Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre

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Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre
Location Canada.svg
Operates in Canada
Abbreviation AARC
Formation 1992
Purpose Drug Rehabilitation
Region served
Alberta, Canada
F. Dean Vause
Website Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre

The Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre, or AARC, is a drug rehabilitation centre for adolescents located in Calgary, Alberta. AARC specializes in treating young people suffering from drug addiction and alcoholism, and takes in patients who have been thought of as being too far-gone for recovery. The AARC program is a multifaceted drug treatment program that uses twelve-step recovery processes, positive peer pressure, family and group therapy. An independent survey found that AARC had an 80% success rate, and that former addicts can permanently abstain from using drugs or alcohol following treatment at the centre.[1]


AARC was established in Calgary, Alberta in 1991. AARC was originally funded through a collaborative effort between the Rotary Club and the Alberta government, recognizing the need for a long-term youth treatment centre in Alberta. The AARC program was modeled off of the doctoral work of Dean Vause PhD titled “The Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre: A Treatment Centre for Chemically Dependent Youth and Their Family”. Dean Vause was initially employed as the executive director, and still serves in that position. He is directly overseen by the board of directors, who are a collection of business leaders and professionals from the Calgary community.[2]

Dean Vause worked at KIDS with Miller Newton for a period of time before leaving the Kids program due to some of the questionable tactics that were used. During Dr. Vause’s employment at KIDS he did, however, recognize some elements of the program that could be effectively implemented in another treatment centre without the questionable and abusive tactics. Some of these elements include the use of peer counselors (employed graduates that are in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction), “respite or recovery homes” and family treatment.

Respite homes provide clients with a sense of still being in a homely environment and can effectively relieve feelings of being institutionalized.

Peer counselors are effective in the treatment of mental health disorders in the following ways: They provide a positive role model for clients to identify with,[3] They provide an example of hope that recovery is possible,[4] They are able to use their personal experience to help others suffering from the same mental illness.[5] They help bridge the gap between clinical staff and clients.[6] The peer counselors are AARC are under the direct supervision of clinical staff who have all received relevant education in the field of addiction and mental health.[7]

Family Therapy has found to be effective in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction and has been correlated with higher success rates for those suffering from addiction, in particular adolescents.[8]

Since AARC’s inception in 1991, it has treated over 510 addicted adolescents and their families. AARC has also grown professionally over the last 20 years. AARC currently employs a number of graduates of the program as clinical staff who have received various educations in the fields of addiction and mental health.[9] The two clinical directors of the AARC program are Natalie Imbach and Colin Brown, who are both graduates of the program and have received a Masters in Family and Marital Therapy from Loma Linda University.[10] Colin Brown has also recently been registered as a practicing psychologist in Alberta.


Treatment in AARC is based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The theory of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction as a disease is the bases for the Program.

See "Disease theory of alcoholism" in Wikipedia

Treatment involves the use of Peer Councilors (graduates of this program) and highly trained Clinical Councilors most of whom themselves have also faced addiction or seen the results first hand as family members of the addicted. It is said that it is hard to pull the wool over the eyes of one who has seen, done and share what you have done and are doing. Using those who have experienced addiction first hand allows a deeper connection and more help.

In addition the family members are offered counseling. Many individuals are opposed to this as they do not see how having an addict as a child affects them and their lives. The counseling and "Rap" sessions provided to family members involves the family members learning and delving into their selves to discover how the lies, deceits and many other symptoms have affected their lives and views. How behaviors have been learned that enable the addict to continue using. i.e. giving in rather than confronting, the denials and desperate desires to believe the lies that this will be the last time even if it is the 5th or 10th circle in this cycle.

For those who are willing and accept it, the counseling offered helps rebuild family relations, and helps individuals improve upon themselves.


In February 2009, AARC became the subject of controversy when former patients made allegations of abuse. On February 13, the CBC newsmagazine the fifth estate aired an investigative report called "Powerless", in which former patients specified alleged instances of abuse at AARC. Rachel O'Neill, who was treated at AARC in 2002, alleged many instances of verbal and physical abuse, and that she had been raped by an AARC counselor at a host home.

The fifth estate report also pointed out Vause's connection to an anti-drug figure in the United States named Virgil Miller Newton, an Antiochian Orthodox priest who ran a group of drug rehab facilities in New Jersey in the 1980s. Newton was initially praised for his efforts, but was disgraced after it was found that his programs instituted a tortuous regimen of sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, and frequent beatings on his young patients; several of them have sued Newton, receiving settlements of up to $16 million. The fifth estate and former AARC volunteers claimed that after Newton's clinics were shut down, Vause—a protégé of Newton's -- travelled to Canada and mimicked Newton's methodology when founding the Alberta clinic.[11]

Excerpt From CBC Website

"Since the fifth estate’s Powerless programme was broadcast on 13 February 2009, AARC provided CBC with an affidavit it obtained from one of its clients, Scott Fowkes, stating that he lied to CBC, and made untrue and inaccurate statements about AARC in the programme. CBC has not been able to contact Mr. Fowkes to review his overall position in light of this and the information he provided earlier.

AARC has also sued four female sources, all of whom appeared in the programme. AARC alleges in those lawsuits that some aspects of the Powerless programme were inaccurate, including several of the statements made by former AARC clients, and broadcast by CBC. For legal reasons, AARC has not been able to provide the CBC with details from some of those lawsuits. Each of the sources is defending the actions. Some have filed counterclaims against AARC.

On 15 April 2011, AARC commenced a lawsuit against the CBC. The CBC is defending the action. In that lawsuit, AARC denies the suggestion that it failed to investigate reports of abuse." -


  1. ^ The AARC Program, [Retrieved 11 June 2010]
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ [3]
  5. ^ [4]
  6. ^ [5]
  7. ^ [6]
  8. ^ <
  9. ^ [7]
  10. ^ [8]
  11. ^ "Powerless", the fifth estate, 13 February 2009

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