Vitanova is a unique organization whose programs have evolved over time, and always in response to the needs and wants of the community it serves. Thus, from an historical perspective, it is important to know that a series of articles published in VitaSana: The Family Health Magazine in the mid-1980’s—articles about the increase in substance abuse in the local community and the response those articles generated—led directly to the birth of The Vitanova  Foundation in 1987. 

Community Outreach

The Vitanova Foundation has since 1989 been active in the local community, offering a range of services designed to inform and educate the general public about what we do and to receive feedback on what the community feels it needs. These activities include:

  • Education for prevention in schools, workplaces, churches, service clubs
  • Presentations to probation/parole officers, other agencies
  • Providing speakers on behalf of the United Way, of which Vitanova is a member.
  • Participation in public forums, symposia, workshops, etc.
  • Contributions to academic and community publications
  • Employee assistance
  • Annual open house to which the community is invited

A recent addition to these services is our collaboration with five other mental health and addiction agencies, to offer opioid community treatment programs, including outreach to identify those in need of such services. 

This service works closely with emergency shelters and hostels in the community and provides assertive outreach to the homeless and others who are socially isolated. 
Services include:

  • Client identification
  • Referral to case management
  • Linkage to primary care, income maintenance programs, housing, etc.
  • General information and education
  • Crisis intervention and prevention
  • Medication support
  • Advocacy

Day Treatment 

This, our core program, operates Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm, and consists of individual and group processes that reflect our holistic, wraparound, “whatever it takes” philosophy.

Connecting to Vitanova involves a step-by-step process:

  • Self-referral, or via a third party (e.g., a doctor, lawyer, family member or friend) 
  • Pre-screening and pre-assessment, to determine if what Vitanova offers and what the prospective client is looking for constitute a “match”. 
  • An in-depth assessment of the client, leading to the initial design of a treatment plan to meet a client’s particular needs. 
  • Short-term referral to another service (e.g., a detox centre) prior to admission, or to another treatment setting if better suited to the client
  • Admission and orientation, including a tour of the premises, led by another client, with introductions to staff, volunteers, and other clients. 
  • Assignment of a “primary counsellor” to the new client, and discussion to further refine the client’s treatment plan. 

Our approach to treatment is two-fold, being both therapeutic and practical (i.e., focused on mending the client and teaching him or her how to live a more ordered life day-to-day). The following chart lists the components of this approach:

Group processesAcu-detox, anger management, art therapy, goal-setting, mindfulness,relapse prevention,self-awareness, spirituality, therapeutic life skills 
Individual processesOne-on-one counsellingwith primary counsellor or other counsellors as required
Practical life skillsChore assignments: to promote punctuality, task completion, teamwork, responsibility, self-maintenance, environmental maintenance (indoor  and outdoor) 

Details of these components

Acu-detox has a long history at Vitanova, having been introduced many years ago by our then consulting psychiatrist, the late Sherwood (“Woodie”) Appleton. In 1996 he reported on the treatment of 45 Vitanova clients (30 males, 15 females) who indicated they felt “inner calm and serenity”, enhanced cognitive clarity and marked mood improvement after receiving auricular acupuncture.

Anger Management is a process of acquiring the skills to recognize the signs that you are losing control of your anger, and taking action to deal with the situation in a positive way. Anger management therapy explores the emotional life forces that develop into uncontrolled anger in an individual and teaches techniques to deal with anger effectively in order to live a healthier lifestyle. The Anger Management workshop is a 10-week program presented four times annually, and runs once a week on Tuesdays from 10 am to noon. This is a closed group with maximum 12 participants and requiring mandatory attendance at all sessions. The course is offered to clients in our programs as well as outside clients. Referrals are from other community-based services, lawyers, courts, and other service providers.

For further information and to register for this program, please contact us at, or at 905-850-3690, Ext. 224 and/or complete the Registration form. To enrol, click Anger Management Registration and complete the registration PDF form and submit it via email to or fax it to the attention of the Intake Counselor at 905-850-3835.

Art therapy is an effective way for clients struggling with addictions to gain access to the full range of their emotions, without having to rely entirely on their ability to verbalize what they feel. In effect, art therapy bypasses the potential manipulation of the spoken word and focuses on the issues that need to be explored and understood in order to facilitate a genuine change in behaviour. 

Goal Setting isa quite effective way of moving the process of recovery forward.On a weekly basis, in a group setting, each counsellor meets with all of his or her clients. Each in turn defines their goal for the coming week along with the strategy or technique each plans to employ to attain their goal.

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around us.When we are mindful, we reduce stress, enhance performance, gain insight and awareness through observing our own mind and increasing our attention to the well-being of others.Mindfulness meditation gives us a time in our lives when we can suspend judgment and unleash our natural curiosity about the workings of the mind, approaching our experience with warmth and kindness—to ourselves and others.

Relapse prevention is a cognitive-behavioral approach to relapse, with the goal of identifying and preventing high-risk situations such as substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive behavior, sexual offending, obesity, and depression. It is an important component in the treatment process for substance use and/or  alcohol dependence.

Self-awareness—the consciousness of oneself as an individual—is among the first components to emerge in the development of a self-concept. While self-awareness is something that is central to who one is, it is not something on which one is acutely focused at every moment of every day. Instead, self-awareness becomes woven into the fabric of who we are and emerges at different points depending on our situation and personality.  Through various exercises, this group guides its members in becoming fully aware of themselves.

Spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives. In general, it includes a sense of connection to something greater than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life. As such, it is a universal human experience—something that touches us all.  This group supports each individual in their journey to discover what spirituality means to them.

Therapeutic life skills are developed in the process of learning practical life skills. The latter involve learning how to complete a task, at the appropriate time, and perhaps in cooperation with others assigned the same task. The former deal with how the learning and doing of that same task contributes to recovery.

There is no set time for discharge.  We ask clients to keep an open mind and continue to work through the issues that arise in the course of treatment.  Typically that means three to four months.  Nevertheless, preparation for discharge is discussed regularly in group and individual sessions, in keeping with our shared goal—our clients returning to society as healthy and productive persons.  When the client and his/her primary believe the client has successfully addressed these issues, both will prepare a discharge plan—a program of actions the clients will commit to, to sustain recovery after discharge.  Sticking to this plan is what we term “aftercare”.


Aftercare is an abstinence-based follow-up program open to clients who have completed day treatment or to clients who have completed an abstinence-based addiction program elsewhere but for whom Vitanova’s location is more convenient. Discharged clients are asked to attend aftercare for at least 18 months after completing our day treatment program, to ensure recovery is maintained. 
Aftercare can include many things:  weekly attendance at Tuesday evening (7.30 to 9.30 pm) or Saturday morning (10.30 am to 12.30 pm) support groups; or attendance at an Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meeting near where the client lives full time (if that is some distance from Vitanova). Aftercare can also mean a commitment to call one’s former primary counselor when feeling vulnerable; a session with him/her when tempted to relapse; even a few group sessions at Vitanova when a former client is going through a “rough patch”.  Whether attending aftercare or not, all discharged clients are strongly encouraged to stay in touch, by keeping us up to date with contact information, attending Vitanova events, or just dropping by when in the neighbourhood.

Domiciliary Shelter

Coupled with our day program we also offer a domiciliary shelter program for up to thirty-four males who are homeless for reasons relating to their substance use/abuse/addiction.  On assessment, these potential clients know that accepting to be part of our domiciliary shelter program also entails making a commitment to be active participants in our day program for no less than three months.

Family Support

Substance use is considered a family illness, since loved ones are always affected by the situation, and for that reason a family support program is provided.  Clients are asked to encourage their loved ones to attend. By participating in the program, they learn how to deal with individuals who continue to use drugs, how to help those who are involved in Vitanova programs, and how to help those who have completed their recovery and need the support of family members to sustain their recovery.  All are welcome to join.
Support groups are held once a week, every Tuesday evening from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm.
An appointment is not needed to attend this group. Just drop in around 7 pm—to introduce yourself to other attendees and become familiar with the surroundings.
All participants in our support groups understand that such meetings are confidential.

Outpatient Support

We also offer one-on-one counselling for the following purposes and durations:

  • Crisis intervention (up to 8 weeks)
  • Short term weekly counseling (up to 6 months)
  • Long term weekly counseling (up to 1 year)

For more information on any of the above, give us a call.

Upon entering our program each client is assigned a chore alongside a group of peers.  Initially the chore is a light one, perhaps dusting the furniture in a particular room or vacuuming a hall carpet.  As the client progresses in the program he/she is assigned more responsible chores, ones that might include overseeing other, newer clients on a project, such as the painting of an office or tending to the vegetable garden. We believe the doing of chores constitutes valuable, transferable, and practical life skills that will be of benefit to the client for years to come. The therapeutic aspect is that the learning of all such skills teaches the key concept of order. Recalling our definition of recovery (see Our Approach), our clients by definition lack control over their lives. Recovery is the process by which such autonomy is regained. In the learning and doing of tasks that promote order, the client gains a measure of control over his/her surroundings and ultimately over his/her life.