Functional Family Therapy (FFT) is a family-based prevention and intervention program for high-risk children and adolescents, aged 11-18, and their families that focuses on numerous problems affecting youth including substance abuse, conduct disorder, truancy, and related family problems.
The systematic approach of FFT allows therapists to identify risk factors that impact the likelihood of negative outcomes such as high family conflict and poor family interactions, individual rebelliousness and depressive symptoms, poor peer relationships, as well as a low commitment to school. Based on the risk assessment findings the FFT therapist can develop intervention strategies that emphasize protective factors within and outside the family such as positive parenting and supportive communication, positive peer relationships, positive school-family relationships, and positive community-family relationships.
The intensive, short-term therapeutic model offers in-home family counseling and has proven to benefit youth with multiple serious offenses, including felonies. FFT has also proven to help youth remain in the home and improve their mental health, as well as reduce criminal recidivism in the long term.
Functional Family Therapy is a 5-step process:
- Engagement – Develop positive perception of therapist and program; Facilitate family’s willingness to participate in counseling.
- Motivation – Increase hope and motivation for change; Reduce family negativity and blaming; Address risk factors associated with treatment drop-out.
- Relational Assessment – Identify relational functions, needs, and hierarchy within the family.
- Behavioral Change – Build youth’s and family members’ skills related to specific referral issues; Reduce family conflict and address family patterns that maintain the presenting problems.
- Generalization – Increase family resources and extra-familial support; Maintain and generalize changes; Prevent relapse.
Functional Family Therapy provides a lifeline to youth and families strained by the cycle of risky behavior, disengagement, criminal infraction, or a breakdown in family relationships.