Pine River Institute, a Residential Treatment Centre & Outdoor Leadership Experience

Pine River Institute, a Residential Treatment Centre & Outdoor Leadership Experience

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Over the years of owning and operating a B&B, I’ve come to realize that many come here for a specific reason, be it a wedding, a horse show, family gatherings, hiking the nearby Bruce Trail or just to get away from the city for a day or two’s rest.  And so, because of my guests I learn more about what is happening in our area.  A recent booking allowed me to learn about Pine River Institute, which was formerly an Outdoor Education Centre for Toronto schools which is located on a beautiful part of the Niagara Escarpment not far from here.  Pine River Institute is a residential and wilderness-based programme for troubled teens and their families and I thought to share this information here on my blog.   Unless you’ve experienced a child of your own getting into drugs, you don’t really know just how painful it can be.  When it happened in my family years ago, there was little or no help for those on drugs or support for their families.  I asked our guests if I might have more information about Pine River Institute.  Here briefly is their story:

Two decades ago, we experienced the frustration of trying to find help for a struggling teenage child. To our amazement and dismay, there was nothing in Canada that provided a safe container and opportunity to heal and grow for a young person and their family. We were fortunate to find a therapeutic wilderness program in the US, which was tremendously helpful and restored our family. Inspired by the success of the program and the innovative model of care, we were determined to open something similar to serve Canadian youth and their families.  It took a few years to plan, raise funds, build a program model, recruit and train staff, and we finally opened in 2006.  Today, over 300 students have been through the program, there are over 200 families on the waitlist, and with careful outcome evaluation following participants for almost a decade, the program consistently demonstrates close to an 80% success rate. Sadly, families who seek care may still have to go the US for a long-term wilderness or residential treatment program. Hopefully, this type of treatment will become more available in Canada as the evidence builds for a different approach to caring for troubled adolescents.

My hope is that parents and caregivers will demand a higher level of accountability from existing programs that are geared to serve troubled teens. Ask to see their outcome data.  Ask whether they have achieved accreditation. Ask whether parents are included in the program. If mental healthcare consumers push for more accountability in the quality of care, they will help to raise the bar for all kids and their families.

If you want to read more about what could be done to help transform youth mental health care, you may be interested in this article, published in the Healthcare Quarterly a few years ago:

If you are struggling and searching for help for your teen, I recommend reading two books, “An Unchanged Mind, The Problem of Immaturity & Adolescence” and “To Change a Mind,: Parenting to Promote Maturity in Teenagers”, by Dr. John A. McKinnon, available through Amazon. 

If you wish to learn more about Pine River Institute, see