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June 10, 2018

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Crossing a Threshold: A Parent Testimonial

We recently received this testimonial from a parent whose daughter attended Pacific Quest.  Thank you for sharing your story!

“Eight months ago our daughter’s father and I made the most difficult decision we had ever made in our lives ~ we chose to have our daughter transported to Pacific Quest. She had been spinning out of control for almost a year prior to this, the source of her depression, self harming, running away and drug use was not clear to us but after trying to help her ourselves and seeking the help of local therapists we realized we might lose her if we didn’t make this very difficult decision to send her away from home.

Although she did not go willingly it did not take long for her to begin to feel ‘held’ in this new environment. Safe with herself and safe under the care of a compassionate and deeply patient therapist and staff. One of the elements that seemed to both challenge her and give her the support she needed were the highly structured routine of each day with equal parts opportunity for self knowledge and growth as well as opportunities to give to the PQ community. Encouraging her to spend time by herself (never without eyes on her) and become comfortable in her own thoughts and struggles was key in slowing her down in order to see herself in relationship to her lived experience of the previous year. In this unraveling and opening up to her therapist she was finally able to share with us the source of her trauma. This was a huge step but also one that had to be treated with enormous delicacy and patience. The guided weekly phone calls with her therapist were invaluable as were the many hours of self reflection and writing that we were asked to do as we navigated both the old and our new relationship with our daughter. One of the most significant aspects of the PQ therapeutic process in my experience was understanding the patterns in relationships within the family. Without the recognition of our independent roles in our family story, I do not believe that our daughter would have been able to arrive at the deep healing that took place while at PQ.

Another of the enormously powerful and I think unique aspects of PQ is the role of initiation and ritual. These are often student led with the guidance and support of other students, therapists and staff. Early in her stay, our daughter chose to change her name from her birth name to her given middle name. She wanted to begin anew and renaming herself was a part of this new identity, she continues to use this name to this day.

I began to refer to this time of our daughter living away from us as the “betwixt and between” times. We had crossed a threshold, initiating us to another level of consciousness. This has most definitely been a time when we are clearly leaving behind what we believed to be “true”, what held us in our lives and what we move towards becoming ~ what is before us is still unknown, the discomfort of this place of “betwixt and between”. As our daughter used painting as an expressive modality during her stay at PQ, I also began to explore the personal and collective ideas of transformation and initiation in my own work.

As ritualized initiation in our culture is all but lost we sometimes are given the opportunity to “wake up” and re-member our soul’s work through a great loss or a traumatic experience in our lives. This has been one of those experiences for me, not one I would have ever asked for but as our daughter is able to say today, without these experiences she would not have “found” herself. The sum of our experiences have the possibility of transforming us as if there has been a mythic alchemical process, stirring the soul, aiming us towards our lives in a new and profound way. Along with both specific and mythic life challenges, this soul work through initiation and transformation has been at the root of this recent body of work: Dreaming in Red.”

– PQ Alumni Parent

Dreaming In Red

 

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

April 12, 2018

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The ‘Sustainable Recovery’ Model of Care at Pacific Quest

By:  Mark White, LMHC – CDC II

“Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. Its true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome. The part that appears above ground lasts only a single summer. What we see is the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.” (Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections)

Mark White, Primary Therapist

Jung theorized that human beings – like plants – seek to grow whole.  At the outset of our lives and through the lived experiences of childhood we send our roots out into the world and find what nourishes us and what doesn’t.  At a young age we inherently come to know the wisdom of playing more and touching the hot stove less. Our learning is largely instinctual; with knowledge found through trial and error.  As children, our brain’s Limbic system largely guides our exploration of the world and our place in it – we thus ‘fight, flee or feast’ in response to our making contact with our environment.

In a similar fashion, a germinating seed reaches out through the darkness of the soil seeking nourishment – sending it’s initial roots toward water and nutrients and away from rocks and other stressors.  It finds what makes it grow and seeks more of that.

As childhood gives way to adolescence and young adulthood we continue to explore and grow.  We have a series of firsts – a first crush, first time driving a car and for some of us our first use of alcohol and other substances.   Our Limbic system continues to guide us as the pleasure receptors in our brains feel the ‘high’ of the first buzz’. Our primitive brains tell us to do more of this (feast) and we oftentimes do – especially as the executive/consequential thinking function in our Prefrontal Cortex may not yet have fully developed.

For some youth, the process of addiction begins.  Tolerance increases and we need more of the substance to produce the same amount of pleasure.  Our focus becomes narrowed as we seek to find, procure and/or otherwise obtain our drug(s) of choice.  We spend growing amounts of time and energy thinking about and seeking the substance and less time engaged in pleasurable activities and familiar relationships we once enjoyed.  Essentially, as we send our roots more and more toward our drug(s) of choice and the behavioral patterns of addiction take hold.

At Pacific Quest (PQ) we utilize Horticultural Therapy (HT) to understand the equivalent of the human process of addiction in plants – a condition commonly known as ‘root bound’.  When a plant becomes root bound it has grown to the point where it exhausts the available nutrients. In an effort to thrive, the plant begins to consume itself to stay alive. At this point, if the plant is not transplanted it will inevitably suffer and is likely to meet an early demise. In our knowledge of addiction we understand that without intervention, a young person developing the behavioral patterns of addiction may unfortunately experience similar outcomes.

At PQ young people are both educated and empowered to become aware of how the process of addiction has impacted their growth and are supported in engaging in the process of Recovery.  Within our Sustainable Recovery tract students begin to actively send their ‘roots’ -time and energy- back toward the relationships/activities/values in their life that nourish them. Caring for the gardens, exploring the Big Island and all its rich diversity and engaging in sober fun with peers are all part of the growth process – in addition to Recovery-focused clinical services.

Our unique clinical process invites students to become mindful of their personal behavioral patterns of addiction and become both knowledgeable and skillful in preventing relapse into these old behaviors.   Recovery programming includes personalized Recovery coaching as well as HT-based clinical interventions that empower each student to learn effective relapse prevention skills to address their own, individual circumstances.

Students also engage in a weekly Recovery Group and become knowledgeable of practical ways to make meaningful behavioral changes to support their personal Recovery.  In addition to group and individual therapy, through our active daily schedule students are supported in making these life changes at PQ. Learning to actively manage peer and other social pressures, awareness of relapse triggers and cues and use of effective coping skills are all growth opportunities students have each day.  Our active approach to care ensures students partake in intensive preparation for sustaining important behavioral changes post-treatment. Additionally, for students also interested in learning about a 12-step approach, access to an on-campus ‘PQ- only’ meeting is available as is individualized ‘step study’ work as well.

Last and perhaps most importantly, our Sustainable Recovery model of care invites students to affirm who they are in this world and their opportunities and responsibilities in Recovery– a deep sense of knowing that for many of our alumni has served as the ‘rhizome’ for their sustainable growth into adulthood.

About the author:  

Mark White is Recovery Coordinator and a Primary Therapist at Pacific Quest.   Mark has a passion for wilderness rites of passage work and integrated healthcare.  He has worked with young people and their families since 1999. Mark believes Pacific Quest provides an unparalleled healing and growth experience.  

March 23, 2018

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A Personal Reflection – PQ Alumni Student Testimonial

We always enjoy receiving letters from past students – who share updates on how they are doing, how their experience at Pacific Quest has impacted them and how life post PQ is unfolding.  This is a letter from a student to her therapist – what an inspiring testimonial to the powerful work that takes place here!

“ …I’ve been thinking a lot about my experience at PQ since leaving and just wanted to share some of my major takeaways with you since you were an integral part of my stay. I am so grateful for you and the role you played in my growth at PQ and beyond. Since coming home, things have certainly not been easy but I have learned so much and become such a stronger person in the process and I feel like I am really headed in the right direction at this point. I’m amazed at how much things have changed since I was in Hawaii! Looking back it’s sometimes hard to believe I’m still the same person. I thought when I graduated that I had learned a ton, and I did, but so much of that learning came after I had time to process the whole experience and live it out on my own.

Okay, I’ll warn you now, this is definitely the longest email I’ve ever written in my life, but I’m just so excited about all the realizations I had that I had to share them!

I still at times struggle with recalling treatment as a positive experience, mostly because it was just such a difficult time in my life, but as I was journaling the other day, I concluded the following… PQ taught me a lot of things – like how my happiness, life, and well-being are not dependent on my parents. Even though I love them, they don’t have the solutions or answers to everything and they shouldn’t be my reason for living. I need to live for myself because I am worthy of life and have a lot to hope for in the future. I also worked a lot on quieting my inner critic and developing more self-compassion. Acceptance was huge – accepting my feelings and present reality. For a long time I fought against and stuffed my emotions, but at PQ I learned to feel and express them in healthier ways. Although I remember feeling like all my independence had been taken from me (like how I couldn’t even go to the lua by myself at times), I really did learn a lot about being more independent and functioning and making decisions on my own, based on what I needed, rather than what I thought I “should” do. I also learned about setting boundaries with people. Other’s problems do not have to become mine. And I undid my distortion that adulthood sucks and that I didn’t want to grow up. In reality, both childhood and adulthood have their challenges and high points, but being an adult is really cool!

I learned about pushing through discomfort after taking the time I need to process, I learned about being okay with not being okay and letting my emotions out instead of bottling them. Man, I did a lot of letting out! I didn’t know it was possible to sustain that much emotional upset for that long or cry that many tears, but I think it was just everything I’d been holding in for my whole life finally pushing out. And I proved to myself that I really can make it through anything even when I think I can’t. I realized how much I want authenticity for myself and in my relationships. I learned to deal with and embrace difficult and vastly different types of people and to allow them to have their own beliefs while standing strong in my own. I learned that even when I think I can’t go on, or sustain more pain, or not hurt/kill myself, that I can live and be okay. I learned that sometimes it’s best to push through the pain and stick it out for the long-term goal to be reached. I learned that even when and sometimes especially if people know your weaknesses/struggles/faults/fears/failures, they can still love you.

I learned a lot about gardening and loved it! (Although it’s winter in CO and hard to grow things outside, I have a bunch of potted plants inside that I love caring for). I learned about the importance of balance. I learned how I can use my story to relate to and positively impact others and make a good change in both our lives by being authentic, truthful, and open. I learned that even with all the pain, life is worth living and I will never give up! I learned how many people love and want to support me. I gained empathy for more people and human experiences and suffering. (This whole experience really gave me a lot more empathy for my sister which has and will continue to help mend our relationship).

I learned to express my needs. I was honest and open and vulnerable more so than I’d ever been before with myself and others. I learned about self-reflection and how to ponder and explore what was going on. I learned to feel instead of stuff and it was so liberating! I laughed. I cried. I screamed. I sobbed. I wept. I yelled. I spoke. I found my voice and I was heard! I survived. I learned. I grew. I changed. And now I can thrive! I became more authentically me than ever before. I really did cry a lot and feel a lot of loneliness, sadness, anxiety, fear, depression, grief, and hopelessness – more than I ever imagined possible. And (and I say “and” not “but” because both were equally true) I also felt deep love, empathy, and compassion for myself and the people around me. I felt proud of myself (and I feel so proud of myself right now as I reflect on these things which is really amazing). I felt victorious and accomplished and happy and whole. On my last day, at my appreciation ceremony, eating dinner out by ocean front, my eyes brimmed with tears of joy and gratitude. It was by far one of my happiest moments (and I love thinking back to it – everything about it – the way the sun sparkled on the ocean, the way I was there in community with all those beautiful people I was lucky enough to call my friends and they were there to love and support me).

PQ was so hard, those 81 days, but it was oh so incredibly worth it! It saved and changed my life. I didn’t want to admit it for a really long time, but I needed PQ. I needed to go far away, get out of my comfort zone, be in a new place with new people, to first lose but then find myself, in a group of people who finally, really, truly, understood me and now I am finally starting to understand and love myself on a whole new level I never saw as possible…”

– PQ Alumni Student

February 2, 2018

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Breathing Life Into Relationships

Pacific Quest’s Young Adult Family Program: Breathing Life Into Relationships

By: Dr. John Souza, Young Adult Family Program Therapist

Ohana

In Hawaiian culture the taro plant symbolizes family or “Ohana”.  The word Ohana itself comes from the taro.  The “Oha” are the new growth emerging from the corm, an underground storage organ that is the foundation of the taro.  Adding the word “na” pluralizes the Oha, thereby creating a group growing together or an “Ohana”.

Dr. John Souza

Within the word Ohana are the words “Ha” and “Hana”.  “Ha” is the sacred breath of life carried by all and which joins us.  “Hana” is the work into which we breathe our life; and in which we engage with joy knowing it is through our shared work that we make our family relationships healthy and vibrant.

Breathing Life Into Families

Pacific Quest’s Young Adult Family Program has become a haven in which families come to practice joyfully breathing life into their relationships. In 2017, our Family Program had the privilege of hosting 316 students and caregivers. With over 90% of our students participating in Family Program, PQ is an Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare (OBH) program that continues to emphasize integration and diversity, something the garden teaches us is essential for resiliency.  In a time of environmental and social stress, the opportunity for families to have such a place of respite is essential for them to engage in what we call the Corrective Relational Experience.

The Corrective Relational Experience

The Corrective Relational Experience (CRE) is about rebuilding trust and increasing mutual empathy. During Family Program the CRE is achieved by students, parents, and staff embracing two main responsibilities: Practicing Differentiation and Congruence.

Differentiation is being able to separate one’s own thoughts and feelings, both intra-personally (i.e., within one’s self) and interpersonally (i.e., between one’s self and someone else). Additionally, differentiation involves the ability to enter into or exit from a given emotional relationship by choice. Differentiation means not losing one’s emotional self in a relationship, yet also not cutting one’s emotional self off from a relationship: to stay flexibly connected, yet separate.

Congruence is how reflective your values/beliefs (intra-personal) are in a given relationship (interpersonal). That is to say how closely does what you say reflect what you actually want, need,, and feel in a given relationship? For example, if you don’t like a behavior, do you say, “I don’t really like that” or do you only think that, but actually verbalize, “That’s great!”? To be congruent increases authenticity, a critical component of trust and accurate empathy, the heart of the Corrective Relational Experience.

Professional to Personal: Being Part of a Larger Change Process

As a research-informed clinician, I often wonder about the application of research in practice and practice in research. What I’ve found is that the research on Wilderness Therapy and OBH that continues to point to the importance of family involvement in the development and maintenance of gains made by youth in such programs is spot-on. These gains are being supported by the development of mutual trust and empathy between parents and their sons and daughters. Moreover, for me as a clinician, being able to work with entire families in person only enhances the sense of shared trust and empathy within the therapeutic/clinical relationship (between therapist, student, and parents), itself a major predictor of successful therapeutic outcomes.. This mutual influence between clinician and client becomes the nucleus of a much larger change process.  As I the professional, experience greater trust and empathy, it becomes part of my personal experience, which I take home to my family and to my community. As parents experience this CRE, they too take it back to their families and communities. In this way we become like the taro or Ohana, breathing life into our relationships, born of the same source of trust and empathy.

Having Your Own Corrective Relational Experience: Breathing Life Into Your Relationships

There are many ways to have a Corrective Relational Experience. Below are just a few suggestions of specific skills PQ families have used to foster their own CRE’s. Feel free to modify these or make up your own!

  • Breath: It sounds simple, but this rhythmic, sensory-based activity will help keep you regulated and better able to relate to another person. I like to inhale for four counts, pause for one, exhale for eight, pause for one, and repeat. Feels great!
  • Listen: Again, it sounds simple, but really listening to someone with total openness and suspension of judgment or an agenda is challenging. Try inviting someone to share with you for five minutes while you listen; fully open yourself up to hearing whatever they have to share. Be sure to thank them for sharing!
  • Reflect: This is a great skill to use in tandem with listening. However, try to limit your reflections to only those words used by the speaker. Not only will this minimize you inadvertently inserting your own opinions or judgments about what the speaker was sharing, but will also let the speaker know the correct message was conveyed and received.
  • Share: Related to listening and reflecting (and essential for building trust and empathy) is the art of sharing your own struggles. This involves knowing if you need to share more or if you need to share less. If you need to share, be sure that what you share is focused on the relationship in the present moment and involves feeling words such as happy, mad, scared, confused, etc. If you need to share less, let the listener know that you’re practicing creating more space for them to share.
  • Ask for Feedback: A great way to not only practice vulnerability, but also truly honor your relationship with another person, is to ask them for feedback on the relationship. Ask them to share how they feel in the relationship, if there are realistic ways they see that you could more effectively support the relationship, if they have ways that they want to better support the relationship. The key is to remain curious and focused on improving your bond with the other person. Should you find yourself struggling to do either of these two things, repeat the above skills, beginning with breathing or simply request to take a break and return to the conversation at an agreed upon time in the not-too-distant future.

The most important element in any CRE is a genuine desire to improve the relationship. This includes listening, sharing struggles, and setting clear boundaries.

I wish you and your relationships all the best.

A Hui Hou (until we meet again)!

For more information on Pacific Quest’s Young Adult Family Program, please email drjohn@pacficquest.org.

June 28, 2017

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Kuleana Therapist Role: another layer of clinical support

By: Sharon Findlay, Admissions & Communication Manager

Pacific Quest is excited to announce enhanced clinical services in our young adult program! Based on the need and intensity during the Kuleana Phase, PQ has added another therapist to support students through this critical stage of the program. Students will continue to meet with their primary therapist and now will also engage with the Kuleana Therapist, resulting in field-based therapy four days per week during the Kuleana phase to target individualized treatment goals.


What is the Kuleana Phase in the Young Adult Program?

The second of six phases, Kuleana, or personal responsibility, is the foundation of the Young Adult Program at Pacific Quest. Most of the core themes and expectations are identified in this phase and then further developed and sustained throughout treatment. During Kuleana, young adults begin sharing their “story” while simultaneously taking on the responsibilities which help to maintain a functioning community. Kuleana is about exploring the interplay between who a person is, who he/she wants to become, and what he/she is willing to do to get there. Young adults in this phase are in a separate location from the Reeds Bay facility where they are immersed in land, wellness, and other vital aspects of Pacific Quest’s Rite of Passage model.


This immersion model of therapy is an exciting development for this important phase in our program! The Kuleana Therapist will coordinate directly with primary therapist and the field team, and will function as a field-based extension of the primary therapist while students are in Kuleana. Alex Stitt has been selected to pioneer this role.

Kuleana Therapist providing clinical support

“By having someone there more frequently to manage the steps incrementally, we’ll be able to take full advantage of this specific phase of the program,” shares Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Clinical Director. “Alex brings not only clinical expertise but field expertise from his extensive experience over the past three years at Pacific Quest. His keen understanding of the identity level work and how it ties into the land work makes him an ideal Kuleana Therapist.”

Alex Stitt, Kuleana Therapist, adds, “Given that Kuleana is about personal responsibility, the phase is spent doing a lot of depth work around one’s personal values, what one is accountable for, and their locus control and responsibility. Progressively, our students begin to take ownership of their life.”

With this added layer of clinical support, young adults will more effectively navigate Kuleana and develop a solid foundation for their treatment at Pacific Quest.

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 4, 2017

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Recap of Autism Symposium 2017

By: Lynne Mollo, LCSW
Primary Therapist

I was honored to begin the celebration of Autism Awareness month with a group of Educational Consultants, Wilderness therapists, Social Workers, Psychologists, Doctors, Parents and many other professionals working with children and adults on the Spectrum.

On April 2nd and 3rd Asheville North Carolina was host to the 4th Annual Autism Symposium sponsored by several programs in the therapeutic education field. The symposium’s focus was to have a place where professionals could come together and better understand the best practice when dealing with Autism.

A panel of therapists, parents, medical doctors and other professionals answered thought provoking questions from the audience on how to best serve clients and families with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Some of the questions asked of the audience included:

  • Why are there more boys than girls diagnosed with Autism?
  • What are the causes of Autism?
  • Why are the numbers increasing?
  • What are the best ways of supporting people with Autism?

The overall summary of the panel discussion was that there are more questions than answers and more research is needed to understand how to best identify and improve the lives of those touched by ASD.

Dr. Liane Holiday Willey, EdD began the second day of the conference with a witty, interesting and honest presentation entitled “Vulnerabilities and support of women on the Autism Spectrum Disorder”. Not only has Dr. Willey authored several books on the topic of Autism, she herself was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 35 by one of the leading experts in the field, Dr. Tony Attwood. Liane has been a strong advocate for those on the Spectrum and provides support and information on her website blog Aspie.com.

One of the most applicable things she mentioned was how helpful and effective horticultural therapy is for people with Autism. She recommended having a garden (or “even just a pot with something growing in it!”) as an easy, accessible way to help individuals with Autism regulate their emotions. She also noted the high effectiveness rates for horticultural therapy. This speaks to how powerful this intervention is and also why it is so fundamental in our approach at Pacific Quest!

After a meet and greet lunch with a group of professionals and parents all the participants were able to join in on several breakout sessions for the rest of the day. I chose to attend the two sessions that addressed the neurological aspects of ASD. First, I attended an experiential session by Cameron Allen who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome as a teen. He found that neurofeedback supported his development and now is a specialist with a private practice. He and Taisir El-Souessi, LPC facilitated activities that showed how a person on the spectrum might be processing information. The last breakout session I attended was a collaborative case study presentation of a young adult on the spectrum. The professionals walked the audience through this young man’s journey to independence. In the end this young man was able to identify when he was Limbic Dominant. The research presented identified that the limbic system grows super fast in the brain of a person with Autism.

May 3, 2017

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A Letter to My Therapist: One Year After PQ

By: PQ Alumni

I was a student at PQ last year. I just received my letter from a year ago* and I wanted to let you know that I really appreciate what you did. Words cannot express my gratitude.

I know that not all of the students at PQ take the program completely to heart all the time, and many of them do return to old habits after they leave, but I was not one of those people. Pacific Quest was a turning point for me in my adolescent life, as corny as that may sound. Without it, I’m honestly not sure where I would be today.

The gardening, the nature, the outings, and Huli all made a significant difference in how I thought and approached what my life had to offer. And most of all I thoroughly enjoyed our conversations together.

I’m in the last quarter of my senior year in high school, and I’ll be graduating in June. When I started PQ, I was sure I was going to drop out of high school, and college didn’t even seem like an option back then. Now I’m choosing between multiple colleges to attend in the fall, and sometimes I wonder how I made it this far.

My relationship with my family has improved drastically. I still fight with my mom sometimes, but who doesn’t? I talk with my dad a lot, and we actually go do things together, like going to the gym, and taking road trips to Lake Tahoe. I love my dad, and I like spending time with him, which is something I didn’t think was ever possible a year ago. Pacific Quest helped me learn to appreciate everything my family has done for me, and I want to thank you for saving us. PQ was a wake up call if there ever was one, and I am so grateful to be lucky enough to have experienced it. Soon hopefully I’ll be starting a new chapter in my life at college, which will bring its own set of challenges. But I have the confidence that I’ll be able to work through them.

Finally, I want you to know that if you ever feel like the kids you work with don’t have any chance of bettering themselves or you feel like you haven’t done enough to help them, that that simply isn’t true. Because there is one kid from California out there in the world, and he is forever grateful.

Best,
PQ Alum

*The letter this alumni is referencing is a letter that students write to themselves that PQ then mails out a year later. It’s an incredible reminder of all the hard work and progress they made at Pacific Quest.

January 19, 2017

Written by:

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.