Functional Family Therapy (FFT)

Intervention Basics 

Functional Family Therapy (FFT) is a strength-based model and focuses on inter-familial and extra-familial factors while working through the therapeutic process. The process is non-judgmental and integrates respectfulness of culture, ethnicity, and family. 

FFT works through five major components:

  • Pretreatment
  • Engagment Phase
  • Motivation Phase
  • Relational Assessment
  • Behavior Change Phase
  • Generalizations
Expectation of Sessions:
There are 12 sessions over a 3 - 4 month period. 

Recommended Populations

  • Youth between 12 - 18 years of age
  • Clinic or home setting
  • Can be used in other settings
    • Schools
    • Child Welfare Facilities
    • Probation Offices
    • Mental Health Facilities

Special Considerations for Juvenile Drug Courts 

JDC teams and judges will find the Engagement Phase of this program particularly inviting, as the treatment process focuses on attitude. Many juvenile justice professionals struggle with the “attitude” that the youth (and possibly family) display in court and find it difficult to address the issue. Incorporating this component within the treatment process would be helpful to many jurisdictions.

But, more importantly, the Pretreatment Phase allows for ample opportunity to review assessments and to make treatment connections and plans. Since we know that, for the youth and families, the first phase of a juvenile drug court can be extremely overwhelming; simply working on developing a treatment plan may take some of the pressure off and help the youth and families get familiar with new rules and increased structure in their lives.  

Engagement Strategies 

Because  research tells us that gaining buy-in from families and increasing participation leads to better outcomes for youth, the JDC team will want to focus efforts on engaging the family, which may include connecting the family to resources in the community, asking for their assistance in treatment planning and goal setting, and creating opportunities for their “voices” to be heard.

During the Engagement Phase, treatment providers are focusing on responsiveness and building a strength-based relationship with the youth and family. The JDC team should match this focus and build components within the court’s phase structure to accomplish this. In practice, JDC teams should work to be available and responsive reaching out to families by telephone (or email, where appropriate), provide adequate transportation to treatment and court, and by making contact with as many family members as possible.  

Implementation and Training

Visit the Funtional Family Therapy website to research costs and training opportunities.


For more detailed information regarding research and replications associated with FFT, visit the developer's website: