By Katherine Matiko, Communications Coordinator, Catholic Family Service

Functional Family Therapy (FFT), an evidence-based therapy model that made its Canadian debut in Calgary three years ago, has completed the second year of a research project aimed to prove its effectiveness in a Canadian context.

Funded by the National Crime Prevention Centre (NCPC), this clinical research is being conducted jointly by Catholic Family Service (CFS) and carya (formerly Calgary Family Services.)

FFT is designed to support families of youth aged 11 to 18 who are at risk of or currently experiencing school truancy, criminal involvement or mental health concerns. Between March 2015 and April 2017, 205 families were referred to the program.

In a recent report to the community, CFS and carya said that early research results are positive. Families who “fight a lot” were reduced from 62% to 39%, families with “time and attention for everyone” increased from 56% to 73%, and families who “really get along” increased from 58% to 72%.

However, agency representatives indicated that more referrals to the program are needed to draw firm conclusions from the research project.

“The targeted number of participants is 600 families over the life of the FFT research project,” said Holly Charles, CFS’s Director of Operations. “We hope to strengthen our partnerships with referring agencies to meet our targets during the research phase.”

Holly said that this unique partnership between Catholic Family Service and carya has been marked by open communication and strong collaboration. She said both agencies have gained valuable experience in implementing a clinical program with a robust research component.

Once FFT has been established as a research-informed best practice model for family therapy in Canada, the two agencies will seek ongoing funding to support the program in Calgary.

Functional Family Therapy was founded in the 1970s by Dr. James F. Alexander. The FFT model has received international recognition for helping youth and their families overcome problems related to delinquency, substance abuse and violence. FFT therapists meet with families in their homes, helping them achieve better communication, trust and respect, negotiation skills, supportive parenting behaviours and clear rules about privileges and responsibilities.

For more information, call our Functional Family Therapy Engagement Team at 403-205-5899.