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Multidimensional Family Therapy: Why Communication is Integral in Addiction Treatment

It could be said that communication is the key to a successful life. It is a universal solvent which allows people to exchange ideas and thoughts. In a family, it allows everyone to understand each other, gain love, and trust and become an unstoppable team. At work and in school, it leads to higher education and success. This is, of course, when communication is good. When this universal solvent is marred by alcohol and drugs, however, it becomes quite the opposite. It becomes a fiery weapon which can be unleashed at will upon unsuspecting friends and family members. When one is looking at how to explain addiction, it is clear that good communication is vital. It helps us learn how drug addiction works, and understand the details of this area so that treatment options can be created. Used correctly, it is the difference between success and failure. Without good communication, an upward trend in life would be a hard goal to attain.

How Drug Addiction Works

The word addiction stems from the Latin word addictiōn- (stem of addictiō) which translates as giving over, surrender[1]. Essentially an addict surrenders to the drug, giving themselves over to it. But it all starts with the brain. The brain is an amazing organ, rivaled and surpassed by none. However, because of some of its more primal functions, it can sometimes lead us astray. Pleasure responses (dopamine) in the brain are intended to be a reward for survival functions such as eating, sleeping, and sex. However, when a drug is introduced and releases these pleasurable reward feelings without any of the work involved, the brain decides that it is a survival action and should be continued.

The major problem and hook that really creates an addiction problem are that many of the drugs and substances which are abused can release 2 to 10 times the amount of dopamine in the brain as eating and sex do.[2]  After a time, the brain and body make taking the drug or substance less pleasurable. They build up a tolerance. This means that the body has adapted to the constant inflow of dopamine, and in an effort to level things out, has required the body to take more of the abused substance to achieve the same dopamine effects. People with addiction often find, at this point, that taking the drug starts to become a burden as more and more is needed. This burden turns into compulsion, and full-blown addiction is achieved. It is at this point, that either the addicted person or friends and family of this person will seek out quality treatment options to help the addicted person get off this dangerous cycle.

Many treatment programs have been created that are based on the key factor of communication. Programs that allow people to express themselves and explain their situation. Programs that allow family members to come together in an intervention to save someone they love. Even programs that bring recovering alcoholics and substance abusers together to communicate and share experiences and wins to keep them clean and moving forward in life. One such program that has at its core, communication, is called Multidimensional Family Therapy.

Multidimensional Family Therapy

Multidimensional family therapy (MDFT) is a family-centered method of treatment in which various areas of life are addressed in the handling of drug or alcohol addiction. This type of program is specific for handling problems in youths. It allows the teen to receive professional treatment without being displaced from their home, while at the same time focusing on key areas of the adolescent’s life for a complete handling. MDFT not only covers people with addiction but also social and behavioral problems and upsets. In adolescents with addiction problems, it is common to find that there is a root problem on a familial or social level. Using an MDFT program can help to find these problems and make the necessary changes to clear them up.

How Does MDFT Work?

MDFT works by looking at what is known as the four domains. The four areas or domains, which are addressed are the adolescent himself, the parents and other family members, how the family interacts in and among itself, and outside influences, such as school and friends.

The overall goal is to make changes in each of these areas sufficient enough that a chain reaction happens and the individual begins to make beneficial changes in all other areas of their life as well.

Goals within each domain are as follows:

  • Adolescent goals are: improve self-image, make short-term and long-term life goals, improve communication skills and promote success in peer relationships and in school/schoolwork, and reduce/eliminate substance abuse and addictions.
  • Parental goals are: improve parenting skills and confidence, rebuild parent-child relationships and emotional bonds.
  • Family goals are: increase and improve communication within the family unit, create new methods for handling family upsets and arguments, restructure how the family functions, and rebuild family relationships and love within the family.
  • Community goals are: teach the family (as a whole and individually) to utilize needed resources and improve the families ability to function with and within social systems such as school, courts, workplaces, and neighborhoods.

Therapy meetings can take place at ones home or in a professional treatment office. This program can be completed in anywhere from 3 to 6 months depending on the individual.

Treatment for this program comes in three stages.

  1. Building a foundation for beneficial change to occur. The therapist wants to establish a good working relationship with the adolescent and the family. They will meet with the necessary components from each domain and make sure that the people involved feel understood and respected. They will work toward achieving a shared perspective on the existing problems and increasing the adolescent’s ability to self-reflect and observe the realness of the situation so that the change process can begin.
  2. Making the individual and family changes happen. In this stage the goals are set, evaluated and visited again so that implementation of these goals can be observed by all.
  3. Cementing the changes in place. The last weeks of the program are spent strengthening the changes the family and adolescent have made and going over and making concrete plans for potential future problems such as family arguments and upsets or substance abuse relapse. The family is validated for their progress and can see that their future is bright.

MDFT is known to reduce behavioral problems, substance abuse problems, violence, depression, and anxiety. It increases family interaction and function and helps improve school grades. As can be seen by the above data, MDFT has, as a main component, communication. Whether between the therapist and the individual or between the family members who are receiving treatment, communication is the key to it all.

This factor is often under stressed in many different types of addiction treatment. Upon closer look, however, it becomes obvious that without communication, addiction treatment would be a very different thing. People with addiction, often seem as though they do not want to communicate or talk about their abuse problem. Talking about it makes it all too real at which point, some type of handling would be required. The bright side is that the solution is here and freedom from addiction is attainable. One only has to reach out and grab it. Contact A Forever Recovery today for more information.

[1] http://www.dictionary.com/browse/addiction

[2] https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drugs-brain

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