Pacific Quest (PQ), a cutting-edge integrated behavioral healthcare program based on the Big Island of Hawawii, announced a new treatment option for adolescents and young adults struggling with anxiety, depression, isolation, trauma and substance misuse. For many casual observers, the term “Wilderness Therapy” evokes survival- and breakdown-based therapies and a sink-or-swim mentality. But Pacific Quest’s clinical team takes a more supportive, strengths-based approach.
“We’re working with kids who have already internalized a lot of trauma and negativity,” said co-founder, Suzanne McKinney. “They need us to build them back up, not tear them down.”
Through horticultural therapy, individualized experiences, Rites of Passage, and a multifaceted treatment approach that prioritizes whole-person wellness, the program equips young people with the tools to lead better, more fulfilling lives.
The program’s location on Hawaii’s Big Island also plays a role in the therapeutic practices. Adolescents and young adults alike have opportunities to hike and get their hands in the dirt on the program’s sustainable farm—a key piece of the program’s Horticultural Therapy offering. Essentially, the remote location lets participants step away from the pressures and demands of their daily lives, creating a safe space to practice new, sustainable life skills.
Despite the outdoors playing a crucial role in Pacific Quest’s therapeutic model, all residents sleep indoors under the supervision of awake night staff. “It’s the best of both worlds,” said admissions director, Kellyn Smythe. “Students get the benefits of a Wilderness Therapy Program during the day, and parents can rest easy knowing they’re safely inside at night.”
As a first-of-its-kind program, the founders and administrators at Pacific Quest are working closely with the Hawaii Department of Health to ensure their facilities adhere to the highest standards of safety and quality care.