How do FFT and MST work at-a-glance?

 The chart below provides a quick at-a-glance view of each of the models.


MST (Multisystemic Therapy)

FFT (Functional Family Therapy)

•Treatment Site

In the field: home, school, neighborhood and community.

Sessions in the field or the office, depending on family need.


Single full-time therapist (as part of, and supported by generalist team)

Single therapist (as part of, and supported by generalist team)

•“Team” size

2 to 4 therapists plus a supervisor

3 to 8 therapists including the supervisor


Total behavioral health care (some exceptions for long-term care services such as psychiatric care, see more below under “Case Management Function”) with an emphasis on addressing all systems in the youth and family’s ecology that effect youth behaviors, and on empowering the family to manage challenges on their own.

Phase-based family therapy model that directly addresses youth behavior problems by systematically targeting risk and protective factors at multiple levels in the youth’s ecology. Systemic and cognitive-behavioral interventions are included to change/replace maladaptive emotional, behavioral, and psychological processes within the individual, the family, and with relevant extra-family systems

•Case Management Function

Service provider rather than broker of services –success of referrals to long-term care providers, such as psychiatric care, are seen as responsibility of the MST therapist

After youth & family have adopted positive coping patterns will link with other resources to enhance skills and provide additional resources

•Approach to other co-occurring treatments

Family makes the decision regarding what co-occurring treatments are pursued, though MST therapists help the family minimize other services as much as possible

Exclude families currently engaged in family therapy

•Treatment Duration

3 to 5 months in most cases, an average of 4 months

Approximately 3 months, up to 5

months in serious cases

•Staff credentials

MA-level is preferred, exceptions can be made for highly skilled BA-

level clinical staff

MA-level is preferred, exceptions can be made for highly skilled BA-level clinical


•Staff employment status

Full-time therapists with no other duties outside of MST. Supervisor

commitment of 50% time per team as a minimum.

Preference is for full-time staff but part- time staff working with a minimum

caseload of 5 families (approximately 10- 12 hours per week) can be acceptable

•Client Families\Staff

4-6 cases per full-time therapist

10-12 cases for a full-time therapist

•Staff Availability

Expectation that staff will work flexible schedule based upon needs of the family.

24 hr.\7 day\wk. team available

Expectation that staff will work flexible schedule based upon needs of the family. No requirements for 24/7 on-call system.

•Treatment Outcomes

Responsibility of staff & agency

Responsibility of staff and agency

•Expectations of Outcomes

Immediate, maximum effort by family and staff to attain goals

Immediate, maximum effort by family and staff to attain goals

•Referral process guidelines

  • Delinquent/anti-social youth
  • High risk youth
  • Youth needing access to 24- hour services due to youth and family needs, and to system concerns (i.e. community safety concerns, etc.)
  • Delinquent/anti-social youth
  • Medium to high risk youth
  • Status offenders on the lower risk end
  • System expectations regarding planned linkage to post-care services