Handbook of Family Therapy: The Science and Practice of Working with Families and Couples

By Thomas L. Sexton; Gerald R. Weeks et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 15

Functional Family Therapy

A Mature Clinical Model for Working with At-Risk Adolescents and Their Families

THOMAS L.SEXTON, PhD
Indiana University

JAMES F.ALEXANDER, PhD
University of Utah


INTRODUCTION

Since its emergence over 30 years ago, functional family therapy (FFT) has evolved from a set of theoretically integrated and clinically based principles to a well-articulated model of clinical intervention firmly rooted in science, theory, and clinical practice. FFT has emerged from its history as one of the best examples of the new generation of evidence-based clinical models, primarily used in the treatment of at-risk adolescents and their families (Alexander, Sexton, & Robbins, 2002; Sexton & Alexander, 2002a). FFT is a “true” family-based approach that focuses on the multiple domains of client experience (cognition, emotion, and behavior) across the multiple perspectives within and around a family system (individual, family, and contextual/ multisystemic). In order to understand and intervene successfully across these domains, FFT has remained grounded in relational context. This has allowed FFT to embrace the inherent dialectic tension in family therapy-that is, the tension between clinical practice, foundational theory (systems, developmental psychopathology, epidemiology, the sociology of culture, etc.), and rigorous science. FFT has adopted both a client focus based in sound clinical experience (ideographic), while at the same time attending to the common research and theory and change mechanisms (nomothetic) underlying a range of good therapeutic interventions. FFT also represents what

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