Healthy families are the best medicine for adolescent problems.

Parents of teenagers who are using drugs and alcohol or who are involved in illegal activities often feel afraid, frustrated, hopeless, or helpless. These reactions are normal and natural to what are dangerous and potentially life-threatening situations. But research shows that family-based treatments are the most effective for teenagers - you can be the medicine that your teen needs.

MDFT offers a different approach from one that many parents are all too familiar with. Lea Minalga, CADC, Executive Director of Hearts of Hope in St. Charles, IL, describes her teenage son's treatment experience:


"Years ago, when my own adolescent son was struggling with heroin addiction, all I knew to do was place him in inpatient treatment (time and time again) where we spent hundreds upon thousands of dollars trying to save him. Most of his 20 some rehabs offered the 12 Step program, group counseling and once a week individual sessions (if at all) for my teen's serious and life threatening addiction. Something always seemed "missing" or lacking in Justin's treatment plans for he kept relapsing.

If only we had been offered MDFT early on, how this intervention might have shortened the many years of illness that plagued my son. I firmly believe this treatment could have saved us years of anguish and provided healing and recovery much quicker in Justin's long suffering journey."

MDFT doesn't engage in fault-finding. Through individual and family sessions, your child will learn coping and problem-solving skills as well as alternatives to substance use and delinquency. Your family will communicate more effectively, function better day-to-day, and ultimately grow stronger.


Hear from MDFT Parents

We often hear from families after treatment has completed. Mom Tricia told us about the changes she saw in her daughter Kelsey after MDFT:

"She has been actively participating with our family, behaving well and respectfully, does household chores and offers to do things like watch the boys for me. Kelsey seems happier, has less "edge" and rude commentary in general. She can be easily redirected. She is actively looking for a job and is considering options to finish HS. She is back to the funny, bossy (in a much better way!) girl she used to be. I enjoy her again. We can do things together and even disagree in an adult way without the drama of the past.... She has revealed much to me and we have become much closer."

Read Tricia's whole letter here.


A father and son, 5 years after MDFT

Mom reflects on her daughter and MDFT

Find Help

  • Read 5 Essential Lessons for Parents of Substance-Abusing Teens by MDFT International Director Gayle Dakof, PhD for tips on understanding and coping with your teen's substance use.
  • Visit for MDFT success stories and FAQs about the MDFT program.
  • Contact an MDFT program in your area to consult with a trained and certified family therapist.
  • Call the toll-free helpline at the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids to speak to a parent specialist at 1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373). They are licensed social workers and psychologists with years of experience helping individuals and their families prevent and overcome substance abuse problems. Find additional help and resources on their website: