Functional family therapy

Program basics

  • Short-term strength-based intervention program, built on a foundation of acceptance and respect, with an average of 12 to 14 sessions over three to five months.
  • Targeted primarily toward 11 to 18-year-old youth who have been referred for behavioral or emotional problems by the juvenile justice, mental health, school or child welfare systems.
  • Consists of five major components: engagement, motivation, relational assessment, behavior change and generalization
  • Services can be conducted in both clinics and home settings

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Proven (highest tier)

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Proven (highest tier)

Ranked as having the highest level of evidence by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, the National Institute of Justice, the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare, Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration


Target population

At-risk youth

Program cost

Approximately $2,000 per family

Implementation locations

  • Not available

Dates active

1980s-present

Outcomes and impact

  • Lower rates of juvenile and adult recidivism 30 months and 5 years after participation
  • Reduced engagement in high risk behavior (delinquency, suicidal ideation, aggression) in children
  • Improved behavior emotional needs (anxiety, anger control, impulsivity) in children

Keys to successful implementation

  • Note: This content is under review
  • To implement the program with fidelity and achieve positive outcomes, providers should follow comprehensive guidelines for implementation.
  • Providers and locations are nationally certified, ensuring that the program is being delivered with appropriate supervision and high fidelity.
  • Participants are often referred to the program via the justice system, schools, and child welfare organizations. Partnerships with these actors can strengthen referral pathways.
  • Developing trust with clients and their families helps reduce skepticism and stigma around the program and can improve recruitment and retention.

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