Strengthening Families Program (SFP) – Alberta

Program snapshot

Age group: Not age specific

Gender: Mixed (male and female)

Population served: Adult offenders; Families; Victims of crime

Topic: Alcohol and/or drug use; Family (domestic) violence/child maltreatment

Setting: Urban area; Social services setting

Location: Alberta

Number of completed Canadian outcome evaluation studies: 0

Continuum of intervention: Secondary crime prevention; Tertiary crime prevention

Brief Description

Strengthening Families is a pilot program in Calgary for couples experiencing both domestic violence and substance use issues. It is a specialized counselling program to address the complex relationship between substance use and intimate partner conflict. This program aims to reduce the need for individuals to enter the justice system, by assessing potential participants after an initial police report for domestic violence that did not result in criminal charges.


The main goals of Strengthening Families are to:

  • Address the complex relationship between substance use and intimate partner conflict; and
  • Reduce the need for individuals to enter the justice system after an initial police call for domestic violence that did not result in criminal charges.


The appropriate clientele for Strengthening Families are couples:

  • Who are married or are living together;
  • Where at least one has a substance use problem;
  • Where there has been at least one instance of domestic conflict/aggression; and
  • Who are both willing to work on their problems.

Participants are system-referred or self-referred to the program. These participants are screened and assessed for fit and program commitment.

Core Components

The core components of Strengthening Families include the following:

  • Pre/post program evaluations: Participants are assessed for fit/program commitment and upon program completion;
  • Behavioral Couples Therapy (BCT):  This is the model used to develop the Strengthening Families program. It involves conjoint treatment for couples in which one partner has an alcohol and/or substance abuse disorder;
  • Modality: The program is designed to reduce substance abuse by addressing dysfunctional couple interactions but not intimate partner violence specifically; and
  • Long term commitment: The partners need to be in a committed relationship and working towards abstinence for the substance abuser, while improving the relationship, which has likely to have been negatively affected by the substance abuse.

Implementation Information

Some of the critical elements for the implementation of this program or initiative include the following:

  • Organizational requirements: Established referral process (partnerships) and program criteria.
  • Partnerships: Limited information on this topic.
  • Training and technical assistance: Limited information on this topic.
  • Risk assessment tools: Limited information on this topic.
  • Materials & resources: Limited information on this topic.

International Endorsements

The most recognized classification systems of evidence-based crime prevention programs have classified this program or initiative as follows:

  • Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development: Not applicable.
  • Crime Solutions/OJJDP Model Program Guide: Not applicable.
  • SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices: Not applicable.
  • Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy: Not applicable.

Gathering Canadian Knowledge

Canadian Implementation Sites

The Strengthening Families program was implemented in Calgary (Alberta) from 2010 to 2014. Funding was provided through the Safe Communities Innovation Fund (SCIF), Government of Alberta.

Main Findings from Canadian Outcome Evaluation Studies

No information available.

Cost Information

A social return on investment (SROI) has been conducted on Strengthening Families. The findings from this study have shown the following:

  • The SROI ratio calculated for the program is 1.82:1, which indicates that for every dollar invested in Strengthening Families, there is $1.82 return in social value; and
  • Social value was created through avoiding justice system costs associated with domestic violence (investigation, police attendance, and incarceration), costs associated with victims of domestic violence (ambulance, women’s shelter, cost of child abuse survivors) and other system and individual costs of domestic violence.


Alberta Community Crime Prevention Organizations. (2015). Social Return on Investment (SROI) Case Study: Strengthening Families Program. Recipient of Safe Communities Innovation Fund, Government of Alberta. Available from:

For more information on this program, contact:

Calgary Counselling Centre
Robbie Babins-Wagner
Telephone: (403)691-5908

Record Entry Date - 2018-03-13
Record Updated On - 2021-04-29
Date modified: