Activity 2: Effectiveness of substance use treatment for youth—The role of family

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Throughout the course, we have paid special attention to substance use and substance disorders in the youth population. This activity provides an opportunity to review treatment effectiveness for youth. The Tanner-Smith et al. (2013) study of the meta-analysis of experimental and quasi-experimental studies found that “family therapy programs were found to be more effective than their comparison conditions” (p. 145). Furthermore, the difference between no treatment and family therapy treatment for adolescents was statistically significant. Cognitive Behavioural therapy, behavioural therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, and pharmacological treatment also showed better outcomes (although not statistically significant) compared to no treatment or group/mixed counselling or psycho-educational counselling.

While this research has some limitations, in part due the paucity of well-designed research studies, this information is worth considering. As McCrady (Chapter 11 in your textbook—“Family and Other Close Relationships”) points out, we all have families (however we describe them) within our larger social networks. Furthermore, these families contribute to and play a role in the development and maintenance of substance use and substance use disorders; and they also play an important part in recognizing and impacting the change process and treatment success.


  1. Read the following:
    • Chapter 11 textbook: McGrady’s “Family and Other Close Relationships”
    • Tanner-Smith, E. E., Wilson, S. J., Lipsey, M. W. (2013). The comparative effectiveness of outpatient treatment for adolescent substance abuse: A meta-analysis. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 44, 145–158.
  2. As you complete these readings, consider the effect this information has on your own practice and existing knowledge about youth and adolescents. If you do not work with youth and adolescents, perhaps contact an adolescent service agency in your community and region, and talk to them about their practices:
    1. Do your practices or the agency’s practices reflect effective treatments?
    2. How do you or the agency include family in your practice?
  3. Working with families is difficult and complex; however, the evidence suggests that it is much more effective than individual or group psychoeducational programs (which, in our experience, are more often provided). Think about how you could develop the skills and confidence in this area and/or how you could advocate for more family involvement programs in your area.