Call us at  808.937.5806
Established 2004

May 31, 2016

Written by:

Neurodevelopment and Play: More Fun than it Sounds

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

If you have never heard Dr. Lorraine Freedle laugh heartily, you may not know her very well. In a recent presentation at a symposium on neurodevelopment and play, Leveraging Change Agents in the Treatment Process, an audience member commented on the comforting and authentic nature of Dr. Freedle’s “belly laugh.” Many others in the audience nodded their heads and chuckled in agreement. Dr. Freedle has a playful way of engaging an audience, which unsurprisingly, is neurologically informed. I was lucky enough to be invited by Dr. Freedle to co-present on the importance of play, wherein we facilitated play activities aimed at experiential teaching on the many benefits of play entitled The Archetype of Play and the Neuroception of Safety: Primal Change Agent. Needless to say, the presentation was a lot of fun!

Mike Sullivan, MA, LMHC

Mike Sullivan, MA, LMHC

Play is valuable on many levels, which is evident across species. It is not only humans who play; animals play too. Play has been observed in most animal species, and interestingly, even between animal species. What is evolutionarily significant about play? If it didn’t contribute to natural selection, it would have ultimately detracted from a species ability to survive and would have been wiped out of existence long ago. On a basic level, play is where people and animals learn to socialize and navigate obstacles. It is the playground of practice, allowing us to develop tools, awareness, and resilience for overcoming more complex obstacles later in life. Beyond that it allows us to engage our imagination, which has proven to be an asset even greater than knowledge. After all, one of Einstein’s most famous quotes highlights that “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

While it doesn’t take much convincing to teach adults that play is valuable in childhood, some remain skeptical when approached with the idea that it is critical in adulthood as well. In a culture that is achievement and performance driven, what room is there for play? If an activity is not aimed at getting me further toward my goals, why would I waste my time? Well, play lies deep in the sub-brain, and still needs to be stimulated in adulthood. It has implications for our mood and wellbeing, as well as affects our social relationships and meaning we make of the world. While there is a complex neural network stimulated through play, look around and observe what you notice from a behavioral perspective. You may not see adults playing on monkey bars (well, sometimes you do!); you often see them participating in adult forms of play – humor, sports, games, and love. Most parents say that having kids is the best thing that ever happened to them, and fondly reflect on the play within their family story.

In her presentation, Dr. Freedle drew heavily on the teachings of Dr. Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play. In his book Play: How it Shapes the Brain and Invigorates the Soul, Dr. Brown maintains, “Play is the highest form of love.” Beyond the biochemical firing occurring on a molecular level in the brain, we seek connection and belonging, and play serves as the main conduit. Can you imagine a life without play? No fantasy, no storytelling, no humor, and importantly – no relationships or connection… it is difficult to imagine. We need to continue to nurture play in ourselves and communities. As, Dr. Brown says, “the opposite of play is not work, it is depression.” For more on Dr. Stuart Brown’s research, you can view his TED talk here.

May 30, 2016

Written by:

Teresa Bertoncin joins PQ Clinical Team!

Pacific Quest is excited to welcome Teresa Bertoncin to the Clinical Team! Teresa is a licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She is a certified EMDR Therapist, and also has advanced training in Emotionally Focused Couples and Family Therapy (EFT). Teresa earned her undergraduate degree from University of Michigan, and her Masters degree in Counseling Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute, and her thesis focused on trauma and rites of passage work.

Teresa Bertoncin Clinical Team

Teresa Bertoncin, LPCC, LMFT

Teresa has worked with adolescents and young adults for most of her twenty-year career. Her areas of skill & expertise include families with struggling teens and phase-of-life transitions; grief, loss, trauma and PTSD; relationships in crisis and family readjustment issues; stepfamilies; substance use disorders; generalized & social anxiety; ADHD; parenting, child development & attachment Issues; cultural issues & intergenerational family systems. In addition to EMDR and Emotionally Focused Therapy, Teresa also has extensive experience with play therapy, biofeedback, neuropsychology, and permaculture techniques – a perfect blend for her role at Pacific Quest!

Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Clinical Director, says “I have known Teresa for many years and could not be happier that she chose to join our clinical team. She brings generosity of spirit, international experience, and exceptional clinical skills — particularly in EMDR, relationally-based modalities, and family therapy.”

Teresa recently returned from two years of service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Africa where she worked as a psychosocial trainer and consultant. She developed and established a young program with a strong emphasis in wilderness leadership programming. Teresa has also conducted psychotherapy training and consulting for trauma-based organizations in Swaziland, and provided trauma-based therapy and life-skills training for Zimbabwean refugees. She believes that connection and relationship is the cornerstone of all progress and healing.

Formerly a collegiate gymnast, Teresa owned and operated a gymnastics academy for 20 years, and incorporates strength-based psychotherapy with positive coaching techniques for a mind-body approach to establishing resiliency, empowerment and sustainable life skills. Teresa enjoys gardening, beekeeping, outdoor activities, travel, writing and spending time with her family.

May 20, 2016

Written by:

Family Fridays: Walking the parenting path together

By: Alumni Parent

I have stood in your shoes. I still wear them, although I am further up the path. My child was struggling to the point that sending him to Pacific Quest became our best choice. I had been scared, frustrated, sleepless and worried and deciding to send him so far away added a new, and unwelcome, level of fear to me. If this sounds familiar, then I bet it will also ring true that you are also afraid to hope that this will work. Our hope for our children is fragile, and though surprisingly tenacious, we have learned to hide it for fear that one more failure will finally crush it. I sent my child and my hope to Hawaii. Here’s how it turned out.

Before PQ: Our son had struggles on and off during high school. He was uneven in his academics, but passionate about his extracurriculars. During college however, he spiraled down into a serious depression. He had reached out to the mental health services at school at the urging of friends who saw him changing. He was going to therapy and was on medication. Then I had to drive to his school after he stopped responding to calls and texts. I found him in his room with the curtains drawn, piles of dirty clothes and garbage around him as he slept in his bed. He had barely gotten up, showered, eaten, etc. for the past few weeks. Take a picture and put it in a text book – this is full blown depression. We packed him up and took him home.

The next steps: therapy, medication, a day program that seemed to help him get some traction, then working during the summer full time but still exhausted from that effort. He insists that all the work he did over the past 5 months has given him enough knowledge and preparation to return to school for the Fall semester. By Thanksgiving he was struggling. He failed many classes due to absences and didn’t return for the Spring semester. Now what? He stayed home. More intensive therapy and changes in medication as he worked as a laborer. He was growing hopeless that his situation would change. He was embarrassed to fail and it was hard for him to watch his friends move on without him.

We started with a new therapist who said: weekly therapy and medication will help, but what your son really could benefit from is a more intensive experience to really do the hard work and process what is at the root.

What program could be right? Our choices were traditional wilderness programs or Pacific Quest. Traditional wilderness programs focused on physical challenge and isolation to lead to mental strength. Pacific Quest focused on horticultural work, exercise, diet, whole-being wellness and community along with therapy and processing to build the idea that people, like nature, are imperfect, but by adaptation, experience, and using resources we learn to thrive.

We had so many questions about programs: Can a program get someone mentally healthy in 10 weeks? Can a program modify his behaviors in 10 weeks? For us, the goal was wellness – inside and out – and to start to understand what it takes to maintain wellness. Everyone has overarching issues that will be broken into smaller pieces. He will struggle with practical and emotional obstacles with support of peers and professionals. He will begin to identify ways to grow and support the changes he experiences at PQ.

During the time at Pacific Quest: My son set the following goals for himself: accept the past and the future, love himself, think about the future as opposed to worrying about the future and look in the mirror to see — not to criticize.

Your child is not the only one doing work during this time. You and your family will work too. Weekly calls with your child’s therapist and working through the parent manual is an opportunity for growth for all of us. Confession: I wanted to avoid this component. Isn’t this program for him? The reality dawns on me that I want him to work at this hard stuff and I don’t want to work on this hard stuff. My child has to accept and do the work and I have the same choice. I chose to walk with him. I made the time and put forth my best effort.

What did my child learn at Pacific Quest? Increased ability to handle stress because he experienced stress in a healthy, safe place where the focus is learning these skills. Also, how to make healthy choices when stressed, how to reach out to process stress and discomfort and finding a way to move forward in a way that is healthy and sustainable. Another focus was the power of opening up and being vulnerable and how better relationships lead to self-acceptance.

How was this accomplished? There’s a lot to that answer, but here is some of it. First, individual therapy happens twice a week minimum. Therapy groups are also a part and they are staff-led and peer-led at times. Working with staff one-on-one to develop goals and impromptu peer one-on-ones where they reach out to one and other for support. Finally, there is exercise, in depth wellness with nutrition, curriculum and a lot of horticultural therapy and work.

ya-rites-1An interesting example for me was that my child struggled with quiet. Therefore, something like meditation was very difficult. A therapist discussed this with him and suggested that he learn about it by teaching it. So, my child was assigned to learn about meditation, practice it, journal about it, refine it and then he taught a class on it to his peers. The thinking was: Learn what you don’t know.

This is a lot of work for your child. It may be located in Hawaii, but it’s no vacation. There were many ups and downs that would be too long to chronicle. Again, it is by design that there is discomfort in this supportive environment so that the person actively learns the skills to handle obstacles in the real world.

Post Pacific Quest: During transition from PQ, our therapist took time to prepare us thoroughly for the road ahead. PQ is a start. It can be a foundation, but life isn’t easy and there will be setbacks and pitfalls ahead. A wise man that we know said: “Success isn’t measured in the day-to-day stuff. Success is measured by what happens when he falls into the same old hole. What is he doing to get out of the hole?” He is saying that by identifying what works and using what works, then the holes gets shallower. You build on those skills and build resiliency. Next, can you see the hole coming and avoid it?

When my son left PQ, he was excited to go back into the world. It took about five weeks for the first hole to appear. Somehow, he hadn’t embraced the idea that the “hole” or that a challenge would happen. It was very hard. He felt like a failure, but the foundation held. He got out of the hole and began again. There have been other holes. He is disappointed when they happen, but from the long view, some have been shallower and, more importantly, he does go back to the skills he learned and practiced at PQ.

Parting thoughts to those who are walking the path
If I could take away this struggle from you and your child, then I would. Just like you would like to spare your child what he or she is facing. However, there is no way around it. The only way is through it. I hope that you find the best fit for your family. The key thing to remember is that there is no magic. Neither Pacific Quest, nor any other program will take away the challenges of life. The real goal is to develop skills and form a foundation in a safe, therapeutic place so that our children are well prepared when their challenges occur.

May 19, 2016

Written by:

PQ Has Completed Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics® (NMT) Training Certification Phase I Level


Pacific Quest is pleased and excited to announce the completion of an eighteen month training and certification process with The ChildTrauma Academy. Pacific Quest is now site certified in the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics, or NMT, which is a “developmentally-informed, biologically-respectful approach to working with at-risk children.” NMT is an approach to clinical practice that allows clinicians and programs to use their environment in a neuro-sequential way. This evidence-based practice integrates multiple principles, techniques, and interventions to be applied in a way that promotes brain development and relational health.NMT-phase-I

Pacific Quest is the first and only outdoor/wilderness program to be site certified in NMT! As such, Pacific Quest utilizes the garden and nature-based setting, mind-body techniques and clinical therapies in a neurodevelop
mentally-informed manner that is individualized for each student. Bruce Perry, M.D., PhD, founder of the ChildTrauma Academy, adds, ”We are very excited to have Pacific Quest become an NMT Trained Site because they have a great deal of experience and knowledge to share with our community. Pacific Quest’s focus on wilderness therapy, nutrition, and holistic practices is a natural compliment to some of the therapeutic recommendations that are generated by NMT principles, and so their expertise in implementing a blending these approaches can be highly successful and offer us all valuable insights.”

As part of the Phase I NMT site certification process, clinicians at Pacific Quest participated in case consultations with Dr. Perry and other trainees from across the globe. They learned to use the clinical practice tools with fidelity, and completed over 100 hours of training in core principles of neurodevelopment and traumatology. Their training continues through case-based staffings, fidelity exercises and review of current research and practice updates.

Pacific Quest Clinical Director, Dr. Lorraine Freedle has completed Phase I, Phase II/Train the Trainer and is a certified NMT provider and trainer. She comments, “Pacific Quest is an enriched environment with an abundance of opportunities to effect meaningful change. NMT is a very helpful paradigm for case conceptualization and targeted treatment planning so that we may use the resources we have at the right time and in the right way for our students.”

May 19, 2016

Written by:

PQ Welcomes Tim Mullins to the Clinical Team

Tim Mullins, MA, LCPC has joined the PQ Clinical Team and brings over ten years of experience in the outdoor therapeutic industry.  He offers a wealth of personal and professional experience and has the unique ability to balance clinical insight with his sense of humor, a perfect match for working with young people.


Tim Mullins, MA, LCPC

Becoming a therapist has been the natural outcome of a lifelong interest in the inner workings of the mind and central to Tim’s professional interest is his recovery life. With 19 years of sobriety, Tim has had a remarkable journey from a seemingly hopeless frame of mind to a life directed towards health, study, and service.  Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Clinical Director, comments, “Tim is rock solid.  He blends years of experience in wilderness therapy and addictions recovery with a holistic and transpersonal perspective that deepens the work in a unique and powerful way.”

Working at Pacific Quest aligns with Tim’s integral values. As a yoga practitioner and instructor, he came to understand how people can become attuned to their inner landscape through working in a natural environment. As an organic gardener, connecting with the land and the environment is a spiritual endeavor that feeds the body and the mind. Tim believes that it is a disconnection from the natural world that is at the core of many modern problems. “Getting back to the garden means reconnecting to the source of our physical and psychological sustenance,” adds Tim.

Tim is a licensed clinical professional counselor and considers himself an integrative practitioner. He has a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from Prescott College, and is currently pursuing his doctoral degree in psychology at California Southern University, with a focus on the integration of science and the perennial philosophies into an interdisciplinary psychology.

Tim’s interests are wide ranging and eclectic. He is an avid chess player and an Argentine Tango dancer. Tim enjoys hiking, biking, backpacking, and scuba diving. He also designs and (occasionally) builds residential and commercial structures with a particular interest in the psychology of constructed spaces that are attuned to their respective environments.

April 29, 2016

Written by:

Treating Anxiety: Overcoming the Fear of Fear Itself

By: Brian Konik, Ph.D.
Primary Therapist

As I look forward to working with a new group of students this summer at Pacific Quest, I am reminded of what a unique opportunity the gardens provide when designing individualized interventions. I feel very fortunate that, after spending over 20 or so years researching and designing interventions for individuals struggling with anxiety disorders, I have found an environment that facilitates a comprehensive interdisciplinary approach. I rely heavily on the principles of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) when designing exposure-based intervention. The students at Pacific Quest are immersed in an environment that integrates daily access to meditation, yoga, horticultural therapy, and mindfulness exercises to provide a perfect complement to a CBT and ABA approach.

PQ therapist Brian Konik

Dr. Brian Konik

I often say to parents and students that although problematic anxiety is one of the most prevalent, researched, and reliably treated psychological phenomena, it is also alarmingly underreported and treatment is not regularly pursued. Why is that? We find that those dealing with significant anxiety often avoid the experiences and/or settings that cause the anxiety and they ultimately fall into a pattern of avoidance behavior that stifles their development. Eventually parents and loved ones find themselves in a position where they have to insist on treatment. The PQ setting is unique because we are able to manipulate environmental variables to engage in exposure-based interventions with our students and to subsequently reinforce an evidence-based approach to therapy.  

Our ability to individualize the student experience provides me the opportunity to weave evidence-based practices for anxiety into the overall program. Students who struggle to thrive at home or at school are being challenged in the Pacific Quest gardens to face their fears head-on and to break the cycle of being anxious about being anxious — worrying about worrying — panicking that they may panic. Watching students who experience generalized anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, panic attacks, social anxiety, Tourette Syndrome, selective mutism, body dysmorphic disorder,  and specific phobias overcome their challenges and begin to thrive in the PQ model is an incredibly rewarding experience for me as a Clinical Psychologist. I can’t wait to join another group of students on their journeys to overcome anxiety in whatever form it appears to them!  

April 22, 2016

Written by:

In Celebration of Earth Day: Nurture through Nature

By: Danielle Zandbergen, MA

In celebration of Earth Day, I thought it fitting to write about nature and how it has proven to be one of the most important aspects within the human condition. Nature has been shown to inherently support those struggling with anxiety, depression, PTSD, stress, low self-esteem, obesity, substance abuse and addiction, social insecurity, obsessive-compulsive behaviors (many of which can be technology or materialistic), physical-verbal-emotional violence, lack of empathy or compassion…the list goes on. A great amount of children and adults alike struggle with a variety of pathologies and nature continues to prove to be an essential, positive, and healthy intervention for many, if not all individuals. It is surprising that more therapeutic programs, treatment interventions, or even academic settings haven’t integrated the exploration of nature.

Let’s face it – humans have a damaged relationship with nature and while many areas of the world are running out of natural resources that are absolutely essential to our very livelihood (most particularly water and food sources), we continue to be blinded by material goods that do not provide the same amount of happiness, or sustenance, as nature does. The very medicines we typically use are derived from a variety of herbs, spices, roots, and leaves from many kinds of plants and flora. Lavender cannot only be used for its scent but can also be used as an antibacterial, antiseptic and analgesic substance for a variety of ailments such as acne or skin irritation, as well as a natural soothing herb to help alleviate stress, cough and cold symptoms. Basil, most commonly known for cooking, can also be used for headaches, stings and bites, ear infections and help with stress reduction. Lemon balm alleviates anxiety, insomnia, upset stomach, and even helps with cold sores. Rosemary is sometimes used to support memory and focus, and may even elevate one’s mood. If one looks closely, medicine can literally be found in our backyards!


Danielle Zandbergen, MA

When people engage in the outdoors, a natural sense of wonder and awe opens up a heightened awareness of connection. It rekindles a sense of belonging to the natural world that one cannot experience elsewhere. Some studies have shown that students who often feel fatigue, anxiety and stress have shown an overall sense of restoration both psychologically and physiologically after they take a walk in the woods or a nearby park. In contrast, walking through a crowded shopping mall or around tall buildings with little to no greenery has actually been shown to lower overall self-esteem and increase psychological stress.

Horticultural therapy has been shown to be extremely effective in stress management, treating alcohol and substance abuse, enhancing self-esteem, help elderly individuals with feelings of social isolation, and curtailing burnout experienced by healthcare providers. On top of the psychological support, horticultural therapy decreases one’s dependence on chemically treated food products and increases the inclination to grow fruits and vegetables in our very own garden. In a book titled, Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind, edited by Linda Buzzell and Craig Chalquist, quotes “If you want to enhance self-concept, self-esteem, and self-confidence, facilitate treatment of the mentally ill, or improve family relationships, employing nature is a potent therapeutic intervention. Nature-guided therapy is about putting these demonstrated benefits into therapeutic practice, in ways that will most enhance the achievement of the person’s therapeutic goal.”

So what are you waiting for? Are you feeling stressed, anxious or frustrated? Do you feel like you need a “reset” button? Are you having a hard time concentrating? Take a walk in a nearby park. Embark on an adventure on a weekend camping trip instead of going shopping for things you probably don’t need. Save some money and grow your own natural and organic food, and most of all, take advantage of the cheapest medicine out there…nature! Happy Earth Day!

“Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive, and even spiritual satisfaction.”
– E.O. Wilson


April 19, 2016

Written by:

Triathlon transitions – great metaphors for life!

Pacific Quest is supporting Mike Sullivan on his “2016 Road to Kona.” Yes, you heard correctly, Mike is taking another stab at the World Championship Ironman, assuming he is selected to participate through the Hawaii Resident Lottery on May 5, 2016. Mike will share insights and perspectives throughout his 2016 races and training, and drawing parallels between the mind-body connection and wellness – important themes at Pacific Quest.

In his first two posts, Mike shared his insights before and after the Hilo Marathon. With this third installment, Mike parallels navigating transitions in racing, wilderness therapy, and life.  

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

“Ooooh…. Yikes, my body feels so sluggish,” I say to myself as I get off my bicycle and start running. There is that familiar feeling -my feet are heavy, my legs feel tight, and my run pace starts out slow motion. The transition is uncomfortable, as my body begins to reroute blood flow from my cycling muscles into my running muscles. In triathlon training, workouts that combine two sports is a called a “brick.” It is critical to practice brick workouts, as it not only trains the physical body to adapt to shifting from one sport to another, but it also gives the athlete a chance to master transition itself – navigating mental and emotional challenges that are inherent in transition. The lessons of transition mastery in triathlon parallel those in life, and importantly, are equivalent to the transition practice that students at Pacific Quest encounter regularly.

Triathlons consists of racing consecutive swimming, cycling, and running sections, and triathletes refer to the two transitions during a race as T1 and T2. T1 is the point during the race where the athlete exits the swim and transitions onto the bicycle. T2 is where the athlete finishes the bike leg, and transitions into the final stretch of the race, the run. While an athlete may be incredibly skilled at swimming, cycling, and running, the winning athlete will have mastered the transitions as well. They are integral to the race and should not be overlooked. In preparing for the Kona Half Ironman this coming June, I am especially attentive to aspects of T1 and T2, including organization, techniques, and anticipating discomfort. Practicing transitions cannot be overstated.


Transition 1 or “T1”

Similar to what I discussed in terms of preparation for the Hilo Marathon last month, organization is a critical skill to triathlon transition. One should lay out their cycling and running equipment in an organized fashion, being meticulous about the placement of equipment, as each piece has its place in the whole. Also sticking to an orderly routine is a must- this is more efficient as it conserves mental and emotional energy. The more organized and methodical the athlete is, the more smooth the transition is.

Athlete’s are sponges for new skills and must remain open to learning valuable techniques. For instance, in my first triathlon it hadn’t occurred to me to roll my bicycle socks into little donuts. This technique allows the athlete to simply roll the socks onto each foot when you get out of the water. With wet feet, it is much more time consuming and challenging to pull socks over your feet the way you would normally. I lost valuable time and felt frustrated and out of balance trying to pull socks over wet feet. Once I learned the donut technique, my next T1 went more smoothly and I felt more confident and level headed as I entered the cycling section of the race. This is a small example of a much larger lesson- learn techniques to be more successful each time.

Lastly, I will highlight anticipating discomfort. In every “brick” workout, I am getting used to the painful discomfort of shifting gears from one sport to another. This allows me to adapt to the discomfort and creates a higher tolerance. While it is physically grueling to transition, it takes a mental toll on the athlete. The physical and mental are inextricably linked. If the athlete allows the discomfort to permeate his mental and emotional focus, the athlete will suffer, and so will performance.


Transition 2 or “T2”

These transitions, T1 and T2, provide relevant lessons for life. Every person encounters transitions life ranging from small day to day transitions to major life transitions. How do people navigate transitions in life? What skills and metaphors from triathlon are applicable? How do these parallel the transitions that Pacific Quest students practice?

At Pacific Quest, adolescent and young adult students graduate through “stages of growth,” while in the program. They move from stage to stage, and with each successive stage, the students must transition to a new physical camp, with increased responsibilities and challenges. This provides a fantastic medium for internalizing valuable lessons for navigating transition. The students learn important tools related to organization (taking care of their belongings and keeping them orderly), techniques for a successful transition (visualizing obstacles, affirming strengths), and anticipating discomfort. The transitions serve as valuable practice for transitions they will encounter in life, whether it is a simple as some of the daily transitions one encounters (shifting gears between home and school) to larger life transitions (starting at a new school, moving, family shifts).

As the Kona Half Ironman approaches, I look forward to employing these tools in race preparation, and on race day itself. Track me live during the race on June 4th by following the link for the Ironman Tracker through the PEAK Self website. With each race, I am able to review performance, and identify what went well and areas where I can improve. I look forward to following up on this blog post with insights following the race, and highlight important lessons learned!

April 13, 2016

Written by:

Gardening in LA: Alumni find solace and camaraderie in service project

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

Approaching Wattles Farm from Hollywood Boulevard is surreal.  A short walk from the iconic walk of fame in the heart of Hollywood, one navigates speeding sports cars, stoplights (which apparently aren’t enforced), and screaming police sirens to find the gate encircling the margins of Wattles Farm.  After traversing an ancient avocado grove, one emerges in the 4.2 acre organic garden of eden- a setting that couldn’t be more dichotomous from the immediate surroundings of bustling Hollywood.

The garden was reminiscent of Pacific Quest- meandering paths lined with rocks and downed limbs, tropical fruits draping from tree branches, and luscious garden beds overflowing with lettuce and kalWattles Farm Alumni Evente.  Travis Slagle and I felt at peace as we toured the garden, taking time to absorb every element of the Wattles oasis.  We basked in the familiarity of the natural landscape and reprieve from the urban gridlock surrounding us.

Head Gardenmaster for 23+ years, Toby Leaman, introduced Travis and I to the array of work needed to maintain Wattles garden.  She identified specific areas that our Pacific Quest alumni group could complete during our community service garden project the following day.  Travis observed closely as Toby showed him where the invasive onion grass was overtaking the roses and geranium, as well as where the rock wall was eroding.  While many people may view the immense undertaking Toby outlined as a nuisance, Travis and Toby see potential.  Being gardeners in their heart and healers/role models for youth, the garden is a means to connecting with something greater – a deeper sense of self and greater connection with community.  Excitement grew as we refined our plans for our project the following day.

Our alumni group dug into our community service project at 10 AM.  Smiles, laughs, and reminiscing about funny stories from Hawaii ensued, while the group maintained diligence and attention to eradicating the onion grass. The group overhauled the rose and geranium beds, creating a discernable difference.  Apparently that project wasn’t enough, as the group then devoured the opportunity to weed a long pathway through the avocado orchard.   Toby exclaimed what an amazing group of volunteers we were, highlighting our attention to detail and positive attitudes.

AJandTravisOver a nutritious lunch and closing circle, the group discussed some observations throughout the day.  Many noted “being in the present” and “sharing a common goal,” as being significant aspects of the project. Others shared a sense of fun, camaraderie, peacefulness, and giving back.  Each of these observations speaks to the power of gardening and intention- when we set aside computers and phones, carve out a shared gardening project, we find meaning.  The group observed that the experience was far from insignificant, but rather served as an amazing conduit for connection and leaving a legacy for others in the future.  It was certainly a memorable Sunday!

I want to share a huge THANK YOU to Toby Leaman for being such a warm host and project leader.  I also want to thank the Pacific Quest alumni for their dedication to others and desire to continue to deepen their self awareness. And lastly I want to thank the entire community for maintaining Wattles Farm for others to enjoy.  Community gardens are a growing movement, and one can see layers of significance far greater than just providing salad greens.

April 5, 2016

Written by:

PQ Welcomes Robert Trout to Clinical Team!

Robert Trout, MA, has joined the Pacific Quest Clinical Team as a primary therapist and brings over 17 years of experience in therapy, group facilitation, rites of passage, wilderness therapy, and experiential practices. He utilizes narrative and experiential techniques that influence people’s belief systems while working with metaphors to encourage the exploration of the self. Of working at Pacific Quest, Robert says “In addition to the experiential therapies we employ, my favorite part of being at Pacific Quest is the team-based approach. I work collaboratively with a team of skilled clinicians, talented direct care staff and professional referral sources to create unique and individualized strategies for each student. The ability to take a fresh look at each student and their situation is truly invigorating as a therapist! One of my personal goals is to challenge individuals beyond their own limiting beliefs.”

Robert received his Masters in Counseling from Southwestern College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He focused on transformational ecopsychology and rites of passage, which is an incredible fit for his work at Pacific Quest. Robert enjoys working with experiential modalities of therapy, including ceremony and psychosomatic activities.

“Robert is a results-driven leader who brings a wealth of industry experience, clinical skills, and pure passion and drive to his work,” says Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Clinical Director. “He is making quite a splash. I could not be happier with his choice to join our team!”

Robert’s unique perspective was shaped largely through his own time in the wilderness, over 1000 days. Robert began to explore the world in a new way, influenced by the many lessons he had learned during his own wilderness experience as a teen. Of this experience, Robert says “The program I attended saved my life, but more importantly pushed me to find purpose and meaning for the rest of my life.” Robert has worked in many outdoor programs since he completed college and has developed into a leader in the field in rites of passage work with youth and adults.

In his free time, Robert likes to backpack, snorkel, scuba dive, swim, fish and generally just play outside. He also loves to garden at home and explore the outdoors with his wife and daughter.