Substance abuse remains a growing problem for adolescents throughout the United States. According to the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration in 2012, “more than one quarter of adolescents drank alcohol, approximately one fifth used an illicit drug, and almost one eighth smoked cigarettes” (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, 2013). Adolescents are also significantly more likely to abuse prescription medication than ever before. Despite the growing prevalence of adolescent substance abuse, the percent of adolescents seeking treatment for a substance abuse or dependency problem has remained static. As addressed by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration 7.3% of all individuals entering into a rehabilitation program were between 13-17. Yet adolescents face specific developmental challenges that may make helping the individual recover from a substance abuse or dependency problem increasingly difficult. Multidimensional family therapy addresses the different lifestyle factors that adolescents’ face, while treating their substance abuse problems, and teaching adolescents prosocial skills. The multi-faced approach used in multidimensional family therapy makes this therapy the most effective form of therapy in treating adolescents suffering from a substance abuse problem.
Multidimensional family therapy is the most effective therapy used to treat adolescents suffering from a substance abuse problem. According to the American Psychological Association clinicians using multidimensional family therapy “work individually with the adolescent and the parent, with the family as a whole to facilitate new relationships, and with family m embers in relation to sources of ongoing influence” that increase support for the adolescent (American Psychological Association, 2015). The need for family members to determine how they can continue to help their child remain sober is of the utmost importance in helping adolescent transition to a life without substance abuse (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, 2013).
Another element that makes multidimensional family therapy the most effective therapy in treating adolescents suffering from substance abuse is the emphasis on family relations. As addressed by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy problems within the home may increase the likelihood that an adolescent develops a substance abuse problem (Alexander, 2014). For example, problems within the adolescent’s parent’s marriage may increase stressors on the child (American Psychological Association, 2015). Furthermore, many adolescents that develop substance abuse problems have been exposed to a family member with similar problems. Although not every adolescent that has a substance abuse problem may be experiencing problems within the home, these factors directly increase the likelihood that an adolescent receiving treatment for a substance abuse problem will relapse in the future (CDAC – Community Drug & Alcohol Council, Inc., 2015).
The need for the family to change with the adolescent to support his or her new found sobriety is critical in helping the adolescent maintain sober. In order for the adolescent to remain sober, a change needs to occur. On a family level, the parents or guardians of the adolescent may need to determine how they can best support this change. For example, the Community Drug and Alcohol Council addresses the main reasons that adolescents use substances including: lack of communication within the family, peer pressure, having too much freedom, and unsupervised accessibility (CDAC – Community Drug & Alcohol Council, Inc., 2015). Adolescents that return from substance abuse treatment to the life they previously led are more likely to return to using substances. Yet, multidimensional family therapy addresses all of these factors with the parents or guardians of the adolescent. The ability to explore these elements with the adolescent and his or her family and teach family members how they can support their child’s sobriety is the most effective element of multidimensional family therapy (Dakof & Liddle, 2014). In further supporting this claim, Sherman found adolescents that were “treated with multidimensional family therapy had fewer drug-related problems and had improved more on general measures of behavior and mental health than teens treated with cognitive behavioral therapy” (Sherman, 2010).
Multidimensional Family Therapy is the most effective therapy in treating adolescents suffering from a substance abuse problem. This form of therapy helps to promote a change with adolescents and their family. This change is necessary in helping the adolescent remain sober. Furthermore, clinicians administering multidimensional family therapy not only focus on helping the adolescent recover, they focus on helping the family to learn to use prosocial factors that will help the adolescent in his or her journey through sobriety. The focus on the family and the need to eliminate factors that may have contributed to the adolescent’s substance abuse makes multidimensional family therapy the most effective therapy in treating adolescents with substance abuse problems.
- Alexander, J. (2014). Adolescent Behavior Problems. Retrieved from American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy: http://www.aamft.org/iMIS15/AAMFT/Content/Consumer_Updates/Adolescent_Behavior_Problems.aspx
- American Psychological Association. (2015). Multidimensional Family Therapy. Retrieved from American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/pubs/videos/4310853.aspx
- CDAC – Community Drug & Alcohol Council, Inc. (2015). Causes of Teen Drug Abuse. Retrieved from CDAC – Community Drug & Alcohol Council, Inc.: http://cdac.info/portfolio-view/underlying-causes-of-teen-drug-abuse/
- Dakof, G., & Liddle, H. (2014, January 28). Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT). Retrieved from SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices: http://www.nrepp.samhsa.gov/ViewIntervention.aspx?id=16
- Sherman, C. (2010, December 1). Multidimensional Family Therapy for Adolescent Drug Abuse Offers Broad, Lasting Benefits. Retrieved from National Institute on Drug Abuse: http://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2010/12/multidimensional-family-therapy-adolescent-drug-abuse-offers-broad-lasting-benefits
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. (2013, August 29). The CBHSQ Report: A Day in the Life of American Adolescents: Substance Use Facts Update. Retrieved from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration: http://archive.samhsa.gov/data/2k13/CBHSQ128/sr128-typical-day-adolescents-2013.htm