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Established 2004


The natural and necessary process that helps an adolescent move from the dependence of childhood toward the independence of adulthood is the separation of a teen’s identity from that of their parents. However during this phase, even mildly resistant behavior can feel like defiance to all involved, which can lead to parental frustration and adolescent resentment and guilt. As long as there is a sense of mutual adaptation on the part of defiant adolescent and their parents during this process, some degree of conflict and even low-grade defiance can be considered “normal.”

Defiant behavior is also known as “Oppositional” behavior and even though it is a normal part of development, openly uncooperative and hostile behavior can become a serious concern when it is so frequent and consistent that it stands out when compared with other children of the same age and developmental level- especially when it affects the teens social, family and academic life.

There are some issues that can be the catalyst for extreme defiant behavior, such as severe family problems, negative peer/culture influences, substance abuse/addiction and even untreated underlying psychological / emotional disorder is present (e.g., depression, bipolar disorder or ADHD).

For adolescents with a possible oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), there is an ongoing pattern of uncooperative and hostile behavior toward authority figures that does seriously interfere with day to day functioning.

Some symptoms of Defiance issues/ ODD may be:

  • Constant temper tantrums
  • Frequent arguing with adults
  • Always questioning “rules”
  • Obvious and active defiance when refusing to comply with rules
  • Attempts to annoy or upset people that are on purpose
  • Not taking responsibility for mistakes or misbehavior
  • Being on edge or easily annoyed by others
  • Being angry and resentful often
  • Talking in a mean and hateful way
  • An attitude of spite and revenge seeking


As teens enter the process of becoming individuals they may at times feel they are changing from the inside out in ways that are out of their control on a cognitive, emotional, and physical level. This can bring about previously dormant issues to the surface, such as serotonin imbalances and depression, ADHD, past traumas, family conflict, or previously repressed resentments toward other family members for example.

When normal efforts at individuation are replaced by chronic defiance, a teenager may be suffering from oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). It can sometimes occur simultaneously with or is misdiagnosed as ADHD, depression, or other emotional disorders.

The best approach to treating defiance issues is a multi-modal approach like the one at Pacific Quest that hits the issue from a variety of complementary angles. This kind of treatment is most manageable in a residential treatment setting. At Pacific Quest, students participate in outdoor programming on seven acres of organic farmland and a three-acre retreat. They sleep in a secure dormitory monitored by staff, all evening.

Our treatment model allows students to cultivate strong connections to the environment with group and individual projects that serve the whole community.

Students have multiple, daily therapeutic interactions with clinicians and staff, they receive individual and group therapy multiple times per week (different than most wilderness therapy programs where the standard is once per week).

At Pacific Quest the defiant adolescent is immersed in a community living experience, mirroring a family system, giving students an opportunity to practice relevant and essential life skills in a healthy pattern.

Through Horticultural Therapy they work in an environment rich in metaphor, allowing them to understand and master sustainable (personal) growth through gardening.

Therapists also communicate extensively with Educational Consultants and home professionals to keep them apprised of the student’s progress. Medication management is also available as Pacific Quest employs a Psychiatrist and full-time N.D.

In addition to our successful clinical model, we offer a unique holistic approach to healing. Our Medical Director, Dr. Britta Zimmer, creates an individualized, personal Wellness Plan for each incoming student. We help defiance issues by teaching healthy, sustainable habits covering: diet, exercise, sleep, stress reduction, hygiene and personal responsibility. A rich and varied, organic diet is introduced along with the re-establishment of healthy sleep cycles and balanced exercise. Students learn about the connection between their health and their emotions- helping them to readjust back into life outside of Pacific Quest.