Functional Family Therapy Gives a Family the Skills they Need to Communicate

holding hands (with clipping path)Alisa* is 12 and she and her biological father were recently involved with our Functional Family Therapy (FFT) program in St. Louis.

Before FFT, Alisa had been arguing and fighting with many school peers and family members, which led to her getting kicked out of school. Her dad didn’t discipline her and instead often gave very long speeches about why she shouldn’t do what she did, causing Alisa to check out after just a sentence or two. He also often bought her extra things like electronics and jewelry after she would repeatedly ask him and give him “puppy-dog eyes.”

During FFT, the therapist pointed out the patterns that she saw and assessed the functions in the family, noting that dad wanted more connection time than the daughter did (hence the long speeches). Dad was able to see the role he was playing in Alisa’s choices because he was teaching her that she could manipulate people to get what she wanted and to not be satisfied with what she had. The therapist showed the family how they could use their strengths, like a strong family connection and Dad’s advice, in a way that encouraged positive behaviors and practiced small adjustments, like shorter speeches.

Soon, dad was parenting more consistently, keeping his “no means no” and using other things as rewards for good behavior. Alisa also saw how what she was doing brought out a side of herself that she didn’t want to be and changed the way she approached peers. In addition, the therapist practiced skills like anger management, decision-making and communication/listening skills to enhance their interactions and keep them on a positive path. The result was a family that didn’t argue as much and a daughter who was actually listening to her dad’s great advice.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the family.