Today we are sharing the story of a daughter who had enough of dealing with her parents while also experiencing mental health issues— until her FFT therapist provided effective guidance and support for the entire family.
The following story is a client story regarding Functional Family Therapy provided by Cornerstones of Care. Names have been changed for confidentiality.
A Pair of Siblings Who Had Enough
"13-year-old Cindy and her sister had enough! They were tired of the constant conflict between their divorced mom and dad and the blaming and finger-pointing between them. They felt unheard about the things that bothered them. Sometimes their parent who was abusing alcohol put them in situations that made them uncomfortable. However, they were not allowed to call their other parent to come and get them.
Cindy was becoming increasingly depressed and anxious. When she reached the point where she had thoughts of ending her life, she broke through the silent anguish to tell a friend of her desperation. The friend wisely involved school staff – which led to a referral for Functional Family Therapy (FFT).
Finding a Resolution That Involves All Family Members
It can be very challenging for therapists to work with conflictual divorcees with children. Often times there are strong attempts to have the therapist ‘pick the side’ of one adult or the other. FFT starts out with attempts to engage all family members and to hear their stories without being directive. The initial phase of FFT includes important goals such as reducing blame and negativity and building hope.
In Cindy’s situation, the therapist was well experienced in working with such conflictual families. He used techniques to reduce blaming and focus on the mutual goal of 'help the girls.' He highlighted ways in which the parents had and could solve things together regardless of their divorce. At the same time, the therapist was catching on to the patterns of alcohol abuse, criticism, avoidance, and the ways in which these patterns were impacting Cindy and her sister.
Four sessions were used just to build hope, awareness of how each family member could be part of the solution regardless of what the others did/did not do, and to reduce the blame and negativity. At that point, the therapist moved to another phase of FFT where new skills are taught and practiced in session. The new skills helped the family move into healthier patterns and reduce the risk factors that brought them into services. The family was able to identify appropriate ways for Cindy and her sister to get help if their parent was drinking too much and the situation was feeling unsafe. With the decreased blame and conflict, there was less alcohol misuse as well. The divorced parents were able to move away from blaming each other and into cooperation to get Cindy appropriate support for the anxiety and depression symptoms she was experiencing.
In addition, both parents and daughters agreed on a plan to get help with alcohol abuse without blame for that parent. In 13 weekly sessions of Family Therapy held over the span of three months, significant changes occurred which enabled family members to be heard and to work together towards solutions."
Functional Family Therapy (FFT) Is an Effective Program for Families
Functional Family Therapy (FFT) is an effective, short-term evidence-based family counseling service designed for 11-to-18-year-old youth who are at risk or have been referred for behavioral or emotional problems. FFT works with a young person’s entire family and extrafamilial influences to facilitate positive growth and development. FFT's effectiveness stems from the idea that families are not identical—they all have a unique set of circumstances, so our treatment plans are individualized to fit the specific needs of youth and their families, like Cindy's.
FFT LLC brings Functional Family Therapy to over 40,000 families a year across the globe that are at risk of involvement in the justice and child welfare systems and/or gangs. To maintain positive outcomes, FFT LLC provides clinical oversight and ongoing research to ensure that all FFT providers adhere to evidence-based practice standards. Contact us for more information about our evidence-based youth and family counseling services.