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Plenary Session

Restoring Respect and Dignity Through Functional Family Therapy

Lead by Dr. Michael Robbins

In the late 1960s, Dr. James Alexander started a rigorous program of clinical development to help delinquent youth; a group of youth that was often written off by society. For the thirty years, Dr. Alexander evaluated and refined the Functional Family Therapy model (Alexander, Waldron, Robbins, &  Neeb, 2013), and demonstrated the robust impact of FFT (e.g., delinquency, substance use, youth, and parent mental health, family conflict, and violence). This led to FFT being designated as an evidence-based program and ushered in an era of dissemination. Over the past two decades, FFT has been extensively disseminated into community settings.


Each day, it is estimated that over 10,000 youth and families from more than a dozen countries receive FFT services.  A key to FFT’s success is the flexible way therapists match interventions to the unique values, perspectives, and culture of each individual and family.  Interventions are tailored to accommodate the relational “functions” (or payoffs) of behaviors while remaining respect-, strength-, and relational-based. Treatment unfolds through five distinct phases.  Dr. Robbins will provide an overview of FFT, including reviewing innovative ways in which the model has been applied in diverse settings (e.g., child welfare) and populations (e.g., gang members, Maori families).

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Dr. Michael Robbins

Michael Robbins, Ph.D. is the Clinical and Research Director for FFT LLC and a Senior Scientist at the Oregon Research Institute. Dr. Robbins has extensive experience conducting clinical research on family therapy with drug-using, delinquent adolescents and their families, including innovative process studies as well as large, multi-site, community-based outcome studies. Dr. Robbins has extensive publications in the area of family therapy for adolescents with behavior problems, including Co-Editing the Third Edition of the Handbook of Family Therapy (Brunner Routledge, 2003). He has directly overseen the training of hundreds of family therapists, both nationally and internationally.

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