Teresa Bertoncin Clinical Team

Teresa Bertoncin, LPCC, LMFT

Teresa has worked with adolescents and young adults for most of her twenty-year career. Her areas of skill & expertise include families with struggling teens and phase-of-life transitions; grief, loss, trauma and PTSD; relationships in crisis and family readjustment issues; stepfamilies; substance use disorders; generalized & social anxiety; ADHD; parenting, child development & attachment Issues; cultural issues & intergenerational family systems. In addition to EMDR and Emotionally Focused Therapy, Teresa also has extensive experience with play therapy, biofeedback, neuropsychology, and permaculture techniques – a perfect blend for her role at Pacific Quest!

Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Clinical Director, says “I have known Teresa for many years and could not be happier that she chose to join our clinical team. She brings generosity of spirit, international experience, and exceptional clinical skills — particularly in EMDR, relationally-based modalities, and family therapy.”

Teresa recently returned from two years of service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Africa where she worked as a psychosocial trainer and consultant. She developed and established a young program with a strong emphasis in wilderness leadership programming. Teresa has also conducted psychotherapy training and consulting for trauma-based organizations in Swaziland, and provided trauma-based therapy and life-skills training for Zimbabwean refugees. She believes that connection and relationship is the cornerstone of all progress and healing.

Formerly a collegiate gymnast, Teresa owned and operated a gymnastics academy for 20 years, and incorporates strength-based psychotherapy with positive coaching techniques for a mind-body approach to establishing resiliency, empowerment and sustainable life skills. Teresa enjoys gardening, beekeeping, outdoor activities, travel, writing and spending time with her family.