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John J. Wilson, Acting Administrator December 2000

Family Strengthening Series Functional Family Therapy

Thomas L. Sexton and James F. Alexander


The Evolution of Functional Family Therapy

Core Principles, Goals, and Techniques

Research Foundations

Community Implementation of Functional Family Therapy

The Family Project: A Recent FFT Replication


For Further Information


Points of view or opinions expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of OJJDP or the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office for Victims of Crime.

From the Administrator

While a number of States and communities are turning to punitive approaches to addressing juvenile crime, research indicates that such approaches, despite their high cost, are largely ineffective. Juvenile offenders removed from their families and communities eventually return, and unless their underlying behavioral problems have been treated effectively, these problems are likely to contribute to further delinquency.

Functional Family Therapy (FFT) 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.

This Bulletin chronicles FFT’s evolution over more than three decades; sets forth the program’s core principles, goals, and techniques; and reviews its research foundations. Community implementation of FFT is described, and an example of effective replication is provided.

Thirty years of clinical research indicate that FFT can prevent the onset of delinquency and reduce recidivism at a financial and human cost well below that exacted by the punitive approaches noted earlier. I believe this Bulletin will help you to consider the program’s merits for your community.

John J. Wilson
Acting Administrator



Thomas L. Sexton, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology at Indiana University in Bloomington. In that role, Dr. Sexton directs the Clinical Training Center and the Center for Adolescent and Family Studies and teaches in the university’s nationally accredited Counseling Psychology Program. James F. Alexander, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Dr. Alexander is a Principal Investigator for the Center for Treatment Research on Adolescent Drug Abuse, which conducts psychosocial treatment research on adolescent drug abuse. Drs. Sexton and Alexander have each authored numerous publications on family therapy and the treatment of adolescents with alcohol, drug abuse, and mental health problems.

NCJ 184743

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