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 Debate

Our side of the story

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

As a result of this broadcast, AARC is in litigation with the CBC, various CBC reporters and four ex-clients. AARC maintains that it has discredited all allegations of wrongdoing contained in the broadcast and is proceeding to trial against all parties to recover damages for the losses AARC has suffered as a result of the broadcast.

AARC’s accredited program is delivered through a strict governance model that employs independent oversight and written grievance procedures. AARC promptly addresses all allegations of wrongdoing, whether they are alleged to have occurred before or during treatment, by referral to the appropriate authorities. Allegations of criminal wrongdoing are immediately referred to the Calgary Police Service and the justice system.

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.