Functional Family Therapy for High-Risk Adolescents
For individuals in the U.S. & U.S. territories
In Functional Family Therapy for High-Risk Adolescents, James F. Alexander demonstrates his approach to working with families that have teenage children exhibiting behavior issues and associated emotional disruptions.
Teens with behavior problems are one of the most difficult populations with whom therapists work, as adolescents and their families frequently enter treatment against their will, either under legal order or at strong insistence of authority figures such as school administrators. Family interactions can be hostile, and a sense of hopelessness is not uncommon.
Dr. Alexander's approach involves working to increase family motivation to change by disrupting negative attributions they may have about themselves and other family members and replacing these with more positive and adaptive attributions.
In this video, Dr. Alexander works with a mother, father, and their 15-year-old son, who has been exhibiting behavior problems such as drug use and school truancy and who has recently been charged with breaking and entering. The session focuses not only on the son, but also the mother and father, whose relationship has been under significant strain for years due to the mother's own substance use and frequent disappearances from the family.
This DVD features clients portrayed by actors on the basis of a composite of several cases.
Functional Family Therapy (FFT) is a family-based prevention and intervention program that has been applied successfully in a variety of contexts to treat a range of high-risk youth and their families. This approach draws on a multisystemic perspective in its family-based prevention and intervention efforts. The program applies a comprehensive model, proven theory, empirically tested principles, and a wealth of experience to the treatment of at-risk and delinquent youth.
FFT is a good example of the current generation of family-based treatments for adolescent behavior problems (Mendel, 2000; Sexton & Alexander, 1999). It combines and integrates the following elements into a clear and comprehensive clinical model: established clinical theory, empirically supported principles, and extensive clinical experience.
The FFT model allows for successful intervention in complex and multidimensional problems through clinical practice that is flexibly structured and culturally sensitive — and also accountable to youth, their families, and the community. Although commonly used as an intervention program, FFT is also an effective prevention program for at-risk adolescents and their families.
Whether implemented as an intervention or a prevention program, FFT may include a combination of diversion, probation, alternatives to incarceration, and reentry programs for youth returning to the community following release from a high-security institutional setting.
FFT targets youth between the ages of 11 and 18 from a variety of ethnic and cultural groups. It also provides treatment to the younger siblings of referred adolescents. FFT is a short-term intervention — including, on average, 8 to 12 sessions for mild cases and up to 30 hours of direct service (e.g., clinical sessions, telephone calls, and meetings involving community resources) for more difficult cases. In most cases, sessions are spread over a 3-month period.
Regardless of the target population, FFT emphasizes the importance of respecting all family members on their own terms (i.e., as they experience the intervention process).
James F. Alexander, PhD, created the core elements of Functional Family Therapy (FFT) in 1971 and has been researching and helping others implement the model since then. He provides training and supervision to FFT therapists across the United States and worldwide. In addition to his work with FFT, Dr. Alexander has enjoyed being a professor at the University of Utah for 40 years.
Dr. Alexander has had fellowships with APA Divisions 12 (Society of Clinical Psychology) and 43 (Society for Family Psychology) and has served as president of Division 43. He has received several awards for his contributions to family therapy and research from APA, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Family Therapy Academy, and the University of Utah. Most notably, he received the APA Presidential Citation for Lifetime Contributions to Psychology in 2009. He has also been honored for his teaching at the University of Utah.
Dr. Alexander has served on the editorial board for several family-related journals, including as senior consulting editor for The Family Psychologist. He has received training and research grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the University of Utah. He has published three books on FFT and more than 80 articles and chapters and has given hundreds of presentations and webinars nationally and internationally.
- Alexander, J. F., & Parsons, B. V. (1973). Short-term family intervention: A therapy outcome study. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2, 195–201.
- Alexander, J. F., Pugh, C., Parsons, B. V., & Sexton, T. L. (2000). Functional family therapy. In D. S. Elliott (Ed.), Blueprints for violence prevention (2nd ed., Book 3). Boulder: Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado.
- Alexander, J. F., Robbins, M. S., & Sexton, T. L. (1999). Family therapy with older, indicated youth: From promise to proof to practice. In K. Kumpfer (Ed.), Center for substance abuse prevention science symposium: Bridging the gap between research and practice. Washington, DC: Center for Substance Abuse and Prevention.
- Aos, S., Barnoski, R., & Lieb, R. (1998). Watching the bottom line: Cost-effective interventions for reducing crime in Washington. Olympia, WA: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.
- Barton, C., Alexander, J. F., Waldron, H., Turner, C. W., & Warburton, J. (1985). Generalizing treatment effects of functional family therapy: Three replications. American Journal of Family Therapy, 13, 16–26.
- Gordon, D. A., Graves, K., & Arbuthnot, J. (1995). The effect of Functional Family Therapy for delinquents on adult criminal behavior. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 22, 60–73.
- Klein, N. C., Alexander, J. F., & Parsons, B. V. (1977). Impact of family systems intervention on recidivism and sibling delinquency: A model of primary prevention and program evaluation. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 45, 469–474.
- Mendel, R. A. (2000). Less hype, more help: Reducing juvenile crime, what works—and what doesn't. Washington, DC: American Youth Policy Forum.
- Waldron, H. B., & Brody, J. L. (2010). Functional family therapy for adolescent substance use disorders. In J. Weisz & A. Kazdin (Eds.), Evidence-based psychotherapies for children and adolescents, 2nd ed. (pp. 401-415). New York: Guilford.
- Waldron, H. B., Robbins, M. S., & Alexander, J. F. (September, 2011). Functional family therapy: A summary of treatment outcome research from 1971 through 2011. Retrieved September 30, 2011 from Oregon Research Institute Web site: http://www.ori.org/Research/scientists/waldronH.html#publications.
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