Multidimensional family therapy (MDFT) vs. individual psychotherapy (IP) on retention in treatment and to reduce use — evidence summary

Summary of the evidence


MDFT was compared to IP in one study (INCANT study- N= 450, Rigter et al., 2012, cited in EMCDDA 2014) and was found to be more effective in:

  • reducing the frequency of cannabis consumption in the high-severity MDFT group more than the corresponding IP group across assessments points (differential slope coefficient on treatment=3.8 [95% CI=1.4 to 7.6], p=0.002)
  • reducing the prevalence of cannabis use disorders at 12-month follow-up. Namely, 38% of MDFT adolescents met the criteria for cannabis dependence and 33% for cannabis abuse, with 18% no longer having a cannabis disorder. In IP, the corresponding numbers were 52%, 22%, and 15% (differential slope coefficient on treatment=0.9 [95 % CI=0.2 to 1.7], p=0.015). 
  • decreasing the number of dependence symptoms from baseline to 12-month follow-up. The 12-month symptoms average was 2.4 for MDFT (SD=2.0) and 3.0 for IP (SD=2.0). The drop in symptoms was larger in MDFT than in IP (differential slope coefficient on treatment=0.27 [95 % CI=0.13 to 0.41], p<0.001).
  • retaining patients in treatment. A higher proportion (90%) of MDFT patients completed therapy in comparison to IP (48%) (OR=9.8 [95 % CI=5.7 to 16.7], p<0.001).


Note: this evidence summary is only valid for the outcomes, target groups, settings and substances/patterns of use described below.

Name of response option:
Multidimensional family therapy
Desired outcome(s):
reduce substance use
retain patients in treatment
Specific substance or pattern of use:
Target group(s) or setting(s):
young people