Multi-Dimensional Family Therapy

Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT) is a family-centered, comprehensive treatment program for adolescents and young adults with substance use and related behavioral and emotional problems. This model is most effectively delivered as an outpatient or partial hospitalization (day treatment) program in the treatment of adolescents who are experimenting with or abusing substances, and/or those who exhibit co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders and other problem behaviors such as conduct disorder and delinquency. MDFT therapists address four interdependent treatment areas to achieve effective clinical outcomes. Interventions are designed for the adolescent, the parent, the family, and systems such as school and juvenile justice. 

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Comparing MDFT to other treatment approaches for adolescent substance use (such as cognitive behavioral therapy, adolescent group therapy, multifamily education, and residential treatment), the evidence shows that MDFT—  

  • Reduces substance use  
  • Reduces delinquency  
  • Reduces behavior problems  
  • Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression  
  • Improves educational performance 

Results from experimental evaluations have shown MDFT to be more effective than other treatments at decreasing drug use and delinquency, internalized distress, and affiliation with delinquent peers. MDFT has also demonstrated improved academic performance and family functioning. 

The practice model enables a clinician to assess and intervene multi-systemically with the:

  • Adolescent and parent(s) individually
  • Family as an interacting system
  • Influential social systems and peers that impact the adolescent’s development

Interventions are solution-focused and strive to obtain immediate and practical outcomes. Outcomes target the most important realms of the adolescent’s everyday life at home and in school.