Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT)

Placement on the Continuum of Evidence Promising Download icon Download PDF
Target Population: 
Adolescents, Families, Parents
Alcohol/Drugs/Tobacco, Antisocial Behavior, Behavioral Problems, Communication, Parenting, Relationships, Social Competency
Target Audience 

This program is delivered to youth who are 11 to 18 years old and who have substance abuse and significant conduct and delinquency problems and their parents and families and is intended to impact youth.


Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT), an intensive, community-based outpatient treatment program, is designed to diminish or cease substance abuse (e.g., marijuana and/or alcohol use) in adolescents, develop and increase family relationships, and address behavioral issues and associated conduct and school problems.


Numerous randomized controlled trials have demonstrated MDFT was at least as effective as alternative treatments with clinically and statistically significant decreases in substance usage-related problems, substance use frequency, delinquent behaviors, and self-reported distress.   The studies showed significant increases in school performance and positive family interactions.  Two studies confirmed MDFT was a more effective treatment than comparison treatments for higher-problem severity groups.


MDFT utilizes a trained therapist who works intensively with the adolescent; the adolescent’s family; and other systems, such as the school and the juvenile justice system.  
MDFT targets four areas for intervention:

  • Adolescent:  Improve communication, social competence, and behavior regulation;
  • Parent(s):  Increase parental involvement, monitoring, and limit-setting;
  • Family:  Foster positive family communication and parent-adolescent relationship quality and decrease problematic interactions;
  • Peer, school, and other systems in which the adolescent functions that are outside the family unit:  Enhance adolescent performance and functioning within these systems.

Sessions consist of individual, parent-adolescent, and family meeting sessions.

Previous Use 

MDFT has been implemented in 11 U.S. states and Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.


Training for therapist certification in MDFT is required and typically costs $4,500 per therapist.  Annual 1- to 3-day, on-site booster training costs $1,000 per day plus travel expenses, and an annual therapist recertification costs about $300 per person.  


Considerations for implementing MDFT include ensuring therapists receive training, finding funding for training and program implementation costs, acquiring participant buy-in, and monitoring treatment fidelity in order to maximize efficacy.

The Clearinghouse can help address these considerations. Please call 1-877-382-9185 or email


If you are interested in implementing MDFT, the Clearinghouse is interested in helping you!
Please call 1-877-382-9185 or email


MDFT is implemented in 12 to 16 weeks with 60- to 90-minute sessions held twice a week.


implementation costs will range from $2,000 to $9,000 per child depending on therapist salaries, the severity of the problem, and length of treatment.

Evaluation Plan 

To move MDFT to the Effective category on the Clearinghouse Continuum of Evidence at least one external evaluation must be conducted that demonstrates sustained, positive outcomes.  This study must be conducted independently of the program developer.  

The Clearinghouse can help you develop an evaluation plan to ensure the program components are meeting your goals. Please call 1-877-382-9185 or email


Contact the Clearinghouse with any questions regarding this program.
Phone: 1-877-382-9185 Email:

You may also contact MDFT International by mail 6619 South Dixie Highway, #117, Miami, FL 33143, phone 1-305-749-9332, email, or visit

*Resources and associated costs reflect those identified at the time of fact sheet publication.