How is Pine River different from other treatment centres?

Pine River offers a unique, holistic treatment and educational model, based on the developmental needs of adolescents, and grounded in best practices for substance abuse treatment for youth.  Our program is family-centered, individualized, and offers a flexible length of stay that is usually 12 to 14 months. 

Pine River Institute is the only treatment centre of its kind in Canada.  Five key features of our program set us apart:

1. Four Phases, One Journey

Our program is structured in four seamless phases that support a youth and family’s gradual development, allowing time to understand, learn, and practice. 

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Outdoor Leadership Experience, Algonquin Park

The OLE phase is the starting place for change. The wilderness exposes and calls upon the strengths of the mind, body, spirit and emotions, and thus creates opportunities for rebuilding to begin.Daily aspects of the OLE include canoeing, hiking, group games and initiatives, group processing, individual therapy, and journaling. Students live and work in nature, with groups of up to 8 students and 3 staff.


Residence, Pine River Campus

During the residence phase of the program, students live at the Pine River Campus. Daily aspects include on average 4 hours of academics, 2 hours of physical activity, 2 hours of group therapy, 1 hour of expressive arts such as art, music, or drama, free time & chores. There is special programming throughout the week, community service and family activity days on weekends.

Approved by the Ontario Ministry of Education, and in conjunction with the Upper Grand District School Board, the certified teachers at  Pine River Institute help our students complete their Ontario Secondary School Diploma.   Our unique academic program is a combination of the traditional classroom, credit recovery, experiential education, wilderness experience, supported distance education and individual tutoring.  A personal education plan is developed for each student based on individual academic needs.  


Transition, Pine River Campus and Home

The transition phase is a time to start taking the lessons home. Students and families are closely supported as a student transitions from campus life to home. An example of this may be a week on campus and weekends at home, or vice versa. Families develop a detailed Aftercare Plan to prepare for the next phase.

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Aftercare, Home

We are committed to staying supportive of our families after a student leaves the residential part of the program. The aftercare plan is individualized, and designed by the student and family with the Aftercare Coordinator. It details supports, concerns, ‘triggers’, commitments and goals. Aspects may include daily or weekly check-ins, mentoring new students and families, and coaching.

We are grateful to RBC Foundation for their tremendous support of our Aftercare Program. Since 2009, RBC Foundation has ensured that Pine River's youth and families have access to this critical service, giving them a foundation for lasting success.


2. Variable Length of Stay

Our students progress through the phases of our program as they are ready. There is no set length of stay, and each family’s needs are unique. The average length of stay is approximately 12-14 months, beginning with an average of 6 to 8 weeks in the Outdoor Leadership Experience.

3. Our Therapeutic Approach

Our holistic treatment and educational model is based on the developmental needs of adolescents, and grounded in best practices for addiction treatment for youth. Our therapeutic approach is designed to meet the unique needs and characteristics of adolescence. There are a few basic assumptions in our approach:

  • Adolescents are not ‘smaller adults’.  They are in a developmental transition
  • These youth in crisis are experiencing obstacles to their maturation (such as mental illness, chronic intoxication, trauma)
  • The adolescent brain is ‘plastic’, and this neuroplasticity is an opportunity to change negative neural pathways and destructive thinking
  • These youth are part of a family system and a peer system
  • Adolescent addiction is a symptom of underlying issues, and a maladaptive coping strategy.  Addressing just the addictive behaviour is not enough

This understanding informs our therapeutic approach:

  • We support the developmental transition towards maturity – empathy, lack of narcissism, the ability to be separate in relationships, future orientation, social ethics, regulation of emotion, and abstract thought
  • We address the obstacles to maturation, the issues underlying the destructive behaviours
  • We do this through therapeutic relationships – relationships that are accurately attuned, and set limits – within an adult team of therapists, team leaders, front-line staff, and parents
  • We work within the family system through family therapy, coaching, retreats and workshops, support groups, multi-family groups and activities
  • We work within the peer system, providing a therapeutic milieu with structure and boundaries that promote a positive peer culture – a safe environment to learn, practice, and mature
  • Each student and family has an indivualized plan to meet their unique needs, designed, delivered, and reviewed regularly by a professional, multi-disciplinary team

4. Client-centered Outcome Evaluation

In addition to process evaluation, client-centered outcome evaluation is core to the Pine River program. We work in collaboration with major organizations (such as York University, SickKids Hospital, National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, Ontario Centre of Excellence in Child and Youth Mental Health) to constantly evaluate what we do and how our students are doing, to ensure we are providing the best possible care to our clients. Using both qualitative and quantitative measures, we gather data at several critical points throughout the program, starting from the initial inquiry for help, and for several years post-program exit. Our data and findings are published bi-annually, and used to continually improve and refine our services.


5. Pine River works

The majority of our graduate students experience success. Our success rates have been excellent since welcoming our first student and family in 2006. Our outcome evaluation is based on quality of life and functional living. Have we addressed issues underlying the addictive behaviours? Is there a reduction or absence of drug and alcohol use? Is there an increase in functional living (re-engagement with academics, improved family relationships, increased quality of life, improved physical and mental well-being, reduction or absence in hospitalizations, police contact, or running away)? 

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PRIVACY STATEMENT:  Pine River Institute values its relationship with its students (including potential students), their parents, and alumni, and is committed to the protection of their personal information. Accordingly, we adhere to the privacy principles that have been developed in accordance with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (Canada) (the “Act”).