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Youth Services : Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT)


MDFT is an evidence-based, cost-effective way of providing families struggling with adolescent drug abuse and delinquency issues with treatment and intervention. The model uses a three-stage approach to treatment, supporting the adolescent, parents, family and community to create positive outcomes. MDFT works in a collaborative manner within each of these facets of teenage delinquency and substance abuse to promote change and pro-social behavior. The process takes place over three to six months, with sessions taking place one to several times per week.

MDFT has received an overall rating of 3.6 out of 4 for readiness for dissemination by the NREPP, a system of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This rating included a score of 3.4 out of 4 for effectiveness in substance abuse outcomes. The model is supported by numerous prominent organizations, including the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Justice, and the American Psychological Association. It has been tested since 1985 and has been proven effective across a variety of settings, with successful outcomes for both male and female clients, as well as in a variety of ethnic, racial and minority groups.

The model has demonstrated significant outcomes in reducing adolescent substance abuse. One study on MDFT showed clients reducing their drug use between 41 and 66% from baseline to treatment completion. Another study revealed that 93% of MDFT youth reported no substance-related problems one year after completion of the program.

In addition to reducing substance abuse, MDFT clients have seen increases in school attendance and grades, as well as significant improvements in conduct-related grades, weighted against a comparison treatment. Delinquent behavior and association with delinquent peers has been reduced and maintained at a one-year follow up. These effects are a credit to the approachable, multidimensional, stage-oriented format of the model.