How does Functional Family Therapy work?
Lee Weber is the Editor of Addiction Blog
EXCERPT: Functional Family Therapy (FFT) works by addressing risk factors that directly affect adolescents, with an emphasis on the interpersonal relationships in the family. More here on this clinical model in the treatment of addiction for teens here
INTRO: Functional Family Therapy, or FFT, is an empirically-grounded and family based intervention program for acting out youth. But, how does it work at the most basic level?
Functional Family Therapy focuses on improving family communication and supportiveness while decreasing the intense negativity and conflicts that is present in the family unit. The FFT clinical model focuses on decreasing risk factors that directly affect adolescents, with an emphasis on the interpersonal relationships in the family.
In this article we will explain how functional family therapy works for teen addiction treatment. We’ll explain its goals, effectiveness, and what families can expect during a typical session. So, continue reading to learn more. Then, we invite your questions about functional family therapy at the end.
Functional Family Therapy goals
FFT has been designed to help families with teens who are facing complex and multidimensional problems. In fact, this therapy model targets 11-18 year old youth who deal with behavioral and substance abuse problems. Teens can influence the whole family unit and throw it off balance, which is why FFT pays special attention to the younger siblings or concerned adolescent siblings. Further, disturbances within the family structure may be the root cause for such radical behavior. That's why functional family therapy focuses on several goals:
decrease negativity and destructive behavior patterns
develop positive behavior changes and parenting strategies
help family members adopt positive solutions to family problems
improve family communication and supportiveness
introduce a new, positive way the family can function
Functional family therapy settings and duration
The functional family therapy program is conducted by family therapists and takes place in a clinical setting. However, recent programs have further adapted to the needs of each unique family and include in-home treatment sessions.
This therapy model requires, on average, 8-12 functional family sessions. Usually sessions are spread out over 3 month periods. E ach sessions can last for one hour or more, if necessary. In more difficult cases, FFT may be extended and require up to 30 therapy sessions.
The functional family therapy process
There are four consecutive phases that make up a complete program of functional family therapy. Each phase or step has its own importance and role in keeping the therapy process moving forward towards success. Each stage also relies on completion of previously set goals. These phases are:
The Impression Phase (introduction) – During the intro, therapists establish and maintain a relationship with the family. They assess family behaviors by observing the ways family members communicate and behave one towards another. A good functional family therapist will identify issues that feed the problem and set clear rules about rules and responsibilities during the therapy process.
The Motivation Phase (therapy phase) – During this stage of the process, therapists work to point out or develop the inner strengths of family members. This strengths based assessment boosts confidence and help members improve their situations and resolve problems. During this phase, the focus is on relationships. Therapists attempt to disrupt any dysfunctional attributions the family members may see in themselves and/or others and show the family how to replace them with more positive and adaptive perceptions. Additional motivation is provided by elimination of problem behaviors and reinforcement of new skills and positive communication patterns.
The Behavior Change Phase – The aim of this phase of treatment is to focus on reducing or eliminating risky behaviors. Therapists will talk to family members individually and stage individualized behavior change interventions that correct and improve the individual's communication within the family, the parenting skills of parents, problem-solving patterns, and conflict management approaches.
The Generalization Phase (focused on multisystems) – As the name of this phase implies, positive family changes are generalized or applied to other problem situations or areas of the family interaction. This part of functional family therapy helps families maintain the acquired changes and prevent relapse. Also, FFT will link families with available community resources such as schools, community, juvenile justice system (if needed) to ensure long-term support.
Functional family therapy benefits
Therapy is an important part of recovery and helps young people to overcome behavior problems, including drug abuse. What are its social benefits and implications? Lots of saved tax money.
A report published by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy provided data from their detailed analysis about the cost-benefits of functional family therapy in the juvenile courts. The report showed that the total cost for FFT per youth was around $3K. This estimated cost included service, administrative operations, transportation, quality assurance, court oversight, case management, court referral, and other court services. However, the cost benefits for crime victims and taxpayers were calculated to be more than $36K per youth.
Functional family therapy questions
Do you want to know more about the use and effectiveness of functional family therapy? Do you, perhaps, think that you and your family can benefit from participating in this therapy program? Feel free to ask your questions in the comments section below. We try to respond to all legitimate inquiries personally and promptly.