Who is the Developer of FFT? Remembering Dr. James Alexander

Posted by FFT on
<span id="hs_cos_wrapper_name" class="hs_cos_wrapper hs_cos_wrapper_meta_field hs_cos_wrapper_type_text" style="" data-hs-cos-general-type="meta_field" data-hs-cos-type="text" >Who is the Developer of FFT? Remembering Dr. James Alexander</span>

Dr. James Alexander, the developer of Functional Family Therapy (FFT), was a licensed clinical psychologist and family therapist who dedicated his career to developing and promoting evidence-based interventions for families in need.

Dr. Alexander began developing FFT in the 1970s, as a way to address the needs of troubled youth and their families. The approach has since been implemented in a wide range of settings and has been shown to be effective in reducing problem behaviors and improving family functioning.

Dr. Alexander conducted the first randomized trial on FFT and has authored or overseen 14 evaluations of FFT. He wrote the first book on FFT with his graduate student Bruce Parsons. Over the years, Dr. Alexander has received many accolades and FFT has been recognized by national organizations such as the US Surgeon General, the Department of Justice, the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, and the CDC.

In addition to developing the FFT clinical model, Dr. Alexander was one of the founders of FFT LLC, the training and certification organization responsible for supporting over 300 teams. He oversaw the development of FFT LLC’s training and adherence protocols for large-scale replication of his FFT model. Since then, we have evaluated our training and replication protocols in over 25 studies, demonstrating the impact on youth and families as found in university research. Our Clinical and Research Director, Dr. Michael Robbins, has authored eight evaluations of FFT, establishing him along with Drs. Barton, Waldon and Turner as the most prolific researchers on FFT next to Dr. Alexander. Dr. Robbins assumed the mantle of clinical and research integrity following Dr. Alexander's passing in late 2021.  

James (Jim) Alexander's career had a lasting impact on youth and families across the globe. He will forever be in our thoughts and will always be remembered as we continue to transform the communities we serve. 

In the words of FFT LLC's Dr. Mike Robbins:
"[Jim] has been my mentor, colleague, business partner, and friend for 33 years. I was troubled all day about imagining waking up in a world without him tomorrow. Then I realized more than 2,500 therapists are going to be seeing more than 10,000 families tomorrow and it reminded me that he will still be here. Jim was a true force of nature. His personality, passion, integrity, and compassion had no bounds. Anyone who encountered Jim felt heard, understood, and elevated. His intelligence and wit were unparalleled, and his smile and laugh could immediately change a room. He paved a trail in the mental health field that was brand new. His vision and dedication to serving troubled youth was his life's passion. For 50 years, his larger-than-life presence and ideas shaped generations of psychologists, family therapists, and the families they served. There is no way to adequately capture such a deep and lasting career, or to capture the essence of the truly remarkable person capable of envisioning and enacting such remarkable feats."

For more information on FFT LLC's history, view our timeline here. 


FFT LLC brings Functional Family Therapy to over 40,000 families a year globally at risk of involvement in the justice and child welfare systems and 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.