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May 7, 2018

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Expressive Therapies Summit – A Playful Event

Dr. Elnur Gajiev, Mike Sullivan, Dr. Lorraine Freedle and Dr. Dan Siegel in LA

Carl Jung said, “Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.”  This quote captures the essence of the Expressive Therapies Summit, a recent gathering of international clinicians interested in the role of play and art in healing.  The conference provided workshops in sandplay, poetry, nature art, role play, drawing, and more. It was a powerful way to release ourselves from the tug of war in the prefrontal cortex (our most complex executive functioning parts of our brains that tend to “overthink” things) and tap into the lower more relational and regulatory parts of our brains (our “lizard brains” as Dan Siegel calls it).  Needless to say, the conference was experiential education at its finest, replete with play and activity.

Pacific Quest’s Clinical Director and renowned sandplay expert Dr. Lorraine Freedle presented “Play as Archetype and Agent for Transformational Change.”  Audience members enjoyed learning about the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics and the neuromechinisms involved with play, symbolic expression and healing.  Play isn’t just a human activity, it exists in many species of animals, and remains a critical component of social, emotional, and cognitive development. Dr. Freedle engaged the audience with interactive art, videos, and case studies, allowing participants to develop a felt sense for the power of play, and the important role it plays in transformational change.  Being that sandplay is Dr. Freedle’s specialty and her background is rooted in Jungian psychology, she brought her travel sand tray from Hawaii, and offered insights into the value of sandplay specifically.

The keynote address stands out as another highlight.  Dr. Dan Siegel, leader in the neuroscience field introduced themes from his new book, linking tools and insights related to decreasing chaos and rigidity, and increasing flexibility, adaptation, coherence, empathy, and stability (F.A.C.E.S.).  Dr. Siegel’s plethora of books remain favorites among the Pacific Quest team, and Dr. Elnur Gajiev, Dr. Lorraine Freedle, and myself were lucky enough to be present for his keynote address. Even better, we were able to chat with Dr. Siegel following the presentation and he was kind enough to give us a photo.

The Expressive Therapies Summit did not disappoint, and will remain a priority for continuing education in years to come.  Thank you Dr. Freedle for contributing your expertise to the event, and thanks to all the participants for making it a truly interactive and educational event.

June 3, 2011

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Ohana Adventures to Pu’uhonua O Honaunau and 2-step

Recently the Ohana group geared up with fins and snorkels to explore one of the most fascinating places on the island, Pu’ uhonua O Honaunau (City of Refuge).  The group set out to learn about tropical reef fish and remains of ancient Hawaiian culture first hand.  Pu’uhonua O Honaunau was home of the ali’i (royalty) of the Kona district. This compound consisted of more than 10 buildings within the coconut palm grove. A massive stone wall was built in 1550 and still stands today, separating the royal grounds from the Pu’uhonua. Pu’uhonua was a place of refuge for defeated warriors, and for citizens who violated the Kapu (sacred laws).  In 1819 Kamehameha II got rid of the traditional religious practices that took place here, destroying the huts or leaving them to their own fate. This area became a national park in 1961.

Ohana Adventures to Pu'uhonua O Honaunau - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

The Ohana started their day snorkeling from the royal canoe landing reserved only for the chief and his attendants. The small group geared up with snorkels, goggles, and fins and slid their way down the two natural lava steps into the crystal clear blue water (hence the nickname “two-step”). The students grazed above glowing cauliflower coral reef, saw exotic reef fish and identified sea creatures such as the dragon muray eel, humuhumunukunukuapuaa (Hawaii state fish), and the aha (needlefish). The students were excited to be able to swim through an underwater arch formed by coral and lock eyes with a honu (Hawaiian sea turtle).

Ohana Adventures to Pu'uhonua O Honaunau - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Ohana Adventures to Pu'uhonua O Honaunau - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

After exploring the small bay the students explored the lively tide pools that stand with warm ocean water on the smoother pahoehoe lava. Gazing into these pools they initially seem lifeless, however with close attention they came alive and students began to see the loli ( sea cucumber), opihi and small fish living in what was their small home.

Ohana Adventures to Pu'uhonua O Honaunau - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

After drying off the group made their way into the Pu’uhonua O Honaunau to eat lunch. The conversation topic revolved around “If we were an explorer in this day in age what three things would we bring with us to start a new prosperous civilization?” This invoked some creative conversation!  After lunch the group scouted out the old remains of the ali’i. Students were able to play konane (Hawaiian game played on a rock similar to checkers), watch a native Hawaiian weave coconut into fishing nets, and carve koa into canoe’s. It was a very packed day!

Ohana Adventures to Pu'uhonua O Honaunau - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

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June 7, 2010

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The Long and Winding Road

By Mary Beth Osoro

The road was windy. I knew where I wanted to be, but I wasn’t sure how to get there. I was afraid I would get lost, or miss my turn, or just get there so late, no one would be left to greet me. The scenery was beautiful, but I was so concentrated on the road, it was hard to look up and appreciate what was around.

The road was windy. She knew where she wanted to be, but wasn’t sure how to get there. She was afraid of getting lost or missing something. She didn’t always see the beauty around, as she was often focusing on something else.

The first paragraph is about me. I was on my way to Carlbrook School to tour the grounds and say hello to a past student that was getting ready to graduate. I had flown from Hawaii to the East Coast and was turned around either due to the extreme jet lag I was experiencing after a red-eye or the confusing back country roads.

The second paragraph is about Allie. She was graduating from Carlbrook, and windy road was a great metaphor for a young woman who started the journey confused and insecure. She didn’t always see the beauty in herself, but if she only looked up, slowed down and focused, she would be sure to see what everyone else saw in her.

Luckily, we both got to our destination.

The next morning I found myself on the same road, only more familiar with the terrain and confident as to where I was headed. Though I was well rested, it was only because I was so exhausted that I didn’t hear my alarm and got to sleep in. Arriving late to the graduation, I felt guilty and embarrassed, and slipped into the crowd. thankful the sun was not yet blazing down. I looked around at the intimate group and was impressed by the love and care I could feel from everyone—the parents, the teachers, the headmaster, the other students, the advisers/therapists.

Though love was present, it was the feeling of gratitude was overpowering. Each and every one of the 23 graduates expressed thanks to their parents for giving them the opportunity to come to Carlbrook. All 23 of them! How I wished I could have told Allie that she would be thanking her parents for this. Had I told her that during her first weeks in wilderness (or her last, for that matter) she would have thought I was crazy.

I had gratitude as well. Gratitude that Allie had invited me to her graduation. Gratitude that I got to witness amazing young men and women start a new chapter in their life. Gratitude that I got to see Allie come full circle.

The Long and Winding Road - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

You see, I get the pleasure of working with students when they first start this windy road of a process. I rarely get to see the end of the process. Rather, I stand with the student and the parents at the start of the daunting journey—a road so long there is no end in sight, so many highs and lows it disappears from view, so curvy one is guaranteed to get sick along the way. I only wish I could wrap up what I saw at Carlbrook, the gratitude, the pride in both parents and in the students themselves, and the love, and show parents the end of the road.

This was written with consent from Allie herself who is excited to head to college and start shopping to decorate her dorm.

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February 10, 2010

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A Day with Ka ‘Ohana O Honu’apo

A Day with Ka 'Ohana O Honu'apo - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young AdultsKa ‘Ohana O Honu’apo motto is three fold: malama ‘aina (care for the land), kupono (honesty) and kuleana (responsibility). The organization was formed to help steward the land at the old village site of Honu’apo (literally caught turtle) after the community banded together to raise monies to purchase the land to ensure it was not developed after this almost occurred in 2003. Honu’apo is now owned and co-managed by a number of organizations, with Ka Ohana O Honu’apo often representing the voice of cultural preservation. Today, members of this organization helped the combined malama / ohana outing group to navigate the cultural, historical and environmental significance of this special place.

We began our day by learning how to introduce ourselves in Hawaiian and learning some Hawaiian words that are significant to the area. This was followed by a tour around the park which showed us evidence of both the human and environmental impacts that have helped to shape the local landscape. Some examples include the need for human and commercial transportation that built the pier and the earthquakes and tsunamis that helped to destroy it, and which washed away the black sand beact that once lined the coast. Another is the coconut grove and the remains of the old stone wall that sits in the shadows of the trees, and which once closed this estuary off as a fish pond. We also learned about the many different uses for the niu (coconut) tree and the lauhala plant.
A Day with Ka 'Ohana O Honu'apo - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults
After learning a mele (song) by Keola Beamer (pupu hinuhinu – shiny shell) and having a snack, we headed to the muliwai (estuary) which was once a loko i’a (fishpond). Only half of the wall that once made this estuary a fishpond still exists and Ka ‘ Ohana O Honu’apo and NOAA are working to restore the area as muliwai. There we learned about ways of testing water for salinity, visibility and ph. We were then able to get in the water to run transect lines and record the fish we encountered.

As this is the season when the humpback whale as in Hawaii to mate and calve, so of us were lucky enough to see whale surfacing throughout the day. Over lunch we talked about the amazing journey the whales make to Hawaii and back without eating, as their main food source, krill, does not live here. We also learned about the great pacific garbage patch, the effects of this human made phenomenon on wildlife, and the importance of picking up trash. We concluded our day with a beach clean up and filled 2 trash bags with debris, both that which had washed in from the ocean and some that we saved from making it there in the first place. This gave us the opportunity to spread out along the shore, see more whales and do our part to keep this rich place so beautiful.

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January 27, 2010

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Trip to Mauna Kea visitor area at 9,300 feet

Trip to Mauna Kea visitor area at 9,300 feet - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Mauna Kea, planet Earth’s tallest mountain (when measured from sea floor to summit) rises 13,796 feet above sea level. It is arguably the best place in the world to look at the stars. On Tuesday afternoon, Pacific Quest’s Malama students had the rare opportunity to don long-johns and winter hats, as they made the trip to Hawaii’s sacred mountain.

Upon arriving at the Visitor Information Station (VIS) at 9,300 feet in elevation, the students took a walk to see the unique flora of the ecosystem.  Students viewed the silversword, a threatened plant species endemic to Hawaii.   The life cycle of this particular plant is up to 40 years. Found only on the slopes of Mauna Kea and Haleakala (a volcano on Maui), the silversword is named for its long, narrow leaves with silvery hairs.

After examining the rare plant as well as a few others that exist on Mauna Kea, the students hit the trails for a short hike up an extinct cinder cone, or pu’u, to watch the sunset. From above the clouds the views were spectacular! Everyone seemed to enjoy absorbing the alien landscape, often likened to that of the moon. As the sun set, one student uttered a reverent, “Wow.” With that, the group shared one thing from their past that they would like to leave up on the mountain—one thing that, if absent from their life, would allow them to move forward in a more positive direction in their future.

The group headed back to the VIS to have a picnic dinner and watch a film about the cultural and scientific history of Mauna Kea. Once it had become sufficiently dark, it was time for the star tour began.  Everyone shuffled outside to view the night sky. With the aid of the VIS telescopes, the Malama students got to look at the Moon, Mars, and Jupiter with four of its moons.  VIS staff pointed out different constellations and before leaving everyone got a lesson on how to used the public telescopes to find different stars and planets in the sky.

Mauna Kea is truly a magnificent place and everyone was sincerely grateful to have had such a unique opportunity.

Trip to Mauna Kea visitor area at 9,300 feet - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

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November 12, 2009

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Green Sands Beach

Green Sands Beach - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

The group was able to visit Green Sands Beach. This was one of those days that makes living in Hawaii so worth it!

We started out the day by driving down to South Point. Along the way the group discussed local history, and in particular how the area was probably the first in Hawaii to be colonized by humans. The group also touched on the abrupt dropoff of the coastline, making for good fishing and whale watching.  The fishing was an integral aspect in making the area conducive to human survival.

The first stop was the fishing area at the point. Kawika showed the students canoe ties offs on the cliffs that were carved by ancient Hawaiians.  These tie offs are still in use today. The group toured the blow holes and cave underneath. They got to watch people fish and Kawika talked about all the potential places that one could access by hiking.

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Next the group approached Green Sands along the four wheel drive coastline road. This is a highlight since as the area is plagued with rough terrain and steep hills.

When at the beach, the group found the swimming and body boarding conditions to be just right. Sunny with no clouds! Waves just big enough to toss people around without being scary. A steady cool breeze. And best of all, the group had it all to themselves most of the day.

The rest of the day was smooth. The group went body boarding, ate lunch, then went body boarding again. The day ended with us driving home in silence, as everyone was so exhausted from the full day.

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October 23, 2009

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Hawaii Volcanoes outing

The weather was a bit voggy (an island term used to describe volcanic emissions – like fog) but the sky was clear and sunny.  On the drive, the group discussed volcanes, volcano formation and  unique stories about previous eruptions in recent history.

We first stopped at the tree molds so everyone could get an idea of how big lava flows can be.  Tree molds are areas where the lava has flown through a forest and encompassed a tree.  The organic mass of the tree burns away and leaves a mold of the lava in the formation of the tree.  The next stop was at the visitors center where the group utilized the elaborate visual aids to discover some of the biological factors present in Hawaii.  We followed that up by spending some time at the Jagger museum with more models and diagrams.  After lunch, the group wanted to see the lava tube. They took a tour of the lit side of the cave.  The last part of the day was spent down on the coastline where the group was able to see recent flows, the ocean steam plume and the dramatic coastline near the sea arch.  Interestingly enough, the group’s favorite part of the day was not the cool stuff they got to see and experience in one of the most majestic and unique places on earth, it was picking guavas on the side of the road on the way back to camp!  Gotta love guava eh?

October 9, 2009

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Outing 10/2/09

The group started the outing by first visiting the black sand beach at Punaluu. The weather turned out to be cold and windy near the coastline so the students were not too enthused about going swimming. The group spent most of the day hiking around “talking story” (a Hawaiian term) about the history of the area and seeing the remains of ancient heiaus. The coastline has many scars and abandoned structures from past tsunamis. The guides were able to tie that in with recent events in the pacific. Despite the cold weather, there were quite a few turtles on shore for the students to see. While walking along the waters edge, Kavika explained about the importance of always keeping your eyes on the waves. At that moment he was drenched by wave after being distracted by a tide pool. The camera got wet and was placed in rice after the outing to accelerate drying. Pictures were lost!  The group concluded the day by heading uphill through a few scenic mountain roads. They stopped periodically to pick guavas, mac nuts and lilikoi. Kavika noted “It never ceases to amaze me how much the kids enjoy something as simple as picking guava on the side of the road.”

October 2, 2009

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Volcanoes National Park

Rainy day at Volcanoes National Park! It was coming down pretty heavily when the group departed. By the time the group arrived at the national park the rain let up a bit. As the group approached the park they talked about general geology of the area, highlighting the formation of the landscape and the fault line underneath. When the group arrived in the park, they went to the visitor’s center for a bathroom break and a look at the relief map. Guides noted many interesting facts about the volcanoes and their respective formations. They talked about the difference between, extinct, dormant, and active volcanoes, identifying each aspect in local volcanoes. The group talked about the Kilauea volcano and the current eruption! Guides pointed out what is expected from a geological standpoint in the next 10,000 years. (Talk about looking at our lives from a different perspective). The group then drove around to Kilauea Iki trailhead and ate long gong fruits. The group contrasted the forest in Puna and the forest in Volcano, noting how species were/are introduced to native forest (the group then made sure to collect all our fruit seeds and pack them out). The group hiked into the crater of Kilauea Iki. They identified and discussed the uses and significance of the Hapu’u fern tree, ginger and Ohia Lehua. When the group arrived at the crater floor they did a silly sun-dance, found different types and colors of lava and ohela berries. They explored the crater, discussed its creation, the “bathtub ring” and the still active steam vents – first hand. The group at lunch at the bottom of the crater and asked volcano trivia. They reviewed indigenous and endemic plants and then hiked back up through the rainforest to the lava tube. The group explored a lava tube formation and underground Ohia roots. They brought headlamps and explored the unlit part of the tube a bit – a highlight for sure.

Check out more images of the volcanoes here!

September 25, 2009

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Shipman’s beach!

For this outing we drove north to keaau. On the journey we talked about Hawaiian native plants in the national park as we drove through, about the volcanic activity at Halema’uma’u and Pu’u O’o, the legend of Ohia and Lehua and a brief history of sugar in Hawaii, and its influence on the town of Keaau. We took a bathroom break in Keaau at Shipman’s park before heading to the trailhead.

On the hike we identified the autograph tree, the hau, banyons, and the group favorite, the strawberry guava. We talked about the old road we were walking on, the kings trail, evidence of old taro beds we saw, and an old world war two bunker that we found near the beach. When we arrived at Haena, we had the privilege to see a giant green sea turtle, beached for an afternoon in the sun; we talked about the predatory threats to the creature (mostly human). We also were able to dispel the myth that the endangered Nene can not fly as two passed overhead. We talked briefly over lunch about how it would feel to be told you had to leave your home, as in the case of when the lands of Keaau were sold to Shipman, or perhaps in the case of lava approaching your village.

After lunch we swam and explored the area where the fresh water springs merge with the ocean. On the hike back the group collected many guavas for the ohana. It was a great hike and a great outing all in all. The group really came together in the last stretch when a student expressed wanting to get back to make an awesome dinner for everyone. All were able to pick up the pace and check almost twenty minutes off our hike time on the way in.