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Multidimensional Family Therapy For Teens: Why It Works

Does the adolescent brain function differently than that of an adult? Studies show that teens are more likely to take risks and that makes them susceptible to drug abuse and addiction. According to the University of Utah, the gray matter starts to subside around the age of 12, so by 16, the brain is more sensitive to certain types of stimuli. A child who starts drinking at age 13 has a 43 percent chance of becoming an alcoholic. That same child will have only a 10 percent risk by the age of 21. The adolescent faces different life challenges, as well. They deal with peer pressure and bullying. They have less freedom and control over their lives and many struggle with undiagnosed learning disabilities and mental disorders. Also, dealing with family dynamic is usually found somewhere your teens psychology. For this reason, treatment for drug and alcohol addiction is handled from a multidimensional approach.

What is Multidimensional Family Therapy?

Multidimensional Family Therapy, MDFT, is an intervention that works to build a beneficial relationship between the addicted teen and his or her parents or caregivers. The goal is to create a support system that will last a lifetime for this young person, improving the development of a sober lifestyle. MDFT strives to address the complex thinking of teens to help manage:

  • Personal issues
  • Interpersonal Relationships
  • Family functioning
  • Social forces

This therapeutic approach to treatment involves sessions with both the teen and caregivers together and separately.

How the Program Works

MDFT is a multi-component treatment plan that targets patients from 11 to 18 years old. It is family-centered treatment, meaning it involves everyone in the teen’s immediate family, especially parents. This offers each member a distinctive view of the feelings and thoughts of those who matter most to them. The family learns to manage the problems of addiction as a unit by working on the following skills:

  • Coping
  • Problem-solving
  • Day-to-day functioning
  • Communication
  • The parent-adolescent relationship

The process creates motivation for change and opens up opportunities by building a therapeutic alliance between the teen and the influential people in his or her life. With MDFT, parents learn just as much as the teen. Through therapy, they develop effective ways to solve social problems, communicate better and learn anger management practices. Parents find practical approaches to monitoring and setting limits for teens. They can also deal with any of their own habits that might influence or enable their teen’s decision making process.

How Effective is MDFT?

Studies show that Multidimensional Family Therapy has lasting power. One study found teens treated with this approach scored well in Personal Experience Inventory scores, a test that assesses personal, social and education impairment due to drug use.(1) Teens are more likely to continue treatment and complete the program with this approach, as well. That same study found 97 percent of the participants finished the program, as compared to only 72 percent treated with Cognitive Behavioral therapy alone. Multidimensional Family Therapy can work for your teen to help them build the skill sets they need to stay sober and create a healthy lifestyle. This program works well for teens that are very young, those with behavioral issues and legal problems, and ones with emotional concerns. Today, Multidimensional Family Therapy is recognized as one of the most progressive approaches to teen addiction available. To learn more about family therapy and how it can help you overcome addiction, give us a call at 877-466-0620. Sources:

  1. The Adolescent Brain
  2. Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT)