5 Things Effective Treatment Programs Have In Common


Your teen is in trouble because of substance abuse. Finding the right Treatment Centre is critical.

Deciding to enroll a child in a recovery program is a nerve racking experience.  Your family is already dealing with a stressful situation, the last thing you need is another challenging puzzle about where to seek treatment.   There are likely a myriad of burning questions in your mind: How do you know your child is in safe hands? What should you look for in a program?  What are the most likely outcomes? Where do you start? Will it work?

While there are no easy answers to a lot of these questions, there are accepted industry standards that you can familiarize yourself with to help you make more informed choices.  

Below is a list of 5 key areas to look at when you are evaluating programs.

1. Family involvement

Addiction impacts the entire family.  The family is the most important and influential institution in a child’s life. For treatment success to be durable and effective, the family must be involved in the process so that there is a functional bridge between the treatment environment and regular life.  Look for programs that encourage family involvement, where family involvement is a clearly stated core aspect of the treatment framework.

2. Certified and accomplished clinical staff.

The field of youth mental health is highly complex and can involve a high degree of stress and crisis.  It is critical that a treatment program have knowledgeable and highly trained professionals on staff.  Look for a certified psychologist doing regular clinical work with the clients. Look for a registered nurse on staff who can handle the complex environment of treatment.

3. Strong and ongoing relationships with key community organizations (youth justice, child welfare, etc.)

What kind of relationships does the program have with the various community organizations that interact with youth?  Youth who experience substance abuse issues often come into contact with a variety of these organizations, (be it the police, child services, or other.) It says a lot about the treatment centre if they are on positive and productive terms with these institutions.

4. Positive feedback from Alumni

This may be one of the most important areas to research.  Look for programs that are able to retain positive relationships with their alumni after treatment.  Are there alumni available who you can connect with? Is there a network of supportive parents and alumni who can endorse the centre based on their experiences?

5. A clear and well defined practice framework

A treatment centre you are evaluating should have a clearly stated philosophy underlying their organization and a well-defined and clearly laid out framework for treatment.  In other words, what do they actually do? What is the process?  How does it work? The program materials and staff should be able to explain these areas to you comfortably and clearly.

While alcohol and drug treatment is not a cure, practicing due diligence before you decide on a treatment program will greatly improve the odds of managing the disease of drug and alcohol addiction.

Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre is a long-term, semi-residential treatment program that focuses on individualized programs for teens and their family.  Qualified and experienced clinical counsellors along with peer counsellors work with the client, their parents and siblings to provide evidence-informed treatment practices. AARC’s program is based on the 12-step model, and is accredited by the Canadian Accreditation Council (CAC). AARC works closely with the Calgary Police Service and has an 80.5% completion rate. AARC graduates are encouraged to attend weekly aftercare groups. Contact AARC at www.aarc.ab.ca to speak with our counsellors, as well as AARC graduates and their parents. We help teens reach their twenties.


Drug and alcohol addiction is an equal-opportunity destroyer. Since 1990, the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre (AARC) clinical team have excelled at helping adolescents and their families find their way out of the desperately hopeless pit of addiction. A leader in the field of addiction recovery, AARC continues to help youth and restore families through our fully accredited and internationally recognized treatment program in the heart of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.