Partner Profile: Rideauwood Addiction & Family Services

Ottawa’s Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services opened its doors in 1976 with funding for just four programs and services. Today, more than 45 years later, this valuable OCYI partner offers over 15 programs to youth, adults, families and support persons who are struggling with the role that substance use, behavioural addictions and mental health issues play in their lives. 


Rideauwood’s programs include outpatient counselling for problematic substance use but also behavioural addictions, gambling, gaming and technology use. Committed to creating a compassionate culture and caring environment, where clients feel empowered to make choices that work for them, Rideauwood also partners with 1Call1Click.ca, St. Mary’s Home, CHEO and Counselling Connect to bring expertise and counselling services to more of Ottawa’s youth and families. 


Youth and young adults between the ages of 12-25 can access Rideauwood’s services through their youth and young adult programs. Says Heather Simon, Manager of Rideauwood’s Youth and Young Adult Portfolio, “The ability to serve folks across the lifespan from age 12 on, is a unique and special feature of the work we do at Rideauwood. I also love that we are a low-barrier organization, available at school, in our virtual spaces, or here in person. Youth can self-refer and everything is free and confidential.” 


Carole Sinclair, Rideauwood’s Director of Addictions and Mental Health, wants young people to know that anytime is the right time to reach out for support. “Youth are in the driver’s seat when they contact us and we are here to be their ally. They set their own goals with counselling treatment and we can even talk to them about concerns they might have about someone else’s substance use.” 


This fall, the OCDSB School Based program looks forward to relaunching the Rideauwood Prevention Education Program, delivered each fall and spring to all OCDSB grade seven and grade eight classes, with students receiving a total of four presentations from school-based counsellors by the end of grade eight. 


In response to a rise in problematic gaming and tech use, Rideauwood has recently developed materials, in partnership with the University of Ottawa, to support the well-being of youth and young adults in these areas. Infographics in French and English are available online to support youth, young adults, parents, caregivers and clinicians along with a report titled Problematic Technology Use in Youth and Young Adults.


Carole says that this area is an emerging field where Rideauwood is trying to provide leadership, reliable information, and understanding. “We are a harm reduction focussed counselling provider so want to support our clients with whatever their goal is for a healthy relationship with substances. Less, different or none. This is also becoming an important component in understanding technology use. More and more there is an understanding that abstinence from technology is not realistic especially when it comes to youth. What we are seeing are more questions, as to what healthy technology use is and is not, and we are trying to embed in our counselling and psycho education that it is about the relationship you have and how to change the balance if needed. This material is a real focus in training with our counsellors so that they can use it in the counselling they are providing young people. 


We also want people and partners in the community, who support youth, to know that challenges with substance use, gaming or tech are not always cause for alarm but that they can connect youth to us to learn more.” 


For parents and caregivers with youth heading back to school, she wants them to know that Rideauwood is there. “We are all adjusting from Covid-19 and it is okay if youth are still struggling. Please know that the services are also there, always adapting and ready to meet youth where they are at.”


Asked why OCYI’s motto of helping kids to Grow Up Great is so important, Heather and Carol each share a line. “Healthy kids lead to healthy communities. Life is always going to be stressful but helping kids to cope with those stresses will create more resilient communities later.”


Resources Tech Use: Supporting the Well-Being of Youth and Young Adults, found at https://www.rideauwood.org/rideauwood-news/tech-use-supporting-youth-and-young-adults-well-being/

This story is part of the September 2023 Ovation. This story is also available in French.