Functional Family Therapy

Functional Family Therapy (FFT) is an effective, short-term family counseling service designed for 11-to-18-year-old youth who are at risk or have been referred for behavioral or emotional problems. FFT works with a young person’s entire family and extrafamilial influences to facilitate positive growth and development. Our effectiveness stems from the idea that families are not identical—they all have a unique set of circumstances, so our treatment plans are individualized to fit the specific needs of youth and their families. Services are conducted in both clinic and home settings, and can also be provided schools, child welfare facilities, probation and parole offices/aftercare systems and mental health facilities.

Last reviewed: 2023

Intended Outcomes:

FFT is a phasic program with steps, which build upon each other. Each phase has a specific goal/outcome. The following are the phases and their associated goals:
  1. Engagement: Enhancing family members' perceptions of therapist responsiveness and credibility.
  2. Motivation: Creating a positive motivational context by decreasing family hostility, conflict, and blame while increasing hope and building balanced alliances with family members.
  3. Relational Assessment: Analyzing the patterns of interaction within the family to understand the relational "functions"—or the interpersonal motives behind individual family members' behaviors.
  4. Behavior Change: Reducing or eliminate adverse behaviors by improving family functioning and individual skill development. 5. Generalization: Extending the improvements made during the Behavior Change phase into multiple areas and planning for future challenges.

Continuum of Care:

Topic Areas:
Behavioral Health/Mental Health, Disruptive Behaviors, Substance Use

Teen/Adolescent (13-18)

Geographic Locations:
Rural, Urban

Delivery Settings:

Cultural Considerations:
Significant and well-articulated attention was given to disparities in outcomes

FFT works primarily with 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. Services are conducted in both clinic and home settings, and can also be provided in schools, child welfare facilities, probation and parole offices/aftercare systems and mental health facilities.

FFT’s recommendation is to use at least master’s level therapists unless extraordinary circumstances require the use of bachelor's level therapists. It is the responsibility of the provider to meet or exceed local licensure and certification requirements.


Is Training Required?
Yes, see developer info

Who can provide the required training?
Certifications required to provide training in Functional Family Therapy.

Program Costs (materials, training, etc.):
Yes, refer to program website

Program/Practice Website:

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research:

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 DOI: 10.4073/csr.2015.14

Alan Carr, Dan Hartnett, Elena Hamilton, & Gary O’Reilly. (2016). The Effectiveness of Functional Family Therapy for Adolescent Behavioral and Substance Misuse Problems: A Meta-Analysis. Family Process, 56, 607–619.

Weisman, C.B., and Montgomery, P. (2019). Functional family therapy for behavior disordered youth aged 10-18: an overview of reviews. Research on Social Work Practice 29 (3) 333-346.

Gottfredson, D. C., Kearley, B., Thornberry, T. P., Slothower, M., Devlin, D.,
& Fader, J. J. (2018). Scaling-Up Evidence-Based Programs Using a Public Funding Stream: a Randomized Trial of Functional Family Therapy for Court-Involved Youth. Prevention Science, 19 (7), 939–953.

Gan, D. Z. Q., Zhou, Y., Hoo, E., Chong, D., & Chu, C. M. (2019). The Implementation of Functional Family Therapy (FFT) as an Intervention for Youth Probationers in Singapore. Journal of Marital & Family Therapy, 45(4), 684–698.

Hartnett, D., Carr, A., & Sexton, T. (2016). The Effectiveness of Functional Family Therapy in Reducing Adolescent Mental Health Risk and Family Adjustment Difficulties in an Irish Context. Family Process, 55(2), 287–304.

Humayun, S., Herlitz, L., Chesnokov, M., Doolan, M., Landau, S., & Scott, S. (2017). Randomized controlled trial of Functional Family Therapy for offending and antisocial behavior in UK youth. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 58(9), 1023–1032.

Vardanian, M. M., Scavenius, C., Granski, M., & Chacko, A. (2020). An international examination of the effectiveness of Functional Family Therapy (FFT) in a Danish community sample. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 46(2), 289–303.

Additional Sources:

Supported By Research

WV Rating:
Supported by Research
»WV Ratings Info

Rationale for Rating:

Most effective outcomes are in probation completion, decrease recidivism, reduction in use of illicit substances with court involved youth. The majority of studies either do not measure or do not show sustained behavioral change past an 8 month period. Most of the research supporting Functional Family Therapy in the other national databases was from 1970s-2000s.

Contraindications or Concerns:
None identified

Other Registries/Ratings

The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare:
Supported by Research Evidence

Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development:
Model +

Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness:

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Model Programs Guide:
Effective - More than one study

Washington State Institute for Public Policy:
Found on the registry. See link for more information.

Washington State Institute for Public Policy Registry Link: