Hope For Youth

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR Multi-Dimensional Family Therapy Certified Trainer

After graduating from Stonybrook in 2005 with a master’s degree in Social Work, Agnes Ammirati started her journey at Hope For Youth a year later as an ICM caseworker. She excelled in this position and thoroughly enjoyed her work, however, her passion had always been to become a therapist. Staff members within the Hope For Youth clinic were aware of this interest of hers and saw great potential in Agnes, as a result, they began to slowly expose her to the working elements of being a therapist. With her foot slightly in the door, this time could be considered Agnes’ unofficial start to fulfilling her dream of becoming a therapist.

In 2009, a model titled Multi-Dimensional Family Therapy (MDFT) was introduced at Hope For Youth, this model was originally developed by Howard Liddle, Ed.D, Professor of Public Health Sciences, Psychology, and Counseling Psychology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. MDFT arose from a desire to transform treatment services in the adolescent substance abuse and delinquency specialties, it can be delivered in all settings including office-based outpatient, in-home, day treatment, residential/in-patient, and juvenile detention. The goal of Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT) is to improve adolescents’ and their families’ lives by intervening in four connected areas: the adolescent, the parents, the family, and the community, and since problems tend to overlap, MDFT uses changes in each of these areas to stimulate changes in all the others.

Once the MDFT model was implemented at Hope For Youth and therapists were needed to begin getting certified, Agnes was at the top of the list. Her training began in 2010 and entailed a 6 to 7 month process, beginning with about 4 full days of intensive family therapy and substance abuse training according to MDFT guidelines. In the following weeks, Agnes underwent constant supervision by her trainer through various mediums such as telephone calls and video chatting. During these sessions, Agnes’ trainer would present her with cases to assess and then apply appropriate MDFT interventions and tools to. In addition to this, Agnes also had to develop detailed reports of client sessions that included future goals for her clients and how she planned to reach such.  After about 3 months, she had to take a midterm examination accompanied by a “First Intensive”, which consisted of the trainer meeting with her in person and observing a live client session. The final steps of this lengthy process entailed a “Second Intensive” and a final examination, all of which Agnes passed with flying colors.

Agnes has practiced administering MDFT for about 7 years now and feels as if the MDFT model is very realistic and produces the best outcome for both youth and families, which is preventing the youth from entering higher levels of care. Despite being exposed to many different forms of therapy over her career, Agnes continues to hold a special place in her heart for the MDFT model as she is constantly reminded of the success it can generate. Such success of a therapy model is only as good as the person carrying it out and Agnes has done an excellent job in helping her clients through MDFT, almost all of whom have been recognized in Hope For Youths annual June awards dinners as clients of the year. Agnes shared that most youth come to her unable to function within society and after undergoing the treatment model, are able to transition into well rounded individuals who are deserving of such awards. Agnes’ outstanding work and results have also caught the attention of Dr. Liddle himself, who came to see Agnes last year after hearing about her amazing accomplishments as an MDFT therapist. During his visit he even presented Agnes with the opportunity of potentially practicing MDFT in Estonia, a neighboring country to her homeland Latvia, in hopes of continuing to expand the model internationally.

In the past year Agnes’ passion for the model and success with it drove her to become certified as a trainer as well, in order to help others on their journey to becoming MDFT therapists. The MDFT trainer training, like its clinician training, is multicomponent and includes intensive workshops, live and video review of training, consultation calls, and at least one training case/therapist to train. This process, similar to the therapist training, is quite lengthy, averaging about 4 to 5 months, during this time an MDFT National Trainer/Director observed all of Agnes’ work with her trainee therapist. On December 8th, 2017, Agnes officially became certified as an MDFT supervisor and trainer, achieving a perfect score on each part of the certification.

Agnes revealed that the standards required for becoming an MDFT therapist and trainer are very high and both positions involve being constantly examined by the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Dr. Liddle himself. Such is done in order to make sure all components are being carried out according to the model and Agnes shared that this constant oversight can be quite stressful at times, and, therefore, she always emphasizes the importance of self-care. In addition to this examination by outside sources, Agnes shared that the certification process and role of being a supervisor and trainer really forces you examine yourself and all your short comings, which Agnes admitted can be difficult at times, but ultimately improves her work and in result, her clients progress and success.

It is incredible to consider that Anges has been a part of the MDFT program since its initial start at Hope For Youth in 2009, growing and developing simultaneously as the program. She has witnessed the model within Hope For Youth become bigger and stronger over the years, progressing into the rigid and structured program that it is today. With her new title of supervisor and trainer, Agnes has big plans for the future, including attending a trainers conference in June that will take place in Miami, the models original place of development, where she will be able to connect with other MDFT trainers. Following this conference, Agnes also plans on taking the LCSW exam at the end of 2018 in order to expand her expertise and credentials even further. “I just want to be able to help people with difficulties in their lives and I think being a social worker is one of the greatest services to humanity, it is so beautiful” said Agnes, “I truly believe in Hope For Youths mission with all my heart, it builds kids up from the most painful parts of their lives and really makes you feel as if you are making a difference”.