Functional family therapy

Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help promote healthy childhood environments and improve access to health services. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve these outcomes are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • 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

Evidence and impacts


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

  • 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

Best practices in 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.