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A therapeutic community at Surfside House is providing access for men struggling with addiction issues.

The four-month therapeutic community program for men began Sept. 26 through a partnership between the Nanaimo and District Surfside Society and the Nanaimo Regional John Howard Society.

“We’re very excited about what’s happening,” said Barry Coulson, vice-chairman of the Surfside’s board of directors, adding it’s a much larger piece of the puzzle in providing accessible and affordable addiction treatment.

France Tellier, director of programs for the John Howard Society, said it’s been going well and the program is getting a strong response and lots of referrals from other organizations, such as the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

Clients can also refer themselves to treatment, but must meet eligibility criteria. For information about the self-referral process please call the Vancouver Island Therapeutic Community at 250-758-5611.

Prior to the partnership, Surfside operated a 42-day recovery program that focused on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

The new program delves further into the recovery process by examining the underlying causes of addiction and building prevention measures. The length of the program, a minimum commitment of four months which can be extended depending on where a person is at in their recovery process, also allows men to create after-treatment plans, such as attending school or transitioning into employment.

The therapeutic program is facilitated by counsellors, has peer-support and Surfside alumni serve as mentors. Residents must abstain from substance use while living at the house.

In 2008, Surfside, like many non-profit organizations, was facing a financial pinch with less grant money to continue operations. The lean times sparked a conversation with the John Howard Society and the creation of the four-month program.

The program is modelled after John Howard’s Guthrie House, which operates at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre. Guthrie House treats up to 30 men and is a group-based residential treatment program where residents are involved in all aspects of their recovery.

Coulson said the therapeutic community program is on the cutting edge and the organizations hope it will become a template for others.

While there are private treatment facilities available, they remain financially out of reach for the majority of people who suffer from addiction issues, Coulson said.

People can donate to the program by contacting the John Howard Society at 250-754-1266 or going to and donating to either Surfside Society or the Nanaimo John Howard Society.

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