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September 22, 2016

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Art and Sandplay Therapy Training Series

By: Andrea Sussel, MSS, LCSW
Primary Therapist

Art and Sandplay Therapy Training Series - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Nine members of the Pacific Quest team completed a 10-month long experiential art and sandplay therapy training lead by PQ Clinical Director, Dr. Lorraine Freedle. Sandplay is a non-verbal, depth-oriented, multi-sensory therapy wherein students use symbols and sand to express and work through their inner experiences. Sandplay rooms are available in both our adolescent and young adult programs. As a primary therapist in the young adult program, I have found this to be especially helpful at various points in treatment with students who are dysregulated and struggling with overwhelmingly difficult emotions. The therapeutic benefits begin as soon as we walk into the room lined with ceiling to floor shelves filled with objects, each of which contain symbolic meaning and energy. Students are incredibly drawn to the collection and it immediately stimulates dialogue, curiosity and expression. Students with trauma sometimes find this form of therapy provides them with a safe way to access and express memories through art, process the experience, and rejoin the world of others.

A Shared Journey

Lorraine held a space for each member of our group to learn concepts and to have a personal journey of healing through a variety of art mediums from pastels, to finger painting, to clay, to creating a “wholeness” project with collage materials. We began each session by making a group sand tray by choosing a personal object from among thousands on the shelves. Together, we created a safe space to go deep, heal and connect in an academically rich, learning experience that was indeed transformative. The experience prepared us to skillfully guide our PQ students on their unique journey.

In our final class, Lorraine prepared a slide show for each of us combining images from our process with her great insights. It felt profound to pause and witness each individual’s transformation in symbolic form.

Personal Reflections

As a Certified Gestalt Therapist, this training will live inside me in perfect harmony with my pre-existing “permission to be creative”, awareness of the here and now, and listening deeply to what emerges in my thoughts, feelings and messages from my body. The entire group expressed heartfelt appreciation for this unique experience to learn about ourselves first, so that we can serve our students well, as they travel their hero’s journey.

Art and Sandplay Therapy at PQ

We offer art and sandplay therapy to our students for many reasons: it’s fun and requires no artistic ability, it transcends verbal communication, and it is multidimensional, allowing for many processes from different levels in the brain and psyche to occur simultaneously. Art therapy is integrative, addressing emotional, cognitive, motor and sensory experiences happening in the here and now. It integrates right and left-brain functions, conscious and unconscious, past and present. And, it facilitates communication through processing what has been created, easing the discomfort that some experience from sharing purely emotional material.

September 7, 2016

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

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

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

Meet Alyson Alde

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

The Unique Role of the Master Guide at Pacific Quest

Alyson working with a student in the garden

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

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

August 19, 2016

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Family Fridays: We Have Our Son Back

By: Alumni Parent

If you are reading this, you might be a parent who is at the end of your rope and desperately looking to solve one of the biggest problems you have faced in your lifetime. I am so sorry you are where you are, it is excruciating. I know intensely how you feel, since I sat right in your spot about four months ago.

Prior to leaving for Pacific Quest my sixteen year old son was knee deep in a major depressive episode, self medicating with marijuana, and completely stalled in school. He was hopeless, demoralized, mostly shut down and his low points triggered suicidal thoughts. Our local doctors felt he was “showing improvement” but we never really made it off rock bottom for the good part of a year. My husband and I took a leap of faith and decided to be proactive instead of waiting until our son landed in the hospital or worse, which we knew was imminent. Remember you as parents are the only people who truly know your child. Trust your instincts!

Right now you are standing in a position to potentially save your child’s life. It is time for an intervention, and you are faced with the decision of where to turn for help. Do your best to take the guilt, pain, sadness, fear, anger, frustration, and disappointment you are feeling at this moment and toss it out the window. You need to find clarity to make the best decision to benefit your child’s long term health and well being.

If I had only known how well my son would be doing after a month at Pacific Quest it would have been a much easier decision. PQ was like a breath of fresh air after beating our heads against the wall for over a year. Each person that came in contact with my son was the best we had ever seen and had an unbelievable passion for their work. Pacific Quest provides a top notch platform for your child to completely reboot.

Alumni Parent Reflections | Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

A painting of my son that I did from a photo taken during his first month at PQ

Like many wilderness programs, PQ transports your child back to 1900 and they will live as their great grandparents did as children. Leaving behind TV, Netflix, Instagram, Snapchat, texting, Facebook, their music, video games, junk food and all the vices they were using to cope. Also left behind will be their friends, family and in my son’s case his varsity lacrosse team. Everything they have ever known gone in a flash! Just your child, the garden and their thoughts, hard work with tons of support.

Yes, it will take time to adjust but you will all survive. Pacific Quest stands in a category unto itself. Horticultural Therapy and overall wellness are the heart of the PQ approach. The kids learn how to restore the health of their mind and body through a clean diet, sleep, exercise, lots of internal work and lessons in the garden. As they progress through the challenging stages of growth in the program the reality of what they need to do to change the trajectory of their life comes into focus. Yes, this is all in a tropical environment, but it is no vacation your child will work hard and begin to own their choices.

Right now you most likely cannot imagine what it will be like to see a glimpse of that kid you raised, not the stranger living under your roof at the moment. That child who loved you unconditionally. Their lost essence will eventually reappear at Pacific Quest, and you will be eternally grateful.

When my husband and I saw our son at the Family Program we could not believe the transformation. The light in his brain had turned back on and he was absorbing everything he learned in the garden. He also stayed focused on the curriculum since it is a requirement of progressing towards graduation. How many wilderness programs have an academic curriculum in tandem with the therapeutic and wilderness component? Your child will be so happy to have those credits when they put the academic pieces back together.

After graduation from Pacific Quest, the focus will be on reintegration back into modern society. Your child will need continued support stepping back into their world, to face life’s challenges and pressures head on. Sustaining good habits takes practice, time and support. We chose to send our son directly to a therapeutic boarding school where he is continuing all the work he started at Pacific Quest. We are also working hard as a family to do the work we need to do to support our son and brother. We have implemented family behavioral goals which we created in the garden at PQ. At this point we are looking forward to reuniting as a family in six weeks for the first time in 8 months.

Change does not come easily, if it did everyone would do it overnight. The kids make tons of progress in wilderness weekly and are motivated to get home and back to their lives. Once they realize PQ may not be their only stop and it is going to be a marathon not a sprint, reality sets in and the life sustaining work begins. From that point forward they have to choose to really own their future choices. For our family the key was to find a place where our son could grow, learn, achieve success and also fail with the help of qualified staff supporting him every step of the way. At his new school he is working on regaining traction in his education, positive coping and social skills, positive identity development and we are all working on improvement of our family dynamics.

Sending your child away might be the most courageous decision you make in your life time. Wishing you peace as you embark on your journey.

July 15, 2016

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PQ Offers Additional Academic Credits

By: Sharon Findlay, MS
Admissions and Communications Manager

Pacific Quest is excited to announce that our students now have the opportunity to complete seven academic courses for a total of four (4) high school credits! Most recently, we have incorporated an elective credit with the addition of a Psychology Course. This additional course provides our students with methods for understanding biopsychological, developmental, and cognitive functioning in humans, as well as individual and group variations in behavior. By the end of the course, students know through their own experience this psychological truth, articulated by Abraham Maslow: “What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” This course is aligned with Pacific Quest’s therapeutic curriculum, the Common Core Curriculum and the National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula.


Pacific Quest’s Academic Coordinator, Janna Pate comments, “Pacific Quest is pleased to offer high school credits in the content area of psychology. Perhaps more than any other, this course reflects the knowledge our students come here seeking. Experiential learning takes places around the clock, and the content of our psychology course is at the heart of that work. Throughout the day, students have the opportunity to learn and demonstrate their understanding by doing things like participating in horticultural therapy activities, practicing healthy coping skills, trying out different mindfulness practices, practicing nonviolent communication, and establishing and maintaining healthy relationships.”

All PQ academic coursework is accredited by AdvancEd and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement, allowing credits to transfer and students to grow their academic skills and knowledge while participating in integrative and daily therapeutic work.

July 14, 2016

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Pacific Quest Directors Present at NMT Symposium

By: Travis Slagle, MA
Horticultural Therapy Director/ Therapist

The world of mental health and neuroscience is built on a foundation of relationships. Whether it be the relationships among billions of neural pathways, or the relationships we contend with in our daily lives; human nature thrives on relationship and connection. We each learn to navigate the hopes and fears embedded in our families and communities, and the power that our relationships have to change our neurobiology. As a clinician with a passion for the restorative benefits of wilderness therapy and outdoor treatment, I have dedicated my career to utilizing nature as a “co-therapist.” At the recent International Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics® (NMT) Symposium in Banff Alberta, Canada, I had the opportunity to take my passion one step further by presenting with Pacific Quest’s Clinical Director and Pediatric Neuropsychologist Dr. Lorraine Freedle on the relationship between nature and neural integration. The symposium was attended by 700 delegates from 14 countries and featured keynote speaker Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D., Senior Fellow of The Child Trauma Academy and author of the best selling books Born for Love and The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog.

L to R: Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Dr. Bruce Perry, Travis Slagle, Agata Freedle

L to R: Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Dr. Bruce Perry, Travis Slagle, Agata Freedle

During our research presentation, “Regulation to Resonance: The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics® (NMT) in Nature-Based Treatment,” participants were introduced to Pacific Quest’s integrative clinical practice, which supports a neurodevelopmental approach to program design and implementation. Case studies and outcome data of Pacific Quest alumni post-treatment illustrated the efficacy of PQ’s NMT-informed and nature-based treatment approach. Building on the teachings of C.G. Jung and Dr. Dan Siegel’s theoretical framework of interpersonal neurobiology, the concept of “resonance” was defined as a dynamic state of attuned, embodied connection to self, others and the natural world.

Immersed in a fast-paced lifestyle, driven by technology and convenience, struggling teens and young adults often come to treatment overwhelmed by the demands of everyday life; they express feeling disconnected, addicted to distraction, and developmentally “stuck.” At Pacific Quest, we are proud to offer a truly holistic treatment approach that reminds us of our most fundamental need for deep and meaningful connection, and a reciprocal relationship with the natural world.

July 11, 2016

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The Power of Water, The Practice of Ho’oponopono

By: Jenny Stulck, MS, LPCA
Primary Therapist

In my early twenties, I fulfilled a dream of mine and became a raft guide on the New and Gauley rivers of West Virginia. Last month the areas surrounding those rivers have been severely flooded. On social media I watched as friends in West Virginia posted photos of people who had lost their homes, lost their cars, and some lost loved ones. I am reminded, again, how powerful water is. I grew an immense respect for the waters as a raft guide. I believe the waters are a teacher of ancient lessons. In my journey to the Ganges River in India, I watched as people prayed day and night at the banks of the river. In West Virginia I learned how to read the water, how to respect it, how to work with it. In India I learned how to be in sacrament with it. One has to work with the water, never against it. Water must be accepted.

Jenny Stulck, MS, LPCA

Jenny Stulck, MS, LPCA

Water is our life force. We cannot survive as humans on this planet without it. We need it for our bodies. We use it for our washing. We use it to move our sewage. We swim in it when we are hot. We play in it because it’s fun.

A therapeutic group I like to run is based around water and the practice of Ho’oponopono. Ho’opononpono is an ancient Hawaiian practice of forgiveness. It essentially means: I am sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.

For this therapy group, I bring a singing bowl full of water and play the singing bowl to center everyone. I show them the patterns that emerge in the water as the singing bowl rings. We discuss water, the mystery, the need, the beauty and the destruction it serves. I ask the students, “What is your relationship with water?” Invariably, students describe a relationship where they are receiving from water, rarely are they giving to water. I ask them, “Is there any other relationship in your life, like the one you have with water?” Often, someone in the group says the relationship with their parents is like that of the one they have with water. We talk about the similarities of these relationships. The ways in which parents have provided them with food and shelter, love, lessons, and how as children they were unable to take care of themselves. They needed their parents for survival. This is often an emotional group for students, as they reflect the ways they have been ungrateful in the past. I share with them a song that are the words: Ho’oponopono, Ho’oponopono. I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, thank you.

We talk about the practice of Ho’oponopono. The practice starts with yourself, and then ripples out to the other people in your life. The practice is to find within yourself the love and ability to forgive and accept that forgiveness. Ho’oponopono starts with the willingness to love and be loved. Many students arrive at Pacific Quest who have lost a connection with their inner self love. Water, and our relationship to it, is a reminder of the reflection we need to take in order to find peace within ourselves.

June 20, 2016

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Sometimes Our Students Are Our Best Teachers

Pacific Quest is supporting Mike Sullivan in his 2016 race and triathlon training. In this series of posts, Mike will share insights and perspectives throughout his races and training, and drawing parallels between the mind-body connection and wellness – important themes at Pacific Quest Wilderness Program. In his first two posts, Mike shared his insights before and after the Hilo Marathon. Mike parallels navigating transitions in racing, wilderness therapy, and life in his third post. Today he looks at acceptance, on and off the course.  

By: Mike Sullivan, MA, LMHC
Alumni and Family Services Director

I recall a Pacific Quest student highlighting pertinent lessons from the book The Knight in Rusty Armor – “Mike, the most important theme of the book revolves around acceptance. See, right here, it says ‘accept; don’t expect.’ This is a critical message for me at this point in my life.” And later that day, the student painted a rock with the message “Accept; don’t expect,” and placed it carefully as a centerpiece in a garden bed.

The past two months have largely been hallmarked by acceptance, particularly as it applies to triathlon and life. I awoke before the sunrise on Thursday, May 5th, eager to learn my fate related to competing in the 2016 Kona Ironman World Championship. A quick glance at the newspaper revealed that my name was not one of 24 lucky island residents selected through a random lottery system. Although somewhat disappointed, I had practiced the art of keeping my expectations realistic, and not placing too much emotional investment in the outcome of a lottery I had no control over. I sighed, moped around the house for twenty minutes, honored how fortunate I was to race in 2015, and set my sights on other challenging races I had approaching on the 2016 race calendar. Accept and move on.

The Kona Half Ironman, aka “Honu” as it known in the triathlon circuit and amongst locals, is still quite challenging, and satiates any athlete’s desire to compete. The race is exactly half the distance of a full Ironman, and Hawaii boasts one of the most challenging courses in the world. Given that I had raced the “Honu” the previous year, I knew how brutally hot and humid the conditions could be. I got mentally and physically prepared and I tried to keep my expectations in check. I wanted to race very well and finish with the top tier athletes.

70.3coralRace day arrived. While I felt an overarching sense of confidence, I found myself grappling with personal expectations. I have been teetering on an overuse injury. My last several runs and bike rides have been painfully slow. I can barely comment on my swimming, as I have only been to the pool a handful of times this spring, and certainly didn’t show my face around there in the freezing temperatures this past winter. What could I expect of myself in this race? How would my body perform? Ugh… there is that sneaky self doubt sensation arising.

I knew I had my mental skills honed and ready. First things first, I had to put expectations to the side and let go. As the Pacific Quest student said, “Accept, don’t expect.” I acknowledged my lack of training and the injury I am working through. I told myself I was just going to go out and have fun. Second, I acknowledged that the race is largely mental. While being physically fit is important, it is the mental process of remaining calm in the swim, cajoling those positive self-affirmations on the bike, and pushing through the intense adversity in the run. Knowing that I have been honing my mental game throughout my life gave me a sense of confidence that cannot be eroded with a tickling echo of self-doubt.

The race started at Hapuna State Beach, an idyllic white sand and palm tree laden Kohala beach. Everything seemed to go rather smoothly for the swim and bicycle sections of the race. The run is where things intensified. I had to face the personal expectations I had tried not to create. As much I was working to accept and not expect, running is my strongest leg of the race, and I wanted to run the half marathon in under one and a half hours. I battled with the thoughts of my past month of running- my training times were in the tank and far from where I wanted them. The voices of self-doubt and skepticism emerged. I toyed back and forth with it with each stride. I wanted to scream out with frustration.

I then chose to surrender, and fight the negative thinking with acceptance. All I can do is my best, and nothing more at this point. I endured the mental agony of watching my pace slowly creep from 6:40 minute miles to 7:00+ minute miles. I stuck with it. I accepted and pushed. I smiled and gave high fives to children spectating on the sidelines. I passed hundreds of people, moving from 306th place to 75th place overall. My run was 1:32:28, and while not as fast as I would have liked, is competitive within the upper echelon of athletes competing in the race. I crossed the finish line in 5:01:47 and smiled ear to ear, knowing that I channeled my Peak Self throughout every aspect of the race.

The old cliché saying amongst teacher seems applicable here, “Sometimes our students are our best teachers.” I have learned tremendous lessons from the students at Pacific Quest, and the vivid memory of the boy who emphasized acceptance still rings as inspiration.

swimming acceptance

June 14, 2016

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If this isn’t ‘real’ then why does this work?

By: Robert Trout, MA
Primary Therapist

I cannot tell you how many times over the last decade that I have worked in wilderness and outdoor behavioral health programming I have heard the statement made by families, young adults, and teens that “this is not real”. ‘This’ being the setting of being outdoors and outside for a wilderness program. In my experience this is usually heard in reference to the experience of sitting in the silence of immense beauty after experiencing a moment or time period of growth, opening or realization. Each time I have personally heard this (as recently as yesterday) I have this moment where I reflect on my personal experience of this feeling and have a thought that comes up saying “but it is the only ‘real’ I know”.

Robert Trout, MA

Robert Trout, MA

I myself have climbed the mountains, walked the deserts, felt the freeze and heat, planted the seeds, seen the hidden shadows and heard the call of wild and mysterious questions. I too have thought “this is not ‘real’” and wondered “How does this help me in our world of buildings, social groups, Internet, schools and family?” But now I want to be honest: Sitting in the quiet beauty witnessing transformation, growth and the re-opening of purpose, meaning and passion is the most powerful experience of my life. So I must ask the question: Is wilderness the ‘real’ and the outside world the place where we create challenges, struggles and games to test what we learned about ‘the real us’ we found in this ‘wilderness’ or is there something that ties both together?

As I reflect on this question I start to see that maybe we have lost sight of ourselves and convinced our minds that ‘real’ is something outside of ourselves. In my work  at Pacific Quest I find that I challenge my students with seeing that the ‘real’ is that they have come here. Their personal experiences of this place, the people, ocean, volcanoes, land and plants become ‘real’ because they are here to experience them. That is the ‘real’ that moves forward into the ‘outside world’. Their experiences are the ‘real’.

The meaning we take from our experiences is what, in the end, will define “real”. It is our relationships and experiences together that create transformation, hope and change. As Carl Jung states: “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”

So as I sit in the beauty witnessing a kid’s eyes ignite with understanding and hope, we are both transformed and a piece of who we are solidifies into a ‘real’ that we will carry with us no matter where we go in our lives. The question is, “What will we choose to do with that power now that we have it?”

“I am not what happened to me; I am what I choose to become.”  ― Carl Jung

June 8, 2016

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Dr. Lorraine Freedle Presents at STA Conference; Receives Research Award

By: Denise Westman, Outreach Director, and Erin Marcus, Clinical Admissions Director

Pacific Quest’s Clinical Director, Dr. Lorraine Freedle, was a keynote speaker at the National Sandplay Therapists of America (STA) Conference in June. With over 200 doctors, clinicians and consultants in attendance, Dr. Freedle shared her expertise and passion for both Sandplay Therapy and the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics® (NMT) in her presentation, “Making Connections: The Neuropsychology of Sandplay Therapy.” Attendees represented Jungian sandplay professionals from all over the world, including the United States, Switzerland, Australia, Brazil, South Africa, and Italy.

Dr Freedle Presents at Sandplay ConferenceThe global group of attendees were presented with a case study of Jimmy (pseudonym) that involved traumatic loss and profound healing through re-connection to self, others and the environment. Due to Jimmy’s implicit traumatic memories and emotional dysregulation, it was essential that the clinical interventions matched his neurodevelopmental stage. He thrived in a multi-sensory natural setting through horticultural therapy, meditation, and a wellness foundation to complement the therapeutic work being done.

We were deeply touched by Jimmy’s journey and mesmerized by the increasingly sophisticated interventions that are available to those that need healing support. The ability to help young people like Jimmy experience a discernible change that is sustainable and portable as they move through life was nothing short of inspirational. Pacific Quest provides a safe place for young people to work through the barriers that are keeping them from functioning at their full physical and emotional potential. Every part of the Pacific Quest treatment model is neurologically informed and designed to help settle the nervous system so that meaningful work can take place. The Sustainable Growth™ Model ensures that our students have the corrective experiences needed to move through developmental blocks and that they develop mastery of the strength based behaviors necessary for a successful transition.

Also while in attendance at the STA Conference, Dr. Freedle was honored with a research award. She was recognized for “Outstanding Contributions to Research in Sandplay Therapy” for original research titled:

  • Freedle, L.R., Altschul, D.B., and Freedle, A.M. (2015). The Role of Sandplay Therapy in the Treatment of Adolescents and Young Adults with Co-occurring Substance Use Disorders and Trauma. Journal of Sandplay Therapy, XXIV (2), 127-145.

This is Dr. Freedle’s second STA award for her exceptional research on Sandplay Therapy. Please join Pacific Quest in congratulating Dr. Freedle on this honor!

In addition to being Pacific’s Quest’s Clinical Director, Lorraine Freedle is a board certified neuropsychologist, psychotherapist, and trainer in the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics®. Dr. Freedle is an award-winning researcher for her work with sandplay therapy and individuals with trauma. Dr. Freedle is an international presenter who illuminates current theory, neuroscience and the principles of depth psychology with compelling case studies. She has published numerous professional journal articles and currently serves as Research Editor for the Journal of Sandplay Therapy.

June 6, 2016

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Combining Trauma-Focused Treatments with Horticultural Therapy

Theresa Hasting PQ

Theresa Hasting, LMHC

By: Theresa Hasting, LMHC

Working in the garden alongside students and seeing the benefits it yields students (and, of course, myself) has left me asking “How do we integrate additional evidence based treatments with our practice of Horticultural Therapy?”  The garden offers so many options for regulating the nervous system and calming the mind and body.  Having specialized in working with students with trauma histories, it seemed only natural to fit the pieces together.



Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is an evidence based, manualized, psychosocial treatment model designed to treat posttraumatic stress and related emotional and behavioral problems in children and adolescents. It incorporates trauma-sensitive interventions with cognitive behavioral, family, and humanistic principles and techniques. Students learn new skills to help process thoughts and feelings related to traumatic life events; manage and resolve distressing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related traumatic life events; and enhance safety, growth, parenting skills, and family communication. The first stages of TF-CBT involve learning relaxation skills and emotional regulation skills.

Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI), also an evidence based model, is designed for working with students who have suffered from relational trauma. It focuses on the tenets of Empower, Connect, and Correct. Through empowerment, students learn effective means for regulation and gain a sense of felt safety. Connection, or relationship, focuses on re-establishing trust in others and in one’s self. The tenet of correct looks to give students alternative and appropriate methods for cognitive and behavioral expression of needs.

Melding the above treatments within Horticultural Therapy model of PQ has been a seamless process. Before a student can work through the 11 session manualized TF-CBT model, they must first have access to the parts of their brain in charge of reason. To do this, regulation and connection must exist. Through nature and the garden, students are able to customize their regulatory techniques- whether it be mulching banana trees, working the compost pile, weeding, or using the garden to create an individualized 5 sensory meditation practice. The gardening experience also allows for experimentation in life and death, promotes teamwork, and a nonjudgmental environment for students learn; thereby starting the process of connection to nature and to others. As students start to feel more connected to nature, others, and themselves and are functioning in a regulated fashion, they can then start to engage in rest of the TF-CBT process; examining their cognitive processing and exploring their trauma narrative.

A Client’s Perspective

But don’t listen to me, hear a student in her own words about her experience at PQ where she engaged in trauma focused treatment:

“The garden here is a lot different from the small garden I had at home.  At home, I never learned much about gardening of the processes  that made the flowers bloom and the lettuce grow.  There was no relationship between nature and me. Here at PQ, I learned about something called Aloha Aina, it refers to the deep connection between humans and the land.  It is sacred to the native Hawaiians and it is sacred to me as well.

“The garden means a lot to me. It is where I can be myself. I can weed, plant, mulch, and no matter what, I feel good and do good, which is my essential goal and personal legend in life.

“Usually when plants are transplanted they a little in shock when they are pulled out of the soil and taken away from what they are use to; however, with a little help, love and care they can blossom and grown. This is in direct alignment with what I am going through at this time.  I am being transplanted.  In order to cope, I will utilize EFT, coloring, cane grass meditation,  rock thingy, ocean breathing, and lavender- sniffing just as plants utilize chicken poop, water, sunlight and the soil that they have.

“I am quite like the banana trees. Each time I harvest a rack, I must cut down the tree in order for a new banana tree to grow in its place. I have been cutting down my inner banana trees.   During Nalu, I cut down the banana tree of thinking that I didn’t deserve love and support.   During Kuleana and Ohana, I have been cutting down shame and depression and anxiety.  When I leave PQ, I will continue cutting down bad habits so good habits can form. I love the garden and I love myself!”

Connecting the Dots

As a therapist, I’m passionate about creating meaningful relationships in a healing environment for our students to step into the power of redefining their story.  Pacific Quest provides a unique experience for the combination of these therapeutic modalities.  Relationally based TBRI emphasizes felt safety in a therapeutic relationship, allowing the body and  brain to be regulated enough to utilize TF-CBT, all the while giving space for HT to access and reprocess trauma on the level it was experienced- in the body.