Community Education

Recent Events

Please click the link below to view the Power Point presentation from our most recent workshop: “Marijuana and the Developing Brain” by Dr. T.C.R. Wilkes.

Marijuana and the Developing Brain

Click here to see the Federal Government’s Framework for the Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis, referenced in Sgt. Martin Schiavetta’s presentation.

Sharing our experience


AARC endeavours to share knowledge with others in the addiction treatment community.Our greatest tool in the battle against addiction is education, which helps to increase awareness regarding early intervention supports, prevention strategies, and family centered treatment approaches.

AARC’s Community Education and Prevention program provides educational workshops, which are free of charge, and open to health care practitioners, educators, law enforcement personnel, community agencies, and families. This initiative has allowed AARC to expand its community outreach while maintaining the high standard of clinical care for which it is known.

Fentanyl, marijuana, alcohol …

Every year we see the devastating impact of drug and alcohol addiction on young people and their families. Addiction does not play favourites. It impacts youth and families from all walks of life, income levels and demographics. We are fighting against very real issues like the growing use of fentanyl, the proposed legalization of marijuana, and alcohol and drug addiction. It is AARC’s goal to engage Calgarians in advocacy on issues related to adolescent addiction and mental health.

AARC’s Community Education and Prevention efforts include:

Onsite Workshops

  • On average, our community education team presents 1 - 2 onsite workshops per year. Our presenters include visiting scholars and experts in the field of addiction and mental health and have covered topics including, but not limited to: Fentanyl Abuse, Marijuana’s Impact on the Developing Adolescent Brain, Crystal Meth & Ecstasy and Youth and Gangs.

Offsite Workshops

  • 10 – 12 offsite workshops, on average, are provided every year to schools, community agencies, post-secondary institutions and parent groups.

Outcome Studies

  • In 2015, a team of researchers from the University of Maryland and the University of Minnesota were awarded a three-year research grant to conduct an independent evaluation of AARC. The full study was published in early 2019 and can be found here.

Political Advocacy

  • AARC is home to an alumni political advocacy group whose goal is to share their family’s treatment experience with the political community.

Parent Aftercare Program

  • AARC also offers a monthly education and wellness aftercare program for Alumni Parents.

Please click below to view the Power Point presentations from past workshops:

Opioids: The Latest Battle in the War on Drugs – November 17, 2016

Why Adolescents are at Risk for Substance Abuse and Addiction – September 20, 2016

Youth and Gangs Workshop – May 5, 2016

Crystal Meth & Ecstasy Abuse – March 15, 2016 – Dr. Mark Yarema

Crystal Meth & Ecstasy Abuse – March 15, 2016 – Sgt. Martin Schiavetta

Fentanyl Abuse – January 26, 2016 – Dr. Mark Yarema

Fentanyl Abuse – January 26, 2016 – Sgt. Martin Schiavetta

For more information on attending workshops, booking presentations and attending lunch and learn sessions please contact:

Shelley Van Reekum
Community Education
Phone: 403.253-5250

Public Inquiry

Dealing with addiction during adolescence is complex. Consequently, AARC’s program and its leadership have occasionally been the focus of criticism. Allegations regarding connections to other treatment programs, the qualifications of AARC’s staff, its unique treatment processes, access, cost and abuse can be found in digital and traditional media. These allegations were most notably covered in a Fifth Estate broadcast (the “Broadcast”), aired by the CBC in February of 2009.

As a result of this broadcast, AARC has filed a statement of claim in Alberta Queen’s Bench Court against the CBC, three CBC reporters and four ex-clients (The “Action”). AARC maintains that it has discredited all allegations of wrongdoing contained in the Broadcast and is proceeding to trial to recover damages for the losses AARC has and continues to suffer as a result of the Broadcast.

CBC has removed the Broadcast from their website. The Action was filed on the grounds that the former clients fabricated their statements and the CBC breached its professional and ethical code of Journalistic Standards and Practices by recklessly and irresponsibly airing a Broadcast without proper fact checking, deliberately omitting contradictory evidence, and deliberately misleading the audience for the purpose of obtaining viewership. One of the ex-clients has subsequently filed an affidavit saying that he lied to the CBC and made untrue and inaccurate statements about AARC. Despite the removal of the Broadcast, the allegations first aired in this context continue to manifest in various ways. As a result, the stigma of such allegations continues to trouble AARC and hampers the important work that the organization does every day.

AARC has coined the phrase “business as unusual” to describe the treatment of severely addicted adolescents and their families. AARC treats high risk youth in crisis. AARC is able to successfully treat the majority of clients that enter the program. The AARC model was developed through a five-year Ph.D. study. The AARC Descriptive Research (Vause 1994a) determines specifically what makes AARC successful. The descriptive study assessed the clients’ and staff’s perceptions about the attitudes, opinions, conditions and procedures which make recovery possible. The study clearly validates that the AARC program has had a substantial impact on clients’ recovery.

A recent study, “Effective Approaches to Adolescent Addiction: Evaluation of the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre (AARC)” (2019) led by academic researchers, Dr. Amelia Arria and Dr. Ken Winters, noted that AARC incorporates evidence-based assessment tools and several behaviour change strategies that provide an impressive model of a long-term, comprehensive, semi-residential treatment program. In the context of the published outcome literature, the proportion of AARC graduates who were abstinent from drug use is impressive – 73% of AARC graduates in the study were abstinent 12 months post-treatment and 59% were abstinent 24 months post-treatment.

In addition, a 2004 study “Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre – An Outcome Evaluation” led by Dr. Michael Patton confirmed that a majority of AARC’s graduates surveyed were clean and sober and that 48% of graduates remained continuously sober since completion of treatment. The study noted that there was a significant improvement in all measures of recovery for graduates, including education, employment and family relationships.

Both studies confirm that over 80% of the youth who entered treatment completed their treatment at AARC. The Arria and Winters study states that “treatment completion is an important predictor of outcomes, namely long-term abstinence from substance use, and any program that can produce high retention rates is likely promoting positive outcomes.” “A Unique Model for Adolescent Addiction Treatment: A Description of the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre” (2017)

However, in some cases clients that do not complete the AARC program or that complete the program and return to active addiction, can blame AARC for their troubles. A small group of such individuals have seized on the allegations contained in the Broadcast and other information, to disseminate damaging falsehoods through various media.

It is particularly noteworthy that:

  • AARC is fully licensed as a Residential Addiction Treatment Service Provider under the Mental Health Services Protection Act in the Province of Alberta.
  • AARC’s accredited program is delivered through a strict governance model that employs independent oversight and written grievance procedures.
  • AARC is required to renew its accreditation every 3-4 years. Renewal of accreditation is a long and arduous process that requires full review and transparency of its model, records, policies and procedures, on-premises inspections as well as private client, staff and board interviews. AARC just completed its accreditation renewal and was awarded a 3-year extension in late December 2019.
  • In addition to intense oversight, as mentioned above, AARC also validates its model and results through third-party research, e.g. Patton 2004, Winters/Arria 2017, 2019.

The most current outcome study and methodology
can be reviewed by following the link below.

2017/2019 Winters/Aria research

To review the 2004 Patton study follow the link below

2004 Patton study

  • AARC promptly addresses all allegations of wrongdoing, whether they are alleged to have occurred before or during treatment, and where warranted by referral to the appropriate authorities.
  • AARC does not engage with those making accusations or unfounded claims on websites, forums, chat rooms or social media accounts.
  • Alberta's judicial system and Calgary Police Service (CPS) are regulated and open systems to any citizen who has a complaint or believes they are a victim of a crime. AARC has cooperated and will continue to fully cooperate with any allegation that is brought before it by the CPS, government bodies or the courts and will operate within that fair and public framework.
  • Over the last twelve years AARC, its Executive Director, staff, clients, families and alumni have been the subjects of consistent defamatory, violent, sensational and vulgar abuse, harassment and allegations both online and through traditional media channels such as print and broadcast. Across all means of communication, these claims have been positioned as being true without any credible or supporting evidence. AARC has been left no option other than to pursue legal measures to end this harassment through the legal system and to attempt to recover some small portion of the substantial damages that it has suffered. An example of this work can be demonstrated by a retraction received in the Spring of 2019. A defendant in a legal action filed by AARC posted allegations online of AARC's role in a murder, a remark that was picked up and repeated by "credible" local news sources. As part of a legal settlement, that person later agreed to provide a retraction confirming that the online statement and accusation had no merit or truth.

The agreed retraction can be reviewed at the link below


  • Recently, the harassment against AARC and its staff has escalated from online harassment to physical confrontations of staff at private residences and attempted “swatting” incidents at our facility. AARC has taken the necessary measures to provide support and safety to its staff and clients in partnership with the Calgary Police Service and will take appropriate legal action in response to any further harassment online or in person.

AARC's primary purpose is to support and treat adolescents suffering from addiction and their families. That comes with the full understanding that given the nature of addiction, this type of unwanted attention is part of the disease of addiction and the fallout that follows in its untreated wake. AARC has been successful because its clients and families have been successful in finding freedom from addiction for close to 30 years. Although not all who have entered and graduated the program have remained sober, the majority have and are active and contributing members of society and the communities they live in. They have been given the gift of choice and the opportunity to live free from addiction. It is for this reason that AARC continues to operate and will continue to defend its right to do so despite any challenges or harassment it may face.

Media Enquiries

Notes from the front line of addiction

With the complexities and issues that our children, youth, and families face today, it is not unusual that substance and chemical abuse and dependence seem to offer relief, escape, and strategies to avoid rather than face the demands and stressors of life.

But, as the dependency upon alcohol and drugs grows within any given individual, the ability to navigate a normal life decreases dramatically. The addicted youth becomes increasingly fixated on their drug of choice, which impedes the development of healthy coping mechanisms and social development. As the youth’s substance use progresses in the direction of dependence, family members become increasingly fixated with helping their addicted child. In some cases, the user and the family find normalcy in the situation and generate their own coping strategies through co-dependency, while other families engage in minimizing, deflecting, or worse, ignoring the impact of drugs and alcohol.

Generally speaking, traditional styles of addictions treatment focus on the addict identifying that the issue remains with the addicted individual placing the responsibility of recovery on that person alone. This is not so at AARC. AARC is passionately committed to the recognition that addiction is a family-based disease and a comprehensive treatment program centered on the full involvement of the entire family system.

Our clinical success and continued comprehensive research into addiction confirms the effectiveness of our treatment modality and its basis in the 12-Step philosophy and disease model of addiction, which is integrated through established and known treatment models, theories, and therapy.

AARC endeavors to provide excellence in services to the youth and families entrusted to our care and to inform our community about our services. We have more recently received requests for information regarding policy, procedure, practices, and adherence to regulations and those standards applicable to treatment organizations.

For more information please contact Reception at:

Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre
303 Forge Road S.E.
Calgary, Alberta
T2H 0S9
Phone: (403) 253-5250
Fax: (403) 640-2520

Yours truly,
Dean Vause, PhD, Executive Director


AARC’s expected outcomes

AARC is an exceptional treatment plan for exceptional circumstances. Our clients are typically adolescents with severe addiction problems who have tried other methods of treatment without success.

An incurable disease that can be treated

AARC believes that chemical dependency is a chronic disease, so we don’t seek to cure clients. We believe that only complete abstinence can manage the disease. A successful graduate will attain these goals:

  • Accept that alcoholism and addiction are incurable (yet treatable) diseases
  • Accept that lifelong sobriety is the only way to manage the disease
  • Improve and repair relationships with family and friends
  • Return to school or work
  • Connect with community support services (such as Alcoholics Anonymous)
  • Live a daily sobriety program
  • Commit to a healthy, honest, and productive way of life with gratitude, in the knowledge that their ability to stay sober flows from the grace of God

You can read about our results in our Satisfaction Survey.

The strengths of the 12 step model

Clients and parents are acting responsibly by asking questions about the validity of our approach, and should always be cautious about the health and well-being of vulnerable individuals. AARC recognizes that it offers an exceptional treatment model, justified by the exceptional circumstances created by adolescent addiction. Here is our response to the most common questions we hear about the fact that we base our approach on AA and the 12 Step Model.

Does AA work?

The success of Alcoholics Anonymous poses a problem for scientific research since the spiritual element of its program is, by definition, not accessible by scientific methodology. However, the repeated results of attending AA communities can be analyzed.

Here is a good overview of current research into AA community programs and outcomes.

How successful is AARC’s program?

AARC ‘s goal is to see clients graduate from our program sober, reunited with their families and prepared to rejoin the world of school or work. That process is never easy or straightforward. However, we are certain that the program is successful when compared to other types of treatment.

Ask the people who know best — Families Treated by AARC

The intensity of treatment demanded by the program means that our total number of families is relatively small. Instead of large-scale statistical analysis, AARC conducts small, confidential surveys of client and family satisfaction. Family surveys are self-reported. AARC does not conduct intrusive procedures such as drug tests to confirm the results.

In 2015, AARC was awarded a three-year, $300,000 grant by an anonymous donor which allowed independent researchers to work with AARC to conduct retrospective interviews with a sample of program participants and assess the impact of attending AARC on standard measures of drug abstinence, psychosocial and academic functioning and health.  Research studies highlight the need for comprehensive care – to take into account family factors, the unique developmental needs of adolescents, as well as understand the social contact and other features of the adolescent’s environment in order to effectively manage the program.

The recent study found that 80.5% of clients that entered treatment completed the program and 73% of graduates remained sober one year post-graduation. You can read more about this study here.

Another study was conducted in 2003 by Dr Michael Q Patton, former president of the American Evaluation Society. The results, published in 2005, show that 83 out of 100 graduates surveyed reported that they were sober at the time of the survey. Forty-eight said that they had been sober since graduation.