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August 31, 2017

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PQ Announces New Video Library!

By: Sharon Findlay, Admissions & Communication Manager

Pacific Quest is excited to announce our new Video Library for parents, students, and referring professionals! Viewers can easily filter the videos by category and featured staff member. Categories include: Advice for parents, Common Questions, Medical + Wellness Questions, Therapeutic Approach, and Why Pacific Quest. Parents can get to know our team from afar and hear their personal and professional perspectives on what makes Pacific Quest the special and healing place that it is.

With this new video library and new content, we worked hard to anticipate the needs of parents considering Pacific Quest for their child. Videos like “Being so far away, how effective is Pacific Quest at reconnecting the family system?” and “Gardening seems a little soft. How effective can it be?” are just two examples real questions we’ve received. This video library gives parents the opportunity to get candid answers from multiple team members.

The videos provide new and engaging content, as well as informative visuals for what Pacific Quest looks and feels like. Parents are able to see the many areas of campus from these videos. These resources are accessible to parents and professionals at whatever time of day is most convenient for them to learn more about Pacific Quest and get specific questions answered.

August 29, 2017

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Alumni Visit, 3 Years Later!

By Ashley Cipponeri, Alumni & Family Services Liaison

Summer in Hawaii brings a steady stream of new students and visitors to experience Pacific Quest! Not only do we see an influx of student admissions during the summer months, but we also see a steady stream of alumni students returning for a visit. Pacific Quest is often times the catalyst for student’s long term growth. Students identify their time at Pacific Quest as one of the main turning points for their wellbeing. The roots of reflection, responsibility, community living, and mentorship began here.

Alumni student, Juliette, recently visited Pacific Quest’s Adolescent Program. She was eager to experience Pacific Quest with the new outlook she has developed since her time at Pacific Quest. We had the opportunity to interview Juliette during her visit:

How old were you when you attended Pacific Quest and how old are you now?
I had just turned 14 when I arrived to Pacific Quest and I am 17 making it three years, almost exactly, since I was last here.

What were some of the challenges you faced while at Pacific Quest and how did you learn to cope with those challenges?
I had never been away from home for more than a week so I missed my home, my parents, and my family a lot. I had to deal with these challenges because I wasn’t able to overcome them. I wrote letters a lot and I tended to distract myself with landwork or writing letters. I also sang a lot and wrote lyrics in my journal to songs I enjoyed. I also did not do exercise before PQ so having to do work and exercise everyday was a big struggle at first. That was the hardest physical thing for me.

From the start of the program to the end, did you feel any difference with your physical activity and how you felt?
I felt a lot better. Just from eating super healthy and drinking a lot of water and working out everyday, I felt stronger and clearer, both physically and mentally.

Did you set any goals while you were at Pacific Quest that you continued to work on these past couple years?
My intent statement. I am a brave, smart, and beautiful young woman who accepts that the choices she has made are all a part of her journey. Accepting the past and recognizing I can’t change it and I have to move forward.

Have you been able to sustain any of the changes you have made starting at Pacific Quest?
I am trying to eat healthier, it doesn’t always work out because you have to make it versus just going somewhere, but I do try to eat healthier and I definitely eat healthier compared to before coming to Pacific Quest but not as healthy as the Pacific Quest diet. I also drink plenty of water.

Have you made any changes in how you deal with challenging emotions?
Before I came here, emotions were a big thing for me because it was hard to identify what I was feeling so I didn’t know how to express myself so I learned how to be aware of my emotions and not give up.

Did the emotional vocabulary you learned while at Pacific Quest help when you went to other programs after Pacific Quest?
Yea, it was the start of expanding it.

What was your favorite part of being at Pacific Quest?
I loved cooking. That was my favorite thing to do and I was good at it. People liked it when I did it because I was creative. I really enjoyed learning about plants. I don’t get to use it much now but I still remember most of it.

Do you have any Malama* words of wisdom?
*Malama means “to care for” or “steward”. It is the pinnacle phase at Pacific Quest.
Even if something is hard, it doesn’t mean it is bad. I really like quotes and one of my favorite is, “it’s always darkest before dawn” and I agree with that. It gets really hard before it gets better.

What would you say to parents who are on the fence about sending their child to Pacific Quest and maybe are worried about their child not enjoying?
I’d say they do not have to enjoy it for it to be good. I doubt there will be any student that enjoys it the first couple weeks. Some enjoy it in the end but the important thing is they will look back on it and be glad that you sent them there and in the long run they will thank you.

You spoke about how the healthy eating and drinking has had an impact on you, what about the other pillars of health taught at Pacific Quest?
Yea, deep breathing is the best way I have found to help with my anxiety and calm myself down.

Anything else you want to share before we close?
Even if you believe you might make it through without PQ, it will still be good for you. I don’t think this will be bad for any person. Even if you think you can do it by yourself, with the program you will progress better and faster.

August 20, 2017

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Adventure to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

A group of PQ students recently has an adventure at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park! The group packed up the cars and headed up the Southeastern coast towards the park, listening to music and playing fun games along the way. The car ride followed a highway that took the group past stunning panoramic ocean views over Whittington beach park, where everyone could see the Pacific ocean spanning off into the horizon. The group also drove through the Ka’u desert, into the lowland Ohi’a Lehua forest on the gentle slopes of Mauna Loa, and finally into the national park and its vast, lush expanses of tropical forests.

The first stop on this outing was the Thurston Lava Tube.  Known as Nāhuku, the lava tube was discovered (or possibly re-discovered) in 1913 by Lorrin Thurston, a local news publisher at the time. The group stopped for a brief lesson on how lava tubes are formed before setting off on a winding trail through a forest of tree ferns.  At the bottom of the trail the large, ominous mouth of the lava tube became visible and the group was soon inside it’s lighted passageways. The group entered the tube and took a moment of stillness to observe the cavernous silence of the tube, imagining a river of molten lava flowing through the spot where they were standing over one hundred years ago. After this moment, the group took a few group photos and then made their way through the remainder of the tunnel, pausing to touch the walls of the tube, feel the moisture and moss, and observe spiderwebs hang from lights lining the tube. At the end of the tunnel, everyone made their way up a series of winding staircases that joined a path to complete the trail loop.  After the lava tube, everyone was ready for lunch. The group enjoyed a picnic while a student read stories about Pele, the goddess of fire, and her journey through the Hawaiian islands before finally finding a home in a crater at the national park.

After lunch, the group was ready to head out on the next excursion, a trek that would take them around and across the floor of the nearby Kilauea Iki crater. Descending again through the lush rainforest, the students arrived on the crater floor. The crater’s most recent natural history is dominated by a 1959 vent eruption that spewed a curtain of lava 1900 feet into the air for five weeks. This eruption filled the valley floor to create a lake of lava weighing an estimated 86 million tons and rising to a depth of 400 feet. As the group walked and talked together, they couldn’t help but pause periodically to marvel at the natural beauty of the crater as everyone looked out in awe over the crater, under Mauna Loa, and across the steam vents.

As the group continued across the crater floor, everyone paused to learn about and observe some of the steam vents, and look for interesting geologic marvels such as ‘Pele’s Hair’ – thin strands of rock lifted from the lava lake of Kilauea’s caldera and blown by the wind to settle in cracks and crevices all over the surrounding area. Students marveled at the Ohi’a Lehua trees that took root in the otherwise desolate crater floor, ruminating on how life finds a way to endure, even in the harshest conditions.  Everyone hiked back up the switchbacks on the opposite side of the crater and made the short hike back through the rainforest to where the cars were parked. Just before leaving the crater, the group stopped at an overlook to take one last look at how vast the crater was and how far they had come. A tired, but very fulfilled ohana climbed back into the cars to relax and reflect on the ride back to Pacific Quest.

July 27, 2017

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Family + Rites of Passage: A Unified Approach

By: Mike McGee, BS
Family Program Manager

For anyone who has participated in a Rites of Passage experience, structured or otherwise, one of the toughest tasks is explaining the significance to loved ones. The feeling of transformation or the significance of a falling leaf or animal encounter can be easily lost in translation. For students in wilderness therapy, the lack of words to express the significance can be frustrating. Having a Rites of Passage experience that includes an examination of the family unit and the family system itself allows for shared language, experience, and growth.

Rites of Passage at PQ

At Pacific Quest, our Family Program is an extension of our Rites of Passage experience. By examining our families through the lens of the Four Shields Model (an approach overviewed below), we are able to see the value and viewpoints of each phase of life. The Four Shields Model examines the joys and naiveté of childhood in the south shield, the identity formation and differentiation of adolescence in the west, the responsibility and drive found in adulthood in the north, and the simplicity and wisdom found in elder-hood in the east. Without a holistic view of the human experience, adolescent Rites of Passage can end up an extension of the unintended selfishness of childhood. And the true intent of a Rite of Passage is to not only benefit the individual but the community at large as well.

This is not just work for the adolescent. Our society often fails to see the value of viewpoints from our children, adolescents, and elders. Who hasn’t been moved by the joy and honesty found in children? Our music and art stems from the passion and pain found in our teenage years or the wisdom and strength of an elder who can listen and share from a place of experience. When we, as adults, fail to see the value of knowledge from the entirety of human existence, we can fall into the trap of monotony, money, and the mundane. One of my teachers shared that our primary purpose of adulthood is to show adolescents that being an adult is ‘worth it’. Adulthood and responsibility, when viewed through a nonlinear model are a choice, and why would anyone choose to be miserable?

Mike McGee, Family Program Manager

When I ask our students who the most impactful person in their life is, the most common response is a grandparent. They often see their parents as independent of their grandparents. Students often fail to see that their parents most likely had issues with their parents, and sought solace with their grandparents.

We work with our families to highlight the strengths and acknowledge the flaws in each generation’s way of thinking. I cannot count the amount of times a family has come back from their experience blown away by the newly articulated views of their children. Many parents and adults have lost the language of expression found in those tumultuous years. The rawness of feeling that has been tampered down to be polite and acceptable in all settings. And our students can walk away knowing that their voice has been heard and that the adults in their lives have their best interest in mind. Only by listening, are we able to finally hear the value in the other’s words.

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 17, 2017

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How does living near a volcano fit into Recovery?

By: Mark White, LPC – CDC II
Primary Therapist

Kuleana – Hawaiian for ‘personal responsibility’

Kuleana is also the name of the second phase of the Pacific Quest (PQ) Young Adult Program. This powerful experience challenges students to dig deep and take charge of their individual (and group) process each and every day. The Kuleana Camp is located not far from the slopes of a volcano near the southernmost point in the United States – meaning that there are few external distractions for students access – except the resources within themselves.

Mark White therapist photo

Mark White, Primary Therapist

Having worked in the field of addiction treatment for many years, I understand that internal motivation for change is needed for students to implement and sustain lifestyle change(s) over time. Moreover to really provide the best opportunity for these changes to ‘take root’ is for the student to develop strong ownership and/or personal investment in the change(s) they are committing to.

This is a different dynamic than simply telling the therapist what the student thinks we want to hear, or coming up with a great story to tell mom and dad. Kuleana demands student investment in the form of action. Simply put, if the garden isn’t tended it will die – there’s no running over to Home Depot to grab some more plants. Talking about taking responsibility is simply not enough. Success of the community is 100% dependent on student actions in this phase.

In turn our treatment team has the opportunity to challenge students to contemplate how to take Kuleana for their own Recovery, as this process is also 100% dependent on themselves. For we know that time passes quickly and soon enough students will no longer be living by the sea near a volcano. They will be at school, at work, with family or adventuring alone in life. As a licensed professional counselor and certified chemical dependency counselor who’s worked with hundreds of youth in treatment since 1999, I’ve very aware that I won’t be around to help them with their choices in-the-moment. I also know that mom and dad won’t be able to make choices for them either.

That being said, the good news is that PQ students can have Kuleana and are able to harvest this powerful resource at anytime/anyplace to choose to further their Recovery. Once they’ve found this power within themselves no one can take it away – it is truly the fertile soil for lasting life change.

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.

April 17, 2017

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PQ Partners with All One Ocean Nonprofit

By: Katie Strong, Program Guide

“Aloha ʻĀina, Aloha Kai!” That’s Hawaiʻian for “love the land, love the ocean.” We take these phrases to heart at Pacific Quest. As a horticultural therapy program, we’re well known for caring for the land, but we’re also really into the ocean. PQ students learn about the importance of caring for our ocean during weekly water outings and beach cleanups and frequent swims in Reeds Bay. And we recently upped our marine stewardship game by installing two Beach Clean Up Stations, with two more on the way!

Pacific Quest Partners with All One Ocean Nonprofit for Beach Clean Up

We installed one of the Stations at our Reeds Bay campus and another at Richardson Beach. The other two Stations will soon be installed at Carlsmith Beach Park. These Stations will enable both Hilo beachgoers and PQ students to divert 80,000 pieces of trash a year from our ocean and waterways, improving the lives of sea and land creatures, including humans. Beach Clean Up Stations are permanently mounted wooden boxes containing repurposed, reusable bags for collecting beach trash. Each Station features children’s marine-themed art and signage showing how to use the Station, the impact of marine debris and how to reduce trash.

Pacific Quest Partners with All One Ocean Nonprofit for Beach Clean UpPQ students will use the Richardson Beach and Carlsmith Beach Park Stations during their beach cleanup outings, and the Reeds Bay Station several times a week. Students will use these Stations to pick up 26,000 pieces of trash a year. We expect that the Richardson Beach and Carlsmith Beach Park Stations will educate 3,240 beachgoers a year about the harm human-generated trash causes to sea and land creatures and teach them how to reduce this waste. Each year, these Stations will enable 1,080 beachgoers to remove 54,000 pieces of trash – which is definitely “Aloha ʻĀina, Aloha Kai!”

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Pacific Quest built and installed these Beach Clean Up Stations in partnership with All One Ocean and the County of Hawaii. All One Ocean, a local nonprofit, has installed 37 Beach Clean Up Stations and four School Clean Up Stations, in Hawaii, California, Iowa and Alabama.

April 8, 2017

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Community Service at Punalu’u Pond

By: Nikki Robinson, Adolescent Program Master Guide

A group of Pacific Quest adolescent students recently joined the community at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach to participate in removing invasive plant species.  The pond at Punalu’u is a unique and rare ecosystem – an anchialine pool, it is connected to the ocean by an underground fissure, consists of brackish water, and the water level changes with the tides. Of all the anchialine pools on the planet, more than half of them can be found on the island of Hawai’i!  These ponds are home to a plethora of endemic plants and animals. Water hyacinth, an introduced and invasive species, thrives in this pond, crowding out native plants and animals, blocks sunlight into the pond, acts as a breeding ground for mosquitoes, and threatens the existence of many species that only exist in this rare ecosystem.  Our job, pulling water hyacinth out of the pond, ensures the survival of endemic species to the island.

Pacific Quest community service pond clean up at Punalu'u

Removing water hyacinth from pond

Upon our arrival to the beach park, most students were eager to jump into the murky pond and work together with members of the community to eradicate the water hyacinth from an area of the pond.  As the rest of the group eased into the pond, students broke into groups.  Some students pushed clumps of hyacinth in towards the shore, while others threw the plants onto and away from the shore. The students spent time pausing to investigate the life forms in the pond. They discovered crayfish, tadpoles ducks, and the endangered nene. As they cleared the pond, they shared stories with community members; some of whom have lived in the region all of their lives. After some time working, the students were satisfied with the large area of cleared pond and ready to eat lunch.

Before lunch, we all jumped into the ocean to clean off. The cool water felt great after all the hard work we had done. The group circled up, had a round of thanks, and ate lunch over fun conversation topics. We enjoyed lunch and a view of palm trees, black sand, sea turtles, and beautiful blue waves. The weather was perfect for a day at the beach. After digesting for a while, the group decided to go for a refreshing swim in the ocean. Some choose to swim while others chose to float and chat.

Punalu’u was once a major residence for ancient Hawaiians. Hawaiians used this land for fishing and as a major source of fresh water. Punalu’u means “diving spring”, and sits on top of thousands of tons of fresh water flowing underground. During periods of drought, ancient Hawaiians would dive to the bottom of the ocean and fill “ipu” (gourds) with fresh water. Punalu’u is also home to endangered hawksbill sea turtles known as Honu’ea. Tourists come from far away to admire the fascinating creatures, but are warned: “do not touch or ride the turtles”. Students watched as turtles basked in the sun. They were awed by the turtles’ size and gentle nature, but made sure to give the turtles plenty of space.

After taking a nice swim, the students took some time to relax on the beach. The group played an organized bonding game and shared stories over the experience afterwards while loading up the van. We then headed back to Pacific Quest with about an hour to relax before it was time to hop into the gardens and kitchen to prepare dinner.