About FFT

Functional Family Therapy (FFT) (Sexton & Alexander, 2006, Sexton, 2009) is an evidence based treatment program for adolescents with behavior problems. FFT is a highly intense yet short-term intervention in which family-based treatment usually occurs in 12 to 20 family sessions that occur over the course of 4 to 8 months. The active ingredients of FFT are based upon theoretically derived constructs that mediate the relationship between initial youth and family risk factors and successful treatment outcomes (e.g., decrease in drug use, risky sexual behavior, and other conduct problems).

FFT has been applied to a wide range of problem youth and their families in various multi-ethnic, multicultural contexts.  FFT has a wide range of clinical applications

  • The FFT target population ranges from at-risk preadolescents to youth with very serious problems such as conduct disorder, violent acting-out, and substance abuse.
  • FFT targets youth aged 11-18, younger siblings of referred adolescents often become part of the intervention process.
  • Short term: 8 to 12 one-hour sessions for mild cases and up to 30 hours of direct service for more difficult situations.
  • In most programs, sessions are spread over a three-month to six month period.
  • As a clinical model FFT has been conducted in clinic settings as an outpatient therapy as well as a home-based model.
  • FFT is a multisystemic intervention

FFT is built on a systematic articulation of goals and clinician activities described in the published intervention manuals (Alexander, Pugh, Parsons, & Sexton, 2000; Sexton & Alexander, 2004). The active ingredients of the FFT interventions are represented by three phases (engagement/motivation, behavior change, and generalization), each with measurable process goals and family skills that are the targets of intervention. Each phase has specific goals and clinician skills associated with it. The specificity of the model allows for monitoring of treatment, training, and clinician model adherence in ways that are not possible with other less specific treatment interventions.

FFT has been recognized nationally for its successful youth outcomes by:

  • Blueprints for Youth Violence
  • The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention
  • American Youth Policy Forum
  • US Department of Justice
  • FFT is one of four model programs named by the US Surgeon General as a model program for seriously delinquent youth

The data from numerous outcome studies suggests that when applied as intended, FFT can reduce recidivism between 25% and 60%. Additional studies suggest that FFT is a cost effective intervention that can, when appropriately implemented, reduce treatment costs well below that of traditional services and other family-based interventions.