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My social worker has asked me to engage with Functional Family Therapy (FFT) - what is this?

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When the Local Authority has concerns about the welfare of a child in a person’s care, they may complete various assessments to establish what support the family may need. Early Help and Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST) are both forms of intensive professional support which can be offered to a family at an early stage to address the concerns for the children. Another type of support that is being offered by Local Authorities is Functional Family Therapy (FFT) and with all forms of intervention is aimed at reducing the concerns and improving the care being offered to the child(ren).

Originally, FFT was established to work with young people aged 11-18 who are considered “at risk” by the Local Authority with the aim of addressing any behavioural concerns. However, typically FFT works with the whole family unit for around 12-14 sessions for a 3 to 5 month period. The aim of the therapy is described as supporting “the reduction of disruptive communication patterns and focuses on positive interactions, effective supervision and boundary setting.”[1] The therapy considers any protective and/or risk factors which are prevalent in the family’s life and helps to address the risks and promote the protective elements further.

The FFT model has 5 major components[2]:

  1. Engagement – both the therapist and the family being consistently and regularly available to one another and being respectful of each other.
  2. Motivation – decreasing any hostility or conflict within the family and working to change family relationships and negative patterns of behaviour.
  3. Regional Assessment – the therapist begins to understand the functions of the family and each member individually through observations and considers the resources and abilities of both.
  4. Behaviour Change – this aims at reducing any behaviours which were considered a concern at the point of referral. Techniques which may be used can include modelling, prompting and the use of positive reinforcement.
  5. Generalisation Phase – this phase aims to continue the progress made in the behavioural change phase and putting these into practice. This may include making use of various community resources and maintaining relationships and support from professionals in the community. [3]

Where any form of intervention, be it Early Help, MST or FFT, is offered to families by the Local Authority, it is always advisable for families to take advantage of this. This allows for the family to address any concerns and make the relevant changes with professional support which may ensure that the matter is not escalated further. Proven outcomes of the FFT model have been “significant and long term reductions in youth reoffending and violent behaviour, significant effectiveness in reducing high-risk behaviours in siblings, low drop-out and high completion rates, and positive impacts on family conflict, family communication, parenting, and youth problem behaviour.”[4]

If you have Local Authority involvement with regards to your children and would like advice in relation to this then please contact Emery Johnson Astills at either our Leicester Office on 0116 255 4855 or our Loughborough Office on 01509 610 312 and ask for a member of the Care Team so that we can advise you accordingly. Alternatively, please visit either of the above offices or email us on careteam@johnsonastills.com and a member of our team will be happy to assist you.