Both models draw from family systems theory and integrate behavioral approaches.
FFT is based on the theory that youth’s problem behaviors serve a function within the family.
Family members develop ways of interacting that help them to get their relational needs for
closeness or distance met, but these patterns of interacting may also create or maintain behavior
problems. FFT achieves changes by improving family interactions (e.g., improving communication,
problem-solving, and parenting skills) and developing family member skills that are directly linked
to risk factors (e.g., emotion regulation, decision making) or the youth’s behavior problems.
MST draws from social-ecological and family systems theories of behavior. MST views the youth as
embedded within a number of interrelated systems (e.g., family, school, peer, community, and
individual), each of which has an influence on the youth through both protective and risk factors.
By identifying the here-and-now factors that “drive” a problem behavior and intervening to modify
those factors, change will occur. MST therapists use interventions that have documented research
support, such as cognitive-behavioral, behavioral, behavioral parent training, social-leaning
theory, and strategic and structural family therapy approaches.