“Adolescents involved in the justice system are clinically complex, with particularly high rates of behavior problems, mental health disorders, and other ‘at-risk’ behaviors,” said Thomas Sexton of the Center for Adolescent and Family Studies at Indiana University. “Estimates are that 50% to 80% of delinquent adolescents meet the criteria for a mental disorder, such as conduct or substance-related disorders.” Sexton and his colleague Charles Turner at the Center for Family and Adolescent Research at Oregon Research Institute believe that Functional Family Therapy (FFT), as evidenced in previous research, could provide an effective intervention for these adolescents if applied in a community setting. They said, “The positive outcomes of FFT remain relatively stable even after a 5-year follow-up, and the positive impact also affects siblings of the identified adolescent.”
To test their theory, the researchers enlisted 917 families who had an adolescent member sentenced to probation for a crime. The majority of the offenders were male, nearly 80%, and all were between 13 and 17 years of age. The researchers tested the effectiveness of FFT one year after treatment, compared to traditional probation services. Additionally, they evaluated the level of adherence to the FFT model as it related to positive outcomes. “The findings suggest that FFT was effective in reducing youth behavioral problems, although only when the therapists adhered to the treatment model,” said the team. “High-adherent therapists delivering FFT had a statistically significant reduction of (35%) in felony, a (30%) violent crime, and a marginally significant reduction (21%) in misdemeanor recidivisms, as compared to the control condition. The results represent a significant reduction in serious crimes 1 year after treatment, when delivered by a model adherent therapist.” The researchers also noted that adherence to the model was especially important in highly negative family situations. They added, “The findings suggest that a model like FFT must be delivered in a clinically specific and precise manner to produce positive outcomes.”
Sexton, Thomas, and Charles W. Turner. “The Effectiveness of Functional Family Therapy for Youth with Behavioral Problems in a Community Practice Setting.” Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice 1.(S) (2011): 3-15. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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