Multidimensional family therapy: what it is and how it works

The social, economic, legal and emotional difficulties of a family can have a substantial impact on the development of each of the individuals who make it up; and especially teenagers, who are experiencing a moment of particular excitement.

Since the family functions as a system, everything that touches certain parts has its echo on others, becoming a problem that alters the whole and requires an integrative and multidisciplinary treatment (psychologists, social workers, etc.).

The head of multidimensional family therapy involves providing a set of therapeutic measures to cope with situations of extreme conflict, Such as crime or drug use, which can completely destroy the unit in its ability to adapt to the environment.

We then proceed to dive into all the essentials to get to know her better; by highlighting its definition, the dimensions susceptible to intervention and the measures that could be used for this purpose.

    Multidimensional family therapy

    Multidimensional family therapy aims to provide adequate coverage for all areas of operation that may be conditioned in the family, Especially when there are situations of danger for their development (such as drug abuse or criminality). It is a procedure which has an obvious restorative goal, and which puts at its disposal a whole myriad of social and human resources.

    Fundamental emphasis is placed on the care and supervision of adolescents and their parents, So that the mechanisms necessary to resolve any conflict in the relationship between them are orchestrated. This implies that mental health acquires special importance, as it is not uncommon for substance use and / or crime to be the cause or consequence of a disorder in this area.

    In the future, we will focus on the areas that interest this particular form of integrated intervention, which requires a multidisciplinary approach in which the education and judicial system participate. It has been shown to have a lot of empirical evidence regarding its ability to stop substance abuse and improve the group’s ability to adapt to the environment.

    Objectives by zones

    We then set out all the objectives pursued with the application of multidimensional family therapy; which coincide with the individual elements of the family unit (the adolescent and his parents), the internal dynamics between them (the family) and their relations with the outside (the community).

    1. Adolescent

    As for the adolescent, the fundamental objective of the intervention is to prevent or control the use of illegal substances, as well as to stimulate his own capacities to regulate ailments and to communicate with people in the environment. By doing this all areas of daily operation are taken into account, Among which we highlight the school / institute and / or imminent access to the labor market (in case there is no interest in continuing academic training).

      2. Pares

      The parents of the teenager are, without a doubt, one of the main links in her well-being. The program is sensitive to your needs, mainly in everything related to parenting styles and the promotion of constructive relationships with the child. This is aimed at promoting their mental health, as well as exploring any circumstances in this area that could be the subject of intervention.

      3. Family

      The family is a system of relationships that exists between parents and their children. It includes specific parenting styles and forms of interaction between all of its members. The fundamental objective of this program is improve communication at all levels and increase the number of genuine exchanges of affection.

      4. Community

      Community refers to the different organizations, institutions and groups with which the family interacts; in order to meet their social, human or other needs. In short, it is external relations which contribute decisively to the dynamics of the interior. This dimension includes the school, the neighborhood and the courts; which must be enjoyed in a positive and balanced way.


      Once we have located the areas of interest in multidimensional family therapy, let’s look at the different procedures that can be deployed as they apply and develop. The education and justice systems are inextricably linked in the process.

      1. Community service and collaboration

      Multidimensional family therapy promotes the relationship between the family and all the community services that it can benefit from when needed. In this sense, it seeks to provide information on the help that the system can provide; particularly related to access to housing, energy or basic food to subsist in healthy and balanced conditions.

      If you want modify, as far as possible, any difficulty in accessing the most basic living conditions. It is a cardinal element of the process, in which all the necessary support system is deployed so that he can assume adequate control over his own life and over the options with which to be able to properly integrate in the academic field. and professional. The basis is to preserve dignity and to guarantee the principle of equal opportunities.

      In cases where criminal behavior has been committed and different legal classes are involved.It is essential that the family receive counseling on dealing with magistrates and probation officers, the function of which is to deter those who have committed a crime who continue to reoffend in such activities.

      2. Training at home and at school

      Home and school are the two spaces in which the adolescent spends the most time and, for this reason, they are of particular importance in multidimensional family therapy. cal identify the individual needs of parents and respond to them appropriatelyAs their poor mental health is one of the main risk factors for problems in adolescents or children.

      In addition to parenting styles and family dynamics, which are elementary in preventing forms of abuse or mistreatment, one must take into account: problems with controlling impulses or emotions such as anger, lack of social skills and lack of engagement assertive contact. All of this often recurs in adults and children of the same family, so it may be necessary to organize an intervention aimed at training them all, as these are circumstances often related to conflicts within and within the family. outside the home.

      The school should also be interested in multidimensional family therapy it deploys a very important part of the adolescent’s life, especially at the level of relations with peers (For which close monitoring is essential). The aim is to minimize the risk of “bullying” (in the roles of victim or aggressor), to stimulate positive experiences as much as possible and to strengthen the desire for training adapted to the interests of the child.

      Career guidance is a very important tool in this regard, and must be accompanied by the strengthening of parents’ willingness to participate in school life, which involves attending meetings and / or other events which organize the management of the center or the faculty. We know that the involvement of parents in this type of activity is essential for there to be a space conducive to the development of their child’s academic potential.

        3. Development of specific skills

        This part of the intervention mainly involves psychoeducation. The goal is to provide the most accurate information possible to parents and their children about some of the most dangerous circumstances that children face in the evolving period of adolescence: drug use for commercial purposes. recreation, the possibility of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. illness (HIV or other), accidents due to irresponsible use of a vehicle, etc.

        The control of anger is also very important, and for this it is necessary to articulate strategies of different types, aiming in particular to make it an affection that does not result in acts of anger. intra or extra-family violence. Cognitive cutting techniques aimed at exploring the mental content underlying the emotionIn order to restructure and give them a non-aversive meaning, they are useful for reducing conflict in the family and for perceiving reality in a manner adjusted to its objective terms.

        It is also important to provide parents with information about adolescence, as it is a stage that poses challenges both to those going through it and to the immediate environment, including specific forms of communication useful to facilitate healthy exchanges. the family unit. In this sense, it is essential to provide knowledge on the application of reinforcements and sanctions, as well as on the management of privacy and the application of limits.

        In the same line as the previous one, it is essential to provide knowledge about the most common risk practices at this point in life, Such as unprotected sex or using vehicles (eg motorcycles) in an irresponsible manner. It will delve into sexually transmitted infections (not only HIV, but also the prevalent human papilloma virus or hepatitis, syphilis and even gonorrhea or chlamydia) and also the consequences of a “potential traffic accident”. All this with the aim of seeking the prophylaxis of potentially extremely serious health problems.

        Finally, it will be necessary to improve the training of parents and adolescents. looking for a job, including the use of professional social media and job search strategies or facing an interview with the entrepreneur. It is also interesting to provide information on the courses and additional training provided by the different institutions, insofar as they can provide knowledge / skills facilitating access to the labor market.

        4. Drug use

        The specific approach to drug use is one of the fundamental objectives of multidimensional family therapy, especially when it involves the adolescent or the child (because these are times when the nervous system is fully developing and any use becomes a form of abuse). This step is necessary to build a life adapted to the environment, and must ensure that the history of consumption and its characteristics today are defined both quantitatively and qualitatively, with an emphasis on the consequences for personal and family life.

        In the absence of consumption, the necessary tools will be available to maintain abstinence over time.. If the adolescent is an active user, treatment can be articulated to stimulate motivation for change, reorganize social networks, control stimuli associated with drug use, and provide enjoyable or personally meaningful activities. Active listening is essential, as well as informing parents about any difficulties that could arise when giving up the habit and the processes inevitably linked to the phenomenon of dependence (tolerance and withdrawal syndrome).

        If there is substance use in the family, this should also be considered as one of the goals of treatment, it is already known that it is associated with both the onset and maintenance of abuse and / or addiction in adolescents.

        5. Judicial aspects

        In cases where the adolescent has committed criminal or antisocial acts, he may be immersed in an active judicial process, which it is a very intense stressful experience for the family. In this case, all its members must be equipped with the necessary skills to communicate with the various agents who constitute elements of the system (such as the judge, secretaries or notaries). All this so that they can collaborate appropriately with the authorities when resolving their contentious situation.

        Parents are called upon to get actively involved in the judicial process, accepting the imposition of sanction measures in the civil or criminal field. The goal of all these efforts is to prevent future illegal acts from happening again, as these could certainly condition the future and the life of the adolescent or his family.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Danzer, G. (2014). Multidimensional family therapy in theory and practice. Children and Youth Services 35 (1), 16-34.
        • Rowe, CL (2011). Multidimensional Family Therapy: Treatment of Substance Abuse and Other Concomitant Problems in Adolescents with Comprehensive Family Treatment Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 19 (3), 563-576.

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