Functional Family Therapy (FFT)

Functional Family Therapy (FFT) serves youth with delinquency, violence, or substance abuse problems, youth involved in the juvenile justice system, and their families (Blueprints). FFT focuses on strengths, challenges, protective factors and risk factors that affect clients and their family systems. Through an average of 12 sessions, therapists establish a credible relationship with family members, motivate clients, explore family dynamics, work to change behavior patterns, and empower families with relapse plans and links to community resources (FFT).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Reduced recidivism

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Reduced substance abuse

  • Reduced delinquent behavior

  • Reduced violence

  • Improved family functioning

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that Functional Family Therapy (FFT) reduces recidivism among delinquent youth (Blueprints), especially when therapists adhere strictly to the program’s model (Sexton 2010*).

FFT can improve family functioning and prevent siblings of FFT participants from entering the criminal justice system (Blueprints). FFT may also lead to long-term reductions in youths’ delinquent and violent behavior (Sawyer 2015*) and reduce the likelihood of later adult criminality (Blueprints). The program may also reduce participants’ drug and alcohol use in some circumstances (Campbell-Filges 2015, Waldron 2008*), especially for males (Slesnick 2009*).

An evaluation of FFT for youth with behavioral problems indicates that participants have fewer emotional and behavioral problems, and less risky behavior than non-participating peers (Celinska 2013); both mandatory and voluntary participants benefit from the program (Celinska 2015*). Hispanic youth appear to have the greatest benefits when matched with Hispanic therapists. Pairing youth with therapists of the same background appears less important for white youth (Flicker 2008*).

A Washington DC-based analysis estimates that FFT cost about $3,600 per youth in 2012, with an average net benefit of $6,900 per participant from averted juvenile crime (Urban-Taxy 2012).

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

FFT is available in almost every state (FFT).

Implementation Resources

FFT - FFTLLC. Functional Family Therapy (FFT).

Addictions-Family therapy - Family therapy.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Blueprints - Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence (CSPV). Blueprints for healthy youth development.

Sexton 2010* - Sexton T, Turner CW. The effectiveness of functional family therapy for youth with behavioral problems in a community practice setting. Journal of Family Psychology. 2010;24(3):339–48.

Sawyer 2015* - Sawyer AM, Borduin CM, Dopp AR. Long-term effects of prevention and treatment on youth antisocial behavior: A meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review. 2015;42:130–144.

Campbell-Filges 2015 - Filges T, Andersen D, Jørgensen AMK. Functional Family Therapy (FFT) for young people in treatment for non-opioid drug use: A systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2015:14.

Waldron 2008* - Waldron HB, Turner CW. Evidence-based psychosocial treatments for adolescent substance abuse. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology. 2008;37(1):238–61.

Slesnick 2009* - Slesnick N, Prestopnik JL. Comparison of family therapy outcome with alcohol-abusing, runaway adolescents. Journal of Marital & Family Therapy. 2009;35(3):255–77.

Celinska 2013 - Celinska K, Furrer S, Cheng CC. An outcome-based evaluation of functional family therapy for youth with behavioral problems. OJJDP Journal of Juvenile Justice. 2013;2(2):23–36.

Celinska 2015* - Celinska K. Effectiveness of functional family therapy for mandated versus non-mandated youth. Juvenile and Family Court Journal. 2015;66(4):17–27.

Flicker 2008* - Flicker SM, Barrett Waldron H, Turner CW, Brody JL, Hops H. Ethnic matching and treatment outcome with Hispanic and Anglo substance-abusing adolescents in family therapy. Journal of Family Psychology. 2008;22(3):439–47.

Urban-Taxy 2012 - Taxy SA, Liberman AM, Roman JK, Downey PM. The costs and benefits of functional family therapy for Washington, DC. Washington, DC: Urban Institute, District of Columbia Crime Policy Institute (DCPI); 2012.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

FFT - FFTLLC. Functional Family Therapy (FFT).

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