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Plenary Session

Welcome to the 21st Century: Debunking Myths About Adolescent Treatment

Lead by Dr. Howard Liddle

Conventional wisdom and research on treatment outcomes of standard care suggest that achieving consistent outcomes with clinically-referred adolescent and young adult populations is difficult. But work in science-informed and evidence-based therapy (EBT) development and clinical trials counters existing assumptions. This presentation describes and illustrates one of
the most extensively researched treatments in the adolescent psychotherapy and family therapy fields. It brings the audience into the heart, soul, and mind of Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT). Participants will learn about the knowledge bases, core elements, and key therapeutic processes that create change in youth, parent(s)/caregiver(s), and families. This presentation confronts two common but incorrect beliefs about EBTs (i.e., therapist factors are secondary to model particulars, and EBTs are inflexible). Addressing the first myth through video examples, participants will see how therapist development factors, including style, overcoming common implementation barriers, case planning and in-session decision making align with the MDFT model’s organization, assessment and interventions. A second presentation throughline illustrates how MDFT is adapted and applied to diverse cases and settings. Top-down (model particulars – change theory, universals across cases) and bottom-up (assessing “the vitals” in each case and linking those details about current functioning to model prescriptions) teaching/learning methods achieve this multidimensional integration.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Knowledge. Participants will be able to specify the overall organizational features, core practice elements, and key interventions of the MDFT approach.

  2. Comprehension. Participants will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the rationale and working mechanisms of the MDFT approach.

  3. Application. Participants will be able to apply in written clinical vignettes the assessment and intervention schema of MDFT.

  4. Analysis. Using competencies developed in the previous three areas, participants will be able to specify critical clinical intervention sequences in MDFT videos presented in the talk.

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Dr. Howard Liddle

Howard Liddle, EdD, ABPP (Family Psychology) is the developer of Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT), an evidence-supported treatment for youth substance abuse and behavior problems. MDFT programs operate in 15 states in the U.S. and 8 European countries. Since 1996, Dr. Liddle has been Professor of Public Health Sciences and Psychology at the University of Miami. Previously he served on the faculties of Temple University and the University of California, San Francisco, and was Director of Training at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto. The Founding Editor of the Journal of Family Psychology, Dr. Liddle was PI on NIDA’s first research center on adolescent substance abuse treatment research. His books include Adolescent Substance Abuse: Research and Clinical Advances (with C. Rowe), Handbook of Family Therapy and  Supervision (with D. Breunlin & R. Schwartz), Clinical Implications of the Family Life Cycle, and Multidimensional Family Therapy for Adolescent Cannabis Users.​

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