Functional Family Therapy (FFT) Provides a Clinical Roadmap for Helping Families in Need
Imagine Maria. Maria is 13 years old and lives with her grandmother and siblings in an apartment in East Contra Costa County. Maria has no contact with her mother or father. Due to Maria’s behavioral issues, Maria’s grandmother has threatened repeatedly to send her away. Maria thinks that her grandmother believes that Maria is destined to become a drug addict like her mother, but Maria has positive aspirations for her future, having dreams of becoming a social worker who helps kids get off the streets.
Though merely a clinical vignette, cases like Maria’s are all too common, even right here in our own backyard. When families such as Maria’s face mental health and behavioral problems that threaten to tear them apart, to whom are they to turn?
To help answer this question, JFK University’s Community Counseling Centers, with the support of generous funding from the John Muir/Mt. Diablo Community Health Fund, established the East Contra Costa Mental Health Initiative (ECCMHI), a program designed to provide much-needed mental-health services to underserved areas of East Contra Costa County.
Functional Family Therapy (FFT)
A cornerstone of the ECCMHI programs is Functional Family Therapy (FFT). Designed for youths aged 10 to 18 who live at home with a family member, FFT engages participants in short-term, high-quality interventions averaging 12 to 14 sessions over three to five months. During these sessions, therapists work to improve family communication, support, and connectedness while working directly with youth in helping them overcome behavioral challenges.
Based on a foundation of respect for individuals, families, and cultures, FFT is particularly well-suited for East Contra Costa’s diverse communities. Rather than endeavor to create healthy families according to an abstract theory or ideal, FFT strives for obtainable, concrete changes that will help families function in more adaptive, acceptable, and productive ways within their own value systems.
FFT operates from a core philosophy of respectful, non-judgmental interactions with clients, engaging in a family-based approach that seeks to alter the odds facing at-risk families by reducing risks and enhancing strengths. Effective practitioners of FFT must possess excellent relationship, structuring, and conceptual skills in order to build client trust and rapport, lead efficient sessions, and identify core issues.
How Do I Make a Referral to FFT?
Interested families are welcome to self-refer by contacting the JFK University Community Counseling Center in Concord at 925-798-9240. Referral behavior may include truancy, drug use, fighting, arrests, threats, defiance, running away, and other potentially dangerous behaviors. Sliding Fee Scale services are available based on family size and income.