Therapeutic Community Approach

Our drug addiction treatment approach is based on the therapeutic community model: a participative, supportive, group-based approach to drug addiction rehabilitation.

Home » Portage’s Therapeutic Approach

No one knows exactly what it’s like to be you, but there are a lot of people out there who have faced similar struggles and have been able to turn their lives around. At Portage, you will be surrounded by a community of people with the same goal as you, and you will help each other make it through.

In doing so, you will:

  • Learn a lot about yourself
  • Work through the core reasons why you abused drugs
  • Develop the skills to be able to do well in school or at work, and to make some sort of plan for the future
  • Appreciate developing a healthy lifestyle – eating well, sleeping well, enjoying social and recreational activities
  • Learn to love yourself

Though the idea of drug addiction rehab may seem overwhelming, the time that you spend at Portage is an investment in the rest of your life.


New residents are welcomed by those currently in treatment, who help them understand how the program works. Under the supervision of a team of clinical staff members, residents support and encourage each other through the program, helping each other to acquire the necessary competencies and knowledge to move through the phases and eventually become role models to new residents. The process focuses on the following objectives:

  • Being evaluated and introduced to the principles of the therapeutic community

  • Integrating into the community and experimenting with the therapeutic tools

  • Becoming an active member in the community by applying the tools

  • Preparing for transition back to home community

  • Becoming an active member with responsibility within the community

  • Becoming a role model for newer members in the community

  • Transitioning back to home community and managing associated challenges

At Portage, there is a real sense of belonging because of the therapeutic community. We take care of each other and take responsibility.

Michel Tremblay, Adult Program, Lac Écho

As members of our therapeutic community, clients share their daily lives with a group of people who are experiencing similar struggles, helping each other to identify the causes of their problems, develop the social competencies that will help them face these issues, and carry out the necessary strategies to overcome them.

In a positive peer culture environment, our clients support each other’s growth. They learn from each other, from their counsellors, and most importantly, from themselves.

In all our programs, respect is the basis of all interventions. Our therapeutic community approach works from a wellness rather than an illness model, and seeks to empower clients with tools and confidence to give them a reason to hope again – hope that they can choose to lead their lives the way they want to, hope that they can choose to be who they really are meant to be, free from the grasp of addiction.



As clients progress in their treatment program, they learn and develop a set of social competencies designed to help them better manage the challenges of everyday life, without needing drugs. Communicating effectively, being reliable, working in a team, and problem-solving are among the competencies developed in our programs.

For a full list: Portage’s competencies

Individual Case Management

Treatment planning at Portage is participatory, with the clients setting priorities along with their case manager. It is also inclusive; encouraging participation from family members and significant others (where applicable), as well as the network of service providers involved.

Each client has their own Plan of Care, which deals with the individual’s particular needs with regards to substance abuse, physical and mental health, personal development, social skills, and parenting skills (where applicable), interpersonal and family relations, and social reintegration, among others things.

When I first walked in, I realized what a community is, because I did not have that before. I had a mentor to guide me around, and eventually, months later, I became that mentor to new residents. It is very empowering to be able to help people that went through what I went thought just months before.

Jack, Adolescent Program, Lac Écho

Best Practices

Portage’s therapeutic community model is based on best practices in drug addiction rehabilitation therapy, including the following techniques:

  • self-help

  • milieu therapy

  • community support

  • peer role modelling

  • social learning

  • individual case management

  • remedial education

  • family support

  • access to psychiatric support

For a more extensive list: Drug addiction treatment best practices