Frequently Asked Questions

We recognize that there’s a lot to learn before Pine River Institute. We have collected a number of our most frequently asked questions to help you.

If you still have questions that remain unanswered, or you need more information, please contact us.

How do I know my child needs help?

There is a spectrum of services available for youth struggling with mental health issues and addictive behaviours (including substance use). The most appropriate service for your child will reflect the severity and complexity of his or her issues, and your child and family’s individual needs.

The students at Pine River are aged 13 to 19. These youth are typically experiencing a global breakdown – in school, in relationships, in physical health, in emotional development.

Common characteristics of  youth who attend Pine River include:

  • Problematic drug and/or alcohol use
  • Addictive behaviours such as self-harm, eating disorders
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Family conflict
  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of motivation
  • Excessive anger, defiance
  • School truancy, failure, suspension, or expulsion
  • Running away
  • Street involvement
  • Contact with the law, and/or
  • Trauma

Most have experienced a number of interventions: individual psychotherapy, family therapy, medical intervention, day treatment, or short-term residential programs. They have not responded to these less intensive interventions, and continue to spiral down. At Pine River they find a home; a place where they feel safe and inspired to change and mature.

If you think Pine River may be the right choice for your family based on what you have read and/or heard about our program, the first step is to get in touch. You can do this by setting up a secure online account here. Once we have received this form, the Admissions Director will contact you about next steps.

Or, if you’d prefer to speak to us first, please contact our Admissions Director, John Mallon, at 519.925.9225, ext. 102. Our Admissions Team will work with you to determine if Pine River is the best option for your child and family.

What about school?

Educational engagement is a key element of our program.  We are staffed by certified teachers and an Educational Assistant from the Upper Grand District School Board. All of our teachers have Special Education qualifications.


Youth at PRI are typically working toward a Secondary School Diploma or Certificate, or are enrolled in online post-secondary courses. In consultation with the clinical team, the teachers develop an academic plan for each student, which caters to specific strengths and needs.


Academics at Pine River are designed with the unique nature of our school in mind, emphasizing Outdoor Education in our ‘200-acre classroom’, and a distinct curriculum that is brought to life through the arts, healthy living, life-skills, and experiential education.


The students are provided with ongoing academic counselling to maximize credit accumulation, and help them to integrate into academic pursuits when they transition from the program.

Can my family stay involved?

We are a family-centered program, and family participation is critical. We work with families to accommodate long distances by phone and/or video and encourage visits to the campus whenever possible. 


Parents have a very important role in the therapeutic process. We work with students and families to make shifts over time, which come with increased social and emotional maturity. Our experience and our evaluation outcomes have taught us that the greater the engagement and self-growth of parents/guardians, the greater the success a child will experience after Pine River. We refer to this as the Parallel Process, and stress its importance to the success of the program.

It is not our intent to blame parents for their child’s difficulties, but rather to walk alongside parents as they courageously learn about themselves, look at their past relationships within their own families, and begin a new relationship with their child.


Parents/guardians are expected to participate in regular family therapy sessions, treatment progress meetings, family group every other Sunday, evening bi-weekly parent group (in-person or phone-in), a parent retreat, and semi-annual two-day parent workshops. In other words, hard work and change happen for everyone in the family.


Family Bridge is a secure online tool designed to enhance your family’s connection to Pine River, and to help build your community of support.  Each family has its own personal Family Bridge website that can be accessed by invitation only.  This website will help you stay connected with your child at Pine River, your Pine River therapist, and with what’s happening in the program. You will also find here a ‘Bridge-Wide Library’ with articles, video, and links that are updated by PRI staff regularly.

What does a day at campus look like?

The average daily schedule covers two to three hours of academics, two hours of physical activity, two hours of group therapy, one hour of expressive arts such as art, music or drama, free time and chores.


There’s a gym with lots of equipment, an outdoor basketball court, volleyball, big playing field, trails for hiking or cross-country skiing (and all the equipment). There is special programming throughout the week, community service, and family activity days on weekends. And OF COURSE great meals and snacks every day.

Sample Meal Plan