Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment in Calgary

If you think you or someone you love may be experiencing an addiction or are seeking treatment in Calgary for an alcohol use disorder or drug use disorder, we can help. The following page provides some general information about alcohol and drug use disorders to help you get started, but please feel free to contact us for further information at the phone number above if you have questions or would like to book an appointment.

How are alcohol addiction and drug addiction Treated?

There are multiple initiatives involved in the effective treatment of an alcohol or drug addiction. The more comprehensive your recovery plan the higher the probability of achieving the goal of sustained sobriety, improved health and functional living.

Typical treatment steps in a comprehensive treatment plan include: (for the following list, an asterisk (*) means that the step is typically necessary or highly recommended; no asterisk means that the step may or may not be required):

  • Detoxification
  • Permanent abstinence from all mood-altering and non-prescribed substances*
  • Attendance and active participation in a twelve-step support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, at the rate of 2-3 meetings per week in the first year, more if needed*
  • Applying the twelve steps in sequence with the help of a dedicated sponsor*
  • Participating in relapse prevention counselling with the help of a qualified addictions professional*
  • A psychological evaluation to identify potential co-occuring mental health issues and additional counselling for any issues identified
  • Enrollment in a long-term (i.e. 30 or 45 day) treatment rehabilitation program
  • A medical evaluation and follow-up by an addictions physician or psychiatrist*
  • In some circumstances, medication-assisted therapy

Initial detoxification in a controlled medical setting may be a necessary first step, particularly if you have been using heavily and frequently up to the point of abstaining. Detoxification will assist you to safely cope with highly unpleasant and potentially lethal withdrawal symptoms that follow sudden withdrawal of a substance.

Twelve-step support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous have been particularly effective at helping individuals receive the support, information, and inspiration needed to remain clean and sober. One of the main benefits of AA lies in the mutual support both given and received in a setting that emphasizes accountability, honesty, deep personal change instead of behavioral change only, and practical tools for maintaining sobriety. An important part of twelve-step work is selecting and working with a sponsor who has sustained sobriety and who can guide you in implementing the steps.

Relapse prevention counselling can be an essential component of a good treatment plan. An addictions counsellor will help you plan strategies for avoiding relapse, better understand your triggers and risk factors and how to neutralize them, learn to deal with cravings, help you shift distorted thoughts and beliefs that perpetuate addictive behaviors, replace addictive behaviors with healthier alternatives, and bring to light underlying affective, behavioral, cognitive, familial and social factors that help drive the addictive acting out so that they can be worked out or worked through. Combining twelve-step support in a group setting alongside relapse prevention counselling with a trained addictions specialist can augment the benefits derived from utilizing either approach alone. Such counselling would typically take place following in-patient or out-patient treatment (it may also begin before rehabilitation if there is a wait time involved).

Enrollment in an in-patient or out-patient rehabilitation program may or may not be necessary. In-patient treatment means that you reside in the treatment facility for the duration of your stay there. Out-patient treatment means that you report in each day for care, but return to your home at night. 

In-patient care provides many benefits, including lack of access to substances, separation from addiction-triggering or distracting elements of life, intensive individual and group counselling, education, round-the-clock monitoring, and introduction to twelve-step work.The main advantages of in-patient treatment include lower risk of relapse due to inaccessibility to substances, close monitoring, and intensive education. Disadvantages include the cost and disruption to your work and family life (the latter disadvantage may need to be put in perspective considering the cost of addiction to one's work or family life). The main advantages of out-patient care include generally lower costs and the ability, potentially, to maintain some of your routine.

Generally, if your living or work environment is not conducive to the goals of recovery; if your resources for change are minimal, if your supports are minimal, if your addiction is moderate to severe in intensity, if you have been using heavily for a long time, and/or you have never attended a treatment program before, you may be a good candidate for in-patient treatment. Treatment centres typically require that you are five days clean upon entry to the program and that you are willing to abide by the inpatient center's requirements for recovery to remain in the program.

If, however, the following conditions are true, you may not need in-patient or out-patient treatment as part of your treatment plan:

  • You have access to educational and relational supports, and are familiar with and use tools, strategies and resources for maintaining sobriety,
  • Your living or work environment is supportive of your sobriety,
  • You are meeting regularly with an addictions counsellor and your twelve-step group,
  • You have successfully abstained from substances previously without moving into one of three types of problematic recovery modes:  dry-drunk recovery (where you stop using, but remain stuck in the same patterns of thinking and acting the way you did when you were using), transfer addiction recovery (stopping one substance, but increasing use of another substance), or narcissistic recovery (using the psychological and interpersonal principles you learned while attending counselling and AA to continue to manipulate the people around you).

The risks and benefits of attending in-patient or out-patient treatment should be discussed and reviewed with your addictions specialist to determine a plan that is right for you.

How can counselling help with an addiction?

One of our qualified counsellors can work with you in two important ways:  1) to provide a safe and trusting environment to begin to talk about and explore your usage patterns, and 2) identify recommendations and tools for moving forward. Research on the therapeutic components of effective therapy indicates that some of the most important elements—as influential as the specific techniques and tools your therapist uses to treat addiction—include the helping relationship itself that you develop with a caring and trusted professional who will listen to you carefully and provide guidance and support, and an environment that instills hope, or a positive expectancy.

In addition, one of our counselors can help you learn more about the psychological and physical factors involved in addiction; get connected with community resources and in-patient treatment facilities, as needed; develop and implement a relapse prevention plan; receive help in overcoming any other co-occuring social-emotional issues that co-exist with alcohol or drug addiction, and provide an accountability system and support for you in your journey toward better living.

Recommended Reading

Being Sober: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting To, Getting Through, and Living in Recovery

by Harry Haroutunian

An excellent resource on understanding treatment of substance addiction. I especially like the chapter on the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. In  this chapter, the author describes each Step in detail, including the principles and potential pitfalls of each step, as well as his own simplified version of the meaning of each step. Dr. Haroutunian rewords Step One, for example, "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol -- that our lives had become unmanageable" to "There is a power that wants to kill me." Step Two, "Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity," becomes "There is a Power that wants me to live."  Includes a chapter on the high functioning addict, what to expect in recovery, a discussion on abstinence vs. harm reduction, a discussion of the distinction between spirituality and religiosity, a description of AA meetings, and more. A very good introduction to the world of addiction recovery.

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Beyond the Influence: Understanding and Defeating Alcoholism

by Katherine Ketcham and William F. Asbury

Much of what this book is about could be described by the phrase found on the back cover:  "Alcoholism is a disease. It's time we started treating it like one." In the first half of this book, the authors describe the science behind the neurobiology of alcohol addiction, how alcohol affects the brain and the body, along with a comprehensive description of the early, middle and late phases of alcoholism. The second half of the book includes chapters on inpatient treatment, relapse prevention, counselling for co-morbid issues, spirituality and nutrition. It's a bit dated now, but its still very informative and one I would recommend. The author, Katherine Ketchum is also author of Under the Influence, considered a classic in the field.

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Where Can I Get More Information?

The following links lead to online resources that may help further:

Alcoholics Anonymous
Official site of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc..

What its Like to Attend Your First Meeting
Here is an excellent online article that addresses one of the most common psychological barriers to attending AA: anxiety about attending your first meeting. This article, produced by professionals at Futures Palm Beach, can help you feel better prepared with an understanding of what to expect at your first and subsequent meeting(s) and helps to dispel some of the common myths about attending AA.

Evolution Health Care for Everyone
An online support group providing help to those who are seeking to quit or cut down on their drinking. One helpful resource on this site is an online questionnaire you can use to evaluate your drinking. This is the same one used by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (see below). I prefer the final report format on this site, however, as it provides a little more information. An excellent resource with which to evaluate your drinking.

   Alcohol Help Center 2.0 Links and Resources
   Check Your Drinking Assessment Online Questionnaire

American Society of Addiction Medicine
An excellent educational resource, information rich, written in a strong academic style, outlining what addiction is, including the characteristics, neurobiology and genetic components of addiction. The American Society of Addiction Medicine and its Canadian counterpart the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine both offer comprehensive online information (see the "Research and Treatment" menu of the navigation bar at to both addiction professionals and the public.

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Canada's leading addiction and mental health teaching hospital.

   CAMH Articles and Resources
   Information about Drug and Alcohol Addiction
   Evaluate Your Drinking
   Information about Alcohol, Other Drugs, and Driving
   Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines
   Dealing with Drinking: How to Quit or Cut Down

Addiction Center
This is another excellent site filled with articles, resources, and information on addiction. It is also a good site to find out about treatment centers available near you.

Recovery Village
The Recovery Village provides comprehensive alcohol and drug rehab programs. Their website, here, is a wealth of information on alcohol and drug addiction and treatment, inpatient and outpatient programs, co-occurring disorders, and so much more. 

To Book an Appointment

Just call us (403) 255-8577 or use our easy online scheduler here

If you have any questions or would like to contact us by email, you can complete a brief confidential contact form here. Once you submit the contact form, a Cobb & Associates intake staff member will respond as soon as possible.

The Calgary Couples Counselling Centre (a subsidiary of Cobb & Associates Inc.) is located in southeast Calgary (near Leons and Trail Appliances on 11th Street SE). Please click here for our full address and a map to our location. We are currently accepting new clients and warmly welcome self-referrals and referrals from physicians and other professionals.

We appreciate your interest in our services and hope this information has been helpful to you. Please do not hesitate to call if you have any questions.

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