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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, 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.

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!

December 15, 2015

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Help Your Teen Find Value This Holiday Season

Life has a way of sneaking up on us. One minute you’re carefree, and the next your life is being shaped by the pressures of reality. This is true for our teens, as well. After all, they face a great deal of stress (daily!) from social and academic pressures to worrying about things like school violence.

We often talk about teens and peer pressure, but how bad is it?

It’s no secret friends play a complex role in the decisions our teenagers make. And for that reason, parents lay awake at night terrified about the peer pressure their teens are faced with and what sort of risky things they will be tempted to try.

Our teenagers are more likely to hang out with friends who are interested in the same things they are, making them, for instance, more likely to have a drink of alcohol if their friends are drinking alcohol. The apparent desire to “fit in” creates an internal pressure that impels our teenager to do what their friends are doing.

As the holidays draw nearer, stress and pressure take a toll on all of us. In addition to less sleep and more activities, teens are faced with mid-term exams and increased academic demands as school breaks for the holiday. Some of the signs of stress in teens are:

  • Headaches or stomachaches
  • Withdrawing from family or avoiding friends
  • Irritability or anger
  • Depression
  • Problems sleeping
  • Decreased appetite

It’s important for teens to use the holiday break to decompress and organize their internal world.

Holiday Activities to Do More of What Matters

Holiday service projects are always good for the soul – young and old alike. But our teenagers shouldn’t be concentrating on just giving back to the community and good-deed activities. They should be enjoying the spirit of the holiday, enjoying fun activities with their family and their friends. The following is a list all-encompassing, of activities that will help your teen relax and find enjoyment through the holiday season:

  • Closet clean out. Ask your teenager to go through his or her closet and donate to Goodwill or a homeless shelter.
  • Make greeting cards. Who doesn’t love an art project?
  • Adopt a soldier. The Adopt A Soldier program is a wonderful opportunity to touch on the sacrifices military service members and their families make for our country.
  • Organize a collection. A clothing drive, food drive, toy drive and school supply drive are all great causes.
  • Hunt for the family holiday tree.
  • Make holiday ornaments or a holiday journal. Use them both to chronicle this special time of year.
  • Learn a new holiday tradition from another family (or even another culture).
  • Sing carols for a cause.
  • Allow your teenager, and his or her friends, to decorate their bedroom.

To reduce holiday stress and to allow your teenager the time and space they need to decompress and enjoy life a little more, don’t overdo it and don’t worry about how things should be. We tend to compare ourselves with idealizations and notions of how happy and stress-free the holidays should be, but in fact, most families encounter tension and negative feelings. Our teenagers shouldn’t shape their reality around this type of stress, and neither should we.

If you have any concerns that your teenager is suffering from a deeper source of stress, contact Pacific Quest today to talk through your situation with a mental health professional.
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August 9, 2010

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The Peer Arena

I read an article recently entitled “Alone Together,” published in the Pennsylvania Gazette, May/June 2010.   This article was forwarded to me by a student’s father – thank you to him for sharing interesting information:)

The article is about Vivian Seltzer‘s developmental theory of adolescence and the role of what she calls the peer arena.  Seltzer has researched adolescent behavior extensively and has recently published Peer-impact diagnosis and therapy: A handbook for successful Practice with Adolescents.  The article explores Seltzer’s theory of Dynamic Functional Interaction (DFI).  While this theory has overlap with previous theorists, central to her perspective is the role of comparison within the peer arena.  Psychological growth comes from ones relationship to the peers, and questioning how one fits in with the group.  The article quotes her saying “[the growth process] takes lots of inventory.”

Seltzer’s perspective on adolescence seems to draw on the experience of the adolescent.  The theory posits importance on the adolescent’s world – on the daily intersubjective experiences that lend psychological growth.  Seltzers theory is valuable, as it draws on a dynamic medium – or as Seltzer points out – the Dynamic Functional Interaction.

I encourage readers to check out this theory and see how it fits for them.