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Home » Shunda Creek Wilderness-based Addictions Treatment

Utilizing the healing power of nature.

Shunda Creek Wilderness-based Addiction Treatment

Enviros Shunda Creek is a part of Enviros, a non-profit social services agency based in Calgary, Alberta. However, admissions to Shunda Creek are handled by Alberta Health Services (AHS).
To get started on your recovery, contact Alberta Health Services – Addiction and Mental Health:

1-866-332-2322
Or, contact the AHS intake worker:
403-340-5466

Fees:
There is no fee to go to Shunda Creek. The program is funded by Alberta Health Service and available to all Alberta residents who meet the program’s criteria.

There are no extra fees for wilderness therapy activities. All transportation, equipment and outdoor clothing are provided.

Provincially Licensed

Enviros Shunda Creek is licensed under the provisions of Part 1 of the Mental Health Services Protection Act of the Province of Alberta as indicated by the license below.

Wilderness Therapy Meets Addiction Treatment

Enviros Shunda Creek is an addiction treatment program for 18- to 24-year-old men. Set in a modern facility at a remote location near Sundre, in the foothills of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, one of the things that sets Shunda Creek apart from other treatment programs is the incorporation of adventure-based activities in the wilderness.

Why choose Shunda Creek? The program is different from traditional treatment centres in a number of ways. It was developed specifically to meet the unique needs of 18- to 24-year-old men. It’s the only Alberta Health Services-funded treatment program that incorporates wilderness therapy as a core component; staff work with leading researchers in the area of adventure and wilderness therapy to set standards that other facilities now follow. Shunda Creek also has an active aftercare program so you can continue your recovery journey with others the same age as you and who have gone through the same program you went through.

Adventure-based wilderness programming isn’t for everyone, though. Hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, year-round camping and other activities are a lot of fun, but they can be hard work. They’re also incredibly effective ways to get out of your comfort zone and into your recovery zone so you can start moving towards the life you want.

The Location
The Enviros Shunda Creek program is located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains west of Sundre, Alberta. The modern facility features private accommodation for 18 clients, a commercial kitchen, a workout room, various meeting spaces and other amenities. Past clients have told us the remote location and natural setting allowed them to focus on their recovery in a way that urban programs did not.

Although remote, the location has ready access to emergency services and medical, dental and other health services are available. When on a wilderness trip in the nearby mountains, our staff also carry satellite communication devices and SOS beacons.

The program is located on Treaty 6 land, the traditional territories of Blackfoot, Cree, Saulteaux, Stoney Nakoda and Metis peoples, all of whom still live there.

 

Have more questions about Shunda Creek? Read our FAQ

Alberta’s Only Publicly-Funded Wilderness Addiction Treatment Program

The addiction treatment program at Enviros Shunda Creek was designed for the unique needs of 18- to 24-year-old men that want help with substance use issues. You’ll be with others your own age who are walking in similar shoes to yours. Whether in group sessions or on the trail, the person next to you won’t be a middle-age man or a suburban soccer mom. It will be someone your age who is having similar challenges and wants to build a different future for himself, just like you.

When you arrive at the Shunda Creek facility, addiction specialists and therapists will take the time to get to know you and understand your strengths and challenges. Based on this, they’ll develop a program tailored to your needs. This will include:

  • One-on-one counselling
  • Group work
  • Indigenous land-based teachings
  • Adventure-based wilderness activities
  • Planning your recovery program for when you go home
  • Meeting with staff and Shunda Creek alumni who participate in the aftercare program

What does life at Shunda Creek look like?

Group sessions occur daily. At the Shunda Creek facility, they happen in the group room. Out in the wilderness, they happen on the trail, at the end of a canoe trip or on the summit of a mountain. The actual wilderness activities are spread throughout the week and range from half-day hikes and rock climbing to multi-day backpacking and canoe trips. You will be involved in everything from the trip planning to drying gear when you get back. And in partnership with local Nations, you will have the opportunity to participate in Indigenous land-based teachings such as sweat lodges and smudging. In between all of this, you’ll also meet one-to-one on a regular basis with a counsellor who specializes in addictions. No week, no day is the same.
You’ll also have opportunities to attend local 12-step meetings. We recognize that 12-step meetings can be effective for recovery, but Shunda Creek does not include 12-step work in the program itself. The intention is to give you exposure to the most widely available recovery resource you can incorporate into your personal recovery program when you return home.

Aftercare

Recovery from addiction is an ongoing process. Your work doesn’t end when you leave Shunda Creek.
 
To help you continue that work when you go home, our alumni program with dedicated staff is available at no-cost. In the program, you’ll have opportunities to talk online and in person with your peers who have shared your experience, participate in wilderness and other activities, and attend weekend events back at Shunda Creek.
 

Research, along with our experience, shows that this type of peer support can decrease the likelihood of slipping back into past behaviors and relapse. For those that do relapse, it can also lead to shorter relapses and quicker returns to stability

Into the Wilderness and Out of Your Comfort Zone

Adventure-based wilderness therapy is about more than going into the woods and having fun.
 

Each activity—whether a half-day hike or a multi-day backpacking trip—is intentionally planned with your recovery in the mind. The aim is to provide you with experiences that take you out of your comfort zone in a safe manner. After each activity, the full benefit comes through unpacking your experience, what you were thinking and feeling, and why.

This is a powerful way to gain better insight into yourself that traditional treatment programs don’t have. It isn’t for everybody, but neither is traditional treatment. For those who adventure-based wilderness therapy is for, it can mean the difference between significant growth that leads to long-term recovery and a treatment experience that is beneficial but that doesn’t get you as far along in your recovery journey.
 
The success of Shunda Creek’s adventure-based wilderness therapy programming is recognized by leading researchers in the field and other programs. For example, we work with professors at two universities in the United States who specialize in adventure therapy to quantify outcomes and improve the Shunda Creek program. Based on this work, we helped develop the Adventure Therapy Experience Scale, which is now used by programs around the world to track the progress of the people they work with in their programs.
 

Having said all that, deep down, it’s a lot of fun.

Indigenous Teachings

The Enviros Shunda Creek program and the areas in which our wilderness activities take place are on Territory 6 land that is the traditional territories of Blackfoot, Cree, Saulteaux, Stoney Nakoda and Metis peoples. Recognizing that we are all treaty people, we are proactive in building and tending respectful, meaningful relationships with these people who were on the land long before us and recognize the historical and ongoing impacts of colonization.

One result of the relationships with the people who were here long before us is that they graciously share some of their knowledge, teachings and healing ceremonies with us. Since we originally developed the Shunda Creek program, we’ve intentionally incorporated Cree and Metis ceremony and practices, with an Elder on site to lead us in ceremony and other practices. Woven throughout the program, including our wilderness activities, Indigenous values and practices strengthen the journey of recovery through a deepening of the connection with ourselves, each other and the land through traditional healing and rights of passage. Whether or not to participate in these practices is up to you; they are entirely voluntary.

Service to others is an important aspect of recovery in our program. When possible, we assist the Indigenous people in the area by splitting firewood, helping at ceremonies and other acts of service. We also learn the oral history and practices of the people in this territory so that we can engage in our respectfully and as knowledgeably as possible.

Shunda Creek FAQ

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