Taking the first steps

Clients seldom admit themselves to AARC; most of the time they are brought to us by concerned parents or guardians. This can be one of the most traumatic decisions your family will ever face — how do you know if your loved one really needs AARC’s help?

The vital first step is to make contact with us so that we can make an assessment of addictive behaviour, so that AARC can give expert advice on next steps.


Pre-assessment provides an opportunity for families to learn about AARC’s program first-hand, to visit our community, and to ask questions. AARC asks questions too at the meeting. The outcome could be a formal assessment, an introduction to members of the alumni community for further discussion, or referral to alternative specialists or treatment centres. 

If you are concerned about an adolescent’s behaviour and or use of drugs and alcohol we recommend that you take some time to review this section in detail. Here you will find AARC’s criteria for admission to the program, our assessment process and some tools about the signs of adolescent addiction.

If you would like to speak to a member of intake team about our assessment process or to set up a pre-assessment please call 403-253-5250 and ask to speak to a pre-assessment coordinator or contact us here.

Strict admission criteria

Clients must be between 12 and 21 years of age.

Clients must have substance dependence, causing substantial familial, social, individual, and academic impairment so that they meet DSM-5 diagnostic criteria. Read more about DSM-5 here.

AARC’s assessment process determines if an adolescent shows the persistent and pervasive patterns of dependency that would benefit from AARC’s long-term, intensive treatment, or if an alternate publicly funded treatment would be more appropriate. 

AARC utilizes three pre-assessment tools, the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI-A2), the Adolescent Diagnostic Inventory (ADI) and the Drugs, Behaviours and Feelings (DBF) Checklist.

Using SASSI-A2, ASDI and DBF in combination, AARC can establish if a client may have a substance dependence disorder (SDD) or a substance abuse disorder (SAD) under the terms set out by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (1994), the recognized authority in this area of psychiatry.