Functional Family Therapy (FFT)

This is an empirically grounded, well-documented and successful family intervention that targets teens involved in the juvenile justice system. This program is also available to youth who are at-risk of becoming involved in the juvenile justice system. Intensive Family Counseling is the only certified Functional Family Therapy (FFT) program site in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Counselors provide on-average 13 counseling sessions to participating families over a period of three to six months. Key outcomes include stronger relationships, reduced negativity, blaming and hopelessness within the family. These outcomes are achieved by strengthening communication skills, teaching parents effective responses to problem behaviors and assisting families in developing a strategy for managing problems that may occur after the intervention is completed. Functional Family Therapy has been cited as a Blueprints Program for Violence Prevention. These programs have proven to effectively reduce adolescent violent crime, aggression, delinquency and other behaviors such as substance abuse, truancy and running away.

FFT Frequently Asked Questions

What makes FFT different than other models of family therapy?
FFT grew out of a need to serve a population of adolescents and families with significant clinical challenges that mainstream interventions demonstrated little success. The developers of FFT set out to identify a new set of philosophies and techniques that would lower resistance, encourage motivation, reduce negativity and give families hope.

Who Benefits from FFT?
FFT is an effective intervention for a wide range of youth aged 11 to 18 and their families, including youth with conduct disorders, violent acting out, and substance abuse. FFT is a treatment technique that is appealing because of its clear identification of specific phases that organizes the intervention in a coherent manner allowing clinicians to maintain focus on the unique needs of each family.

What are the components of FFT?
FFT follows three phases of treatment. Each phase includes specific goals, assessments, intervention techniques, and clinical skills necessary for success.

  • Phase I: Engagement and Motivation
    In this phase, initial assessments are completed by all family members and it is the therapist's intent to develop alliances, reduce negativity and increase hope that the family's situation will improve.
  • Phase II: Behavior Change
    After the therapist has completed the first phase, which can take varying amounts of time depending on the family, developing and implementing individualized change plans is the primary intervention technique. There are several common targets that the therapist will focus on including parenting skills, reducing negativity and blaming by some or all family members, problem solving skills, substance abuse problems with adolescent and/or parents, and strategies to improve relationships between all family members. In this phase, the therapist also addresses resistance to change.
  • Phase III: Generalization
    In this phase the therapist is focusing on specific interventions that the family has practiced that are needed for ongoing success. The therapist is also working with the family to access community services that may be needed for on-going support. Some community resources include individual therapy for specific problems with any of the family members, substance abuse programs including outpatient programs such as NA or AA.

How long is the FFT intervention
Typically the FFT therapist meets with the family for an hour once a week for 12 to 14 weeks. After completion of the intervention there is a 60-day follow-up. The therapist is available to the family by phone throughout the intervention. Booster Sessions are available to the family to assist the family renew their focus on specific behavioral strategies that supported success.

What is the critical factor to the success of this intervention?
The most critical factor is adherence and competency of therapists using the FFT model. Therapists complete 24 hours of training specific to the FFT model. This training is conducted by the developers of the model. In addition to specialized training, therapists participate in weekly supervision facilitated by the FFT Site Supervisor. An FFT Site Supervisor receives extensive training to ensure therapists adhere to the model and develop competence within the model.