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What is MDFT?

About Multidimensional Family Therapy

Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT) is an integrated, comprehensive, family-centered treatment for youth with multi-problem behavior. MDFT addresses a range of youth problem behaviors – substance abuse, delinquency, antisocial and aggressive behaviors, school and family problems, and emotional difficulties. It can be implemented in substance abuse and mental health treatment, child welfare, and juvenile justice systems, including juvenile detention centers. MDFT prevents out-of-home placement. MDFT focuses on key areas of the adolescent’s life and provides an effective and cost-efficient treatment. In addition to its strong research outcomes, MDFT has high satisfaction ratings from teens and young adults, parents, therapists, and community collaborators.

Target group

The age of the youth is between the age of 10 and 23 years old, which have at least one parent/guardian, or parental figure able to participate in treatment (note that the parent/guardian can be another family member or adult. They may not always reside together, but the parental figure is a person of significant influence in the youth’s life). 

Treatment objectives

The principle treatment objectives of Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT) are to eliminate substance abuse, crime, and delinquency, and to improve mental health, school, and family functioning. MDFT improves the adolescent’s coping, problem-solving, and decision-making skills, and enhances family functioning, a critical ingredient in positive youth development. The effectiveness of the MDFT program comes from its focus on known determinants of adolescent problems. Interventions are collaborative and treatment emphasizes compassion and respect from highly trained clinicians.


The treatment program focuses on four core areas (domains) in a young person’s life: the boy or girl herself, the parents, the family and external social systems (connections), such as school, work and leisure.


MDFT was developed by CTRADA – the Center for Treatment on Adolescent Drug Abuse at the University of Miami.


The training of MDFT is carried out by The Youth Intervention Foundation (SJI). We are a small training institute on systemic approaches: we work with three different programs. MDFT is our largest program. We train MDFT in 4 different countries. We have for each program, a small group of highly skilled trainers, also working in the daily practice of the youth care, drug abuse, child welfare and mental health treatment settings including closed juvenile justice institutions

SJI is a non-profit foundation. We want to contribute to the dissemination of systemic and Multidimensional ideas. Society requires professionals and organizations to keep learning. We tie in with our training courses. In this way we work with and through the professionals trained by us on a better future perspective for children and young people. In this way we contribute to the quality of parenting and growing up in society.

Structure of the training MDFT

First, we start with a key therapist, who will be later the supervisor of the team; he/she gets a 4/ 5 months of MDFT-therapist training. In the months that follow, the other team members are trained as MDFT-therapists, while the key therapists is trained as a MDFT-supervisor. When the therapists start the training they start also with carrying out MDFT with the families. They learn on the training as well on the job simultaneously.

The maximum amount of professionals in one team is six. So, a MDFT-team consists of 1 or 2 supervisors with 5-6 therapists. If the team gets too big, a new, second team can be started. There’s always the possibility to train new, individual supervisors or therapists and add them to the existing team. It’s also possible for a Master Level certified therapist to become a supervisor.

Training schedule

At the start of the training, each team receives a training schedule, in which all activities and deadlines are shown. We try to visit as many teams in the same period in their own surroundings. Tickets and hotels are booked by Stichting Jeugdinterventies (SJI).

Once all requirements for the first year have been met, the therapists and supervisor move on to year 2 of the training. They will receive an official message about this, with the schedule for year 2.

Watch the video below to find out more about MDFT and the MDFT Training program.