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Reading the Fine Print

Becoming an informed consumer before you decide on an alcohol and drug treatment center can help improve your odds of getting the best value for your treatment dollar.


Choosing a private alcohol and drug treatment centers can be difficult. This is especially true if you have recently started your search and this is your first time requiring the services of an alcohol and drug treatment center (if so, consider yourself fortunate!).

One of the first questions you may have when researching private alcohol and drug treatment is the cost. Unfortunately, the cost of a program means little if you do not understand what products and services an alcohol and drug treatment center provides.

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While it is unlikely that you will be as eager to go to drug treatment as you would be for a vacation getaway, you might assume that shopping for treatment would be similar to shopping for a vacation getaway. After all, both treatment and vacationing involve putting work and home life on hold for a while and both involve packing your bags, booking flights, etc.

There is one crucial difference, however. When it comes to going on vacation, chances are you are an informed consumer. You know that, regardless of where you are going, you will probably need to rent a car, get a hotel, dine out and see the sights. You have a pretty good idea what is involved and you have, from previous experience, a pretty good idea what your vacation will cost.

With alcohol and drug treatment, you’re in unfamiliar territory. Unless you or a loved one has had previous experience with private addiction treatment, you will probably be unfamiliar with what happens during the course of treatment, what kind of staff are required at a residential program, and what is considered standard as far as amenities and services are concerned.

So you’re in a strange city with strangers and for all you know, strange people! No one has ever really told you what type of people go to alcohol and drug treatment. You just hope they are people like you: good people that happen to have a problem with drugs and/or alcohol.

Finally, you have no idea how you are going to be spending your time. Figuring out what you do in treatment and why it takes so long may not be so easy.

Now couple your lack of familiarity with providers that are hesitant to “lay all their cards on the table” and you begin to understand why it is so difficult for those needing treatment to make an informed purchase.

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Many alcohol and drug treatment providers are compelled not to list their price in printed literature or on their website. There are several reasons for this reluctance to disclose price.

First of all, private alcohol and drug treatment centers in Canada must compete against subsidized government treatment centers. Therefore, most private treatment centers believe it is necessary to explain, in person, why an individual should consider paying for treatment.

Furthermore, private treatment centers believe that the complexities inherent in understanding a process unfamiliar to the average Canadian may best be explained over the phone rather than by reading about it.

Finally, you may be surprised to learn that private alcohol and drug treatment is a competitive business. You would think that with drug- and alcohol-related stories so commonplace in the media that there would be lots of business for everyone. However, in reality, only a fraction of Canadians struggling with alcohol or drugs have the resources to pay for private treatment.

However, even if all private treatment centers made their fee schedule readily available, making a value comparison still requires some basic knowledge in three key areas: staff qualifications, programming, and facility (services and amenities). If you take the time to understand these components of a residential program as explained below, you will be better equipped to make a value comparison rather than on just price alone.

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Program Fee – a fee imposed to cover the cost of residential drug and alcohol treatment. The Program Fee typically covers therapy, meals and accommodation. Other services may or not be covered by the Program Fee, depending on the treatment center.

Admission Fee – a fee imposed to cover the added staffing resources necessary to admit a client. These costs are sometimes charged separately from the Program Fee if a treatment center itemizes costs instead of combining all fees in one lump sum.

Sunshine Coast Health Centre includes the Admission Fee in the Program Fee.

Assigned Reading – literature provided to clients that is deemed necessary by clinical staff to participate in the residential program. Assigned reading is also referred to for the completion of homework assignments. Counsellors may also refer to assigned reading for certain clients that may require additional work in certain aspects in their recovery during the program or as part of their continuing care program (refer to Continuing Care below for more information).

Some treatment centers provide photocopied pages of recovery literature while others may simply utilize overheads.

Sunshine Coast Health Centre includes Assigned Reading in the Program Fee. Assigned reading becomes the property of the client upon admission.

Group Therapy – Sunshine Coast Health Centre provides 26 hours of counsellor-led group therapy and 11 hours of peer-led group therapy per week. Group therapy is a process whereby clients take turns sharing, actively listening and supporting one another under the direction of a counsellor.

Individual Counselling – Each client at Sunshine Coast Health Centre has an assigned counsellor who is directly responsible for the client’s treatment plan, progress through the program, and discharge plan. Additional individual counselling may take during the first and last few weeks of a client’s stay.

Sunshine Coast Health Centre gaurantees a minimum of one hour per week of individual counselling. Additional 1-on-1 sessions are dependent on the client care plan.

Individualized Treatment Planning – is the process of assessing the needs of a particular client and matching those needs with a treatment plan. Optimally, clients are encouraged to participate in the design of their own treatment plans.

Having a smaller client load allows Sunshine Coast Health Centre clinical staff the ability to provide customized treatment unique to each client. By allowing the clients to have input in their treatment plan, clients are more likely to take ownership of their own recovery.

Addiction Education – Addiction Education, as opposed to therapy, is presented in a lecture format and is designed to inform clients and create awareness. A question and answer session may be provided at the end of education.

Sunshine Coast Health Centre provides 3 hours of addiction education a week in a group setting. For more information see page 2 of the daily schedule of activities.

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Post-Treatment Planning – the process of assisting a client make the transition back to their home community is an important part of ensuring a client continues in his recovery after the structure and supervision of residential treatment is no longer available.

All clients leaving Sunshine Coast Health Centre are provided with an outpatient counsellor, Sunshine Coast alumni contact and, if deemed necessary, a transitional living contact in their home community. Other recommendations may be provided such as areas where continued work may be recommended.

Detoxification – not every alcohol and drug treatment center provides detoxification. Many require a certain number of days of “clean time” to ensure that withdrawal will not occur after a client is admitted. Other programs that advertise as having detoxification services do not have regular access to a nurse or doctor and are therefore considered to be “social” detoxes as opposed to medical detoxes. Finally, some programs provide detox but at an additional fee.

Sunshine Coast Health Centre provides medical detoxification with 24 hour nursing supervision. Clients needing detox only pay for the time they are in the unit ($650/night) with most only staying overnight. Our Medical Director determines when a client is ready to be discharged from the detox.

Medical Assessment – is a medical procedure conducted by a physician to assess the overall health of an individual.

The British Columbia Ministry of Health requires that all clients admitted to a licensed facility be examined by a physician within 24 hours of admission. Dr. Jacques du Toit, Medical Director at Sunshine Coast Health Centre, provides a medical assessment which includes a review of medication, a determination as to whether detoxification needs to be extended and ordering of any lab work. As an additional service Dr. du Toit also provides auricular acupuncture to help those suffering from acute drug or alcohol withdrawal. Medical assessments are included in the Program Fee.

Nursing Consultations – nursing consultations are an important part of the biopsychosocial model of treatment where clients continue to be monitored for weight, blood pressure, and other vital signs. Clients also have the opportunity to learn, on an informal basis, how to take better care of themselves through these consultations.

At Sunshine Coast Health Centre, a nurse is available Monday to Friday from 8 to 4:30 PM (and evenings and early morning if a client is in detox). Nursing consultations are provided at no additional charge to the client.

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Health Education – is education provided in a group format that typically covers medical issues such as the physical effects of drugs and alcohol, communicable diseases and prevention.

Doctors, nurses, and other health practitioners provide one hour of health education every week on a rotating basis. Health education is included in the Program Fee.

Lab Work – lab work may be requested by a doctor that may suspect illness based on a client’s drug/alcohol history, medical history or a client’s physical symptoms during the medical assessment.

Sunshine Coast Health Centre has most lab work provided at the Powell River General Hospital (PRGH). Lab work is covered under provincial health insurance. Client transportation to and from PRGH is provided at no extra charge to the client.

Emergency Services – although on-site medical staff can address most medical needs, it is critical that access to a full-service medical hospital facility be available within a reasonable distance to the treatment center.

Powell River General Hospital (PRGH) is located 15 minutes by vehicle from Sunshine Coast Health Centre and provides ambulance service in cases of emergency. Medical Director Dr. Jacques du Toit is on staff at PRGH.

Contingency Medications – are typically over-the-counter medications pre-approved by the Medical Director and dispensed to the client by nurses or trained aides as directed. Contingency medications can include Tylenol, Advil and other over the counter medications.

Since Sunshine Coast Health Centre has both a physician and nurse on staff, contingency medications are provided as part of the medical program and are included in the Program Fee.

Prescriptions – Typically, clients are responsible for the cost of any medications prescribed during the course of treatment. Depending on the treatment center, clients may bring their own prescriptions assigned prior to admission.

Sunshine Coast Health Centre does not cover the cost of prescriptions, but will provide receipts if clients have extended benefit plans that cover prescriptions.

Psychological Assessment – a psychological assessment may be provided to clients with a history of mental illness or by the recommendation of clinical staff who observe behaviour symptomatic of mental illness.  Typically, at least one week following admission may be required before the effects of drugs or alcohol can be ruled out as a contributor to the behaviour.

Sunshine Coast Health Centre provides a psychiatric, rather than psychological, assessment. In other words, the assessment is performed by a psychiatrist.

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Trauma Counselling – Trauma is often a factor in problematic substance use. Trauma may or may not be part of the curriculum in a residential alcohol and drug treatment program, depending on the qualifications of the clinical staff.

As an approved addiction/PTSD provider, Sunshine Coast Health Centre has developed a significant trauma program that includes individualized trauma counselling and complementary trauma therapies such as Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR).

Sunshine Coast Health Centre provides a minimum of one 3-hour group session on trauma at least once during the course of a client’s stay. Additional individual trauma counselling will be provided for those needing additional therapy. At Sunshine Coast Health Centre, trauma therapy is provided by a doctorate-level Registered Psychologist and is included in the Program Fee.

Psychiatric Assessment – a psychiatric assessment can assist in determining the presence of mental illness and is provided by a psychiatrist who can prescribe medications.

Sunshine Coast Health Centre has an experienced psychiatrist who provides assessment and, when necessary, medications to assist clients with mental health issues.

Family Program – the Family Program provides spouses/partners and family members of individuals with drug or alcohol problems with the tools necessary to provide constructive support and begin the journey of healing from the devastation of an addiction. Family programs can vary from three to seven days in length.

Sunshine Coast Health Centre provides a 3-day intensive Family Program on a monthly basis. Typically, treatment centers charge $250 per day per family member. There is no time limit so a family member unable to attend while a loved one is in treatment can enroll in a Family Program at a later date.

The Family Program is included in the Program Fee and there is no limit to the number of loved ones that can participate. It is the goal of Sunshine Coast Health Centre to treat as many client family members as possible. Family Program Director, Cathy Patterson-Sterling, is an authority on families and addictions with a book on the subject to her credit.

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Couples Program – is a form of marital therapy provided in a group format that focuses on the unique issues of being in a committed relationship that has been impacted by addiction.

The fourth day of the Family Program is reserved for residential clients and their spouses or partners. Sunshine Coast Health Centre includes the cost of Couples Day in the Program Fee.

Family Online Support – online support takes advantage of email and the internet to provide ongoing education and feedback regardless of where alumni of the Family Program call home.

Sunshine Coast Health Centre provides weekly online support for family members for as long as they have a valid e-mail address. The only requirement is access to an online computer. Family Online Support is included in the Program Fee.

Alumni Meetings – group events that provide ongoing support for alumni of a residential alcohol and drug treatment center. Meetings may or may not be facilitated by a trained therapist, depending on the number of participants and if dues are collected to cover the cost of the therapist. Weekly alumni meetings, even for large treatment centers with many alumni, are usually restricted to larger metropolitan areas such as Vancouver, Seattle, Calgary and Edmonton.

Sunshine Coast Health Centre currently hosts weekly and bi-weekly alumni meetings (both peer and professionally facilitated) in most major cities across Canada.

Reunions & Dinners – are events designed to help treatment center staff and alumni stay connected. Reunions are also an opportunity for individuals in recovery to connect with others who, since they have all completed the same program, share a common experience of recovery.

Sunshine Coast Health Centre’s alumni manager hosts complimentary alumni dinners several times a year in each city as a way to stay continually connected to our lifetime alumni. The alumni manager will often attend alumni meetings during these trips.

Alumni Online Support – online support takes advantage of email and the internet to provide ongoing education and feedback regardless of where alumni of the Residential Program call home.

Sunshine Coast Health Centre provides weekly online support for residential program alumni for as long as a valid e-mail address is provided. Alumni Online Support is included in the Program Fee.

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Transitional Living – a less-intensive form of residential treatment that is usually a minimum of 60 days in duration that can last as long as two years. Transitional living is provided to clients who have completed residential treatment but require a greater level of support than what is available at home. Amount of time allocated to actual therapy, level of supervision, and qualifications of staff varies but is generally less than primary residential treatment. Clients may or may not be permitted to work while in a transitional living program.

Since 2010, Sunshine Coast Health Centre provides flexible transitional living options for clients who complete the 30,42, 60, or 90 day primary program. Contact Admissions toll-free at 1(866) 487-9010 for more information.

Flight Reservations – Sunshine Coast Health Centre will assist clients and their families by reserving flights to and from Powell River via the South Terminal in Vancouver. Sunshine Coast staff will also help coordinate flights in order to minimize layover time in Vancouver. While there is no charge for flight reservations, clients will be billed for airfare and applicable taxes.

Vancouver and Comox Airport Shuttle – clients changing planes in Vancouver and Comox are often at risk during travel to treatment. Fluctuating motivation levels, fear of going to treatment, drug or alcohol impairment and lack of familiarity with new surroundings can lead to missed flight and delays.

For clients flying to Powell River via Vancouver, Sunshine Coast Health Centre provides a meet and greet service. Meet and greet helps clients with the shuttle to the South Terminal * for their connecting flight to Powell River via Pacific Coastal Airlines. If there is an extended layover, Sunshine Coast staff will either help a client check in to a nearby hotel for the night and catch an early morning flight or go site-seeing for a few hours while waiting for the flight to Powell River.

For clients flying to Powell River via Comox, a shuttle service is also provided for connecting to the ferry that sails between Comox and Powell River.

To make travel worry-free, Sunshine Coast Health Centre provides a meet and greet service for those arriving at Vancouver International Airport. This service assists clients in making their connecting flight to Powell River from the South Terminal, a 10-minute drive from the Main Terminal. If there is an extended layover, Sunshine Coast staff will either help a client check in to a nearby hotel for the night and catch an early morning flight or go site-seeing for a few hours while waiting for the flight to Powell River.

(*) Note: the South Terminal is a 10 minute drive from the Main Terminal in Vancouver.

Vancouver and Comox airport shuttle service is included in the Program Fee.

Off-site Meeting Shuttle – At Sunshine Coast Health Centre, 12 step and SMART meetings are off-site evening events. Clients are shuttled to and from these meetings. This service is included in the Program Fee.

Art Expressions – Sunshine Coast Health Centre provides art expression twice a week. This service, including arts & craft materials, is included in the Program Fee. At this time, Sunshine Coast Health Centre does not offer art therapy.

Off-site Recreation – clients at Sunshine Coast Health Centre participate in multiple off-site recreation activities per week. These activities are weather dependent and typically include trips to the local recreation complex or hikes in the winter and swims at the beach or lake during the summer.

Fitness Room – fitness is an important component in the recovery process.

At Sunshine Coast Health Centre, clients have access to the weight room (includes cardio equipment and weights), an exercise pool, and the expert guidance of a kinesiologist and personal trainer. Clients can work out during non-programming hours.

Massage – Sunshine Coast Health Centre provides massage therapy as part of a client’s care plan. All clients have an initial assessment. Massage is included in the Program Fee.

Ozone Therapy – Sunshine Coast Health Centre provides ozone therapy as part of a client’s care plan. Ozone therapy is included in the Program Fee.

Yoga – Sunshine Coast Health Centre provides yoga 1-2 times a week.

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Here are some additional ways to compare values of alcohol and drug programs:

Clinical Staff Qualifications

A good alcohol and drug treatment center will have counsellors with specific training and experience in addictions counselling as well as clinical management with additional experience in supervision. A Program Director should be a Master’s or Doctoral level therapist.

While there is some debate in the field of addictions on the importance of a counsellor having personal experience with problematic substance use, clients often report a preference to work with counsellors who are in recovery. Sunshine Coast Health Centre has counsellors in recovery as well as counsellors who are not in recovery.

Our full-time counsellors all have lengthy track records in addiction and mental health counselling and must have a minimum of a master’s degree. Geoff Thompson, Program Director, is currently balancing full-time work at Sunshine Coast while completing his Doctoral degree in Psychology at Saybrook University in California. Our staff page has additional information on the clinical team.

Weekly Schedule

A weekly schedule will tell you a lot about program intensity and content. If you are not sure about terminology used to describe sections of the schedule be sure to ask the Admissions Coordinator.

Sunshine Coast Health Centre keeps a current version of their weekly schedule on the internet.


For more information contact the Admissions desk at Sunshine Coast Health Centre toll-free 1-866-487-9010 or email

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Thank you for everything you’ve done. You’ve truly gone above and beyond your job description for me while Brad entered treatment. I took in the Family weekend, and Couples day, and I would definitely do it all over again.

In the beginning, I was truly ignorant to the way treatment was designed there. And in being that way, it hindered my healing process. After the weekend, I have a whole new perception on everything, my role in everything, as well as what I need to change for the future. I truly think it should be mandatory for family to take in that weekend. I know it’s not possible to enforce everyone to be present for a family weekend, but I don’t see how recovery can be successful if they don’t.

- Jennifer

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