Behavioral Treatments for Adolescents with Drug Addiction

Behavioral Treatments for Adolescents with Drug Addiction

Teens who abuse or are addicted to drugs cannot be treated using the same methods developed for adult populations, as adolescents have their own unique treatment needs. Studies reveal that adult treatments typically need to be modified for teen populations, often with a heavier emphasis on family-based therapy. This is due, in large part, to the fact that behavior of other family members can have a negative (or positive) impact on teen behavior and it is often the case that teen drug addiction is indicative of a large problem within the household.

Multisystemic Therapy in Teens with Drug Problems

Multisystemic Therapy (MST) examines the individual characteristics of alcoholic or drug addicted teens that also exhibit antisocial behavior. The characteristics include attitudes toward drug use; family situation, including discipline, interpersonal conflict and parental drug use; attitudes of friends toward drug use; school record (both attendance and performance); and community values. By conducting the treatment at home, at school or in the community, many participants who do not respond well to other treatment modalities administered in a clinic setting will actually complete the program. MST has been shown to reduce teen drug use for a minimum of six months after the sessions have ended. When examining the cost-effectiveness of MST, governments must consider the cost savings involved in fewer incarcerations or stays in juvenile detention centers.

Multidimensional Family Therapy for Adolescents with Drug Addiction

Multidimensional Family Therapy for Adolescents (MDFT) is administered on an outpatient basis and focuses almost exclusively on the patient’s family. The MDFT model sees teen drug use as a culmination of individual, family, friend and community influences. MDFT is based on the theory that reducing negative behaviors and encouraging positive behaviors can happen in many ways and across many settings. MDFT can include individual and family counseling sessions in the clinic, at home, in court, at school or at some other location within the community. During an MDFT individual session, the teen and therapist work to develop decision-making, negotiation, and problem solving skills. Teens can also obtain vocational skills or learn how to express themselves in a way that will help them deal with stress more effectively. During family sessions, parents are asked to review their own parenting styles, learn the difference between influence and control and become a positive influence on their teen.

Basic Strategic Family Therapy for Teen Drug Addicts

When therapists suspect that family members or family dynamics are influencing a teen’s drug use, they will often use Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT). This type of therapy should be considered when there are conduct problems, either at school or at home, when a teen exhibits oppositional, delinquent, aggressive, violent or risky sexual behavior, or has begun associating with antisocial kids at school. BSFT uses a family system treatment model, where the behavior of one of the members of the family is assumed to be demonstrative of what is going on with the rest of the members. The therapist must first identify the negative patterns of interaction that are influencing the teen’s behavior and help make new, positive, patterns. BSFT is used in clinics, residential treatment programs, and in the family home, typically while more traditional drug addiction treatment is being administered.


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