Functional Family Therapy (FFT)

Program theory

Family Functional Therapy (FFT) uses a model of short-term, assertive outreach to assist young people with behavioural and emotional issues and their caregivers to repair and strengthen their relationships, improve the way they communicate and reduce conflict in the home.


Average 12-20 sessions over 3-5 months.

Program components

FFT uses a strengths-based model built on a foundation of acceptance and respect.

Key ‘phases’ of the program include engagement, motivation, relational assessment, behaviour change and generalisation.


FFT service providers are required to collect data from both young people and caregivers.

This program has been collecting information since the 1970s. However, testing has not occurred specifically on the cohort of adolescents using violence in the home. 

For a summary of research, please see: 

Proximal outcomes

Improved family functioning evidenced

  • Improved communication skill
  • Improved adolescent behaviour
  • Improved parenting skills for handling subsequent problems
  • Improved parental supervision
  • Decreased family conflict

Distal outcomes

  • Young person remains at home
  • Young person in school/education/employment
  • Young person is violation free (where relevant)
  • Young person has improved mental health


Young person is 10-18

(FFT-CW program is aimed at working with caregivers of 0-18-year-old children)


The young person is referred from Child Protection, youth justice, education, mental health or other child and family services.

Further reading

Alexander, J.A., Waldron, H., & Robbins, M., & Neeb, A. (2013). Functional Family Therapy for Adolescent Behavior Problems. American Psychological Association.

Blueprints for Health Youth Development:

California Based Clearing House for Child Welfare:

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