Implementing Family Behavior Therapy for Adolescents with Substance Use Disorder in Rural Communities
Special Projects Fund
September 25, 2023
There is a mental health crisis among youth and young adults, as well as a growing and related concern in adolescent substance use, including abuse of alcohol, tobacco, opioids, and other drugs that can lead to addiction.
In 2020, among 12–17-year-olds, more than 8% reported using drugs in the past month, 10% used alcohol, and nearly 3% met the criteria for illicit drug use disorder in New York State. More teens are also dying of drug overdoses, with the rate nearly doubling between 2019 and 2020 across the country. Substance use disorder often co-occurs with mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation, and it can trigger or worsen these symptoms. Studies show that one of the most effective treatments for substance use disorder integrates family into the treatment process—known as family behavioral therapy. This approach improves communication and problem-solving skills and enhances positive family interactions to foster a supportive and healthy environment for recovery. It often results in better long-term outcomes compared with other approaches. In 2023, NYHealth awarded Integrity Partners for Behavior Health IPA (IPBH) a grant to integrate family members into behavioral health care interventions for adolescents with substance use disorders in Western and Central New York.
Under this grant, IPBH will test the family behavioral therapy model at 21 rural behavioral health sites across 14 counties in Western and Central New York with the aim of creating a replicable and cost-effective model that promotes sustained substance use recovery. It will conduct a readiness assessment among participating practices to implement family behavioral therapy, training 24 licensed therapists on the model and treatment protocol. Clinical staff will recruit patients ages 10–19 with substance use disorder to participate in the family behavioral therapy program. They will offer 12–16 family sessions on topics such as communication, conflict resolution, problem-solving, and environmental factors. To track recovery of patients, IPBH will measure the frequency of substance use among adolescents and the changes in family functioning. Additionally, IPBH will educate health and social service providers across the 14 counties on family behavioral therapy practices. It will establish referral pathways for adolescents who need additional services, including other recovery services, education, health care, housing, and food, creating a holistic network to support young people and their families toward recovery. Lastly, IPBH will partner with the University at Buffalo to track activities and outcomes across the provider network. It will share findings and best practices through peer-reviewed publications and conferences to encourage other provider networks to integrate family-based therapies in rural communities.