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Supporting families to stay together

12 July 2016

Before Prospects

Like many families the family were finding life stressful. Both parents were anxious and not enjoying family life and as a result the children were also not settled. The family problems came to a head when Dad hit his 11-year-old son and social services became involved. The young person was placed on a Child in Need (CIN) plan and there was a risk of them going into care.

What Prospects did

Functional Family Therapy (FFT) was recommended for the family by the social worker in the case. In Gloucestershire, Functional Family Therapy is delivered through an innovative partnership between Prospects Youth Support Team (YST), 2gether NHS Foundation Trust and Action for Children. The FFT model promotes engagement by reducing barriers, motivates reducing blame and negativity, offers a relational understanding of behaviour and helps to increase hope that life can be different for the family.

The model also aims to deliver skills which maintain the relational function of the maladaptive behaviour but replace these with more prosocial behaviours. The final aspect of FFT is looking towards the ending of the therapeutic process and helping families to continue and maintain positive changes and share them in other spheres such as work and school.

In order to reduce barriers to participation sessions were arranged in the family and at a time to suit all family members, this was in the evening, after work for both parents. When Gloucestershire Functional Families Team (GFFT) started working with the family they found a very sad young son and a dad who felt guilty and blamed, but frustrated because he wanted the best for his children. GFFT found that the son was seeking time with his father and was gaining this by orchestrating arguments when he returned from work. This met the relational need for contact but in a negative way and also did not match the more autonomous relational function of Dad to the young person.

GFFT worked with the family to find a way to meet the young person’s relational need for time with Dad but in a way that also maintained Dad’s relational function of being more autonomous when they had few shared interests. Initially they tried cooking together and working on their communication skills. Mum and Dad were both encouraged to reinforce good behaviour, learning active listening techniques, short statements and sourcing responsibility for statements rather than blaming. The family were also supported through family bonding activities.

In the final phase of FFT the focus was on relapse prevention and consolidation of skills, this was achieved through the production of a family manual. This document contained all the skills that had been delivered during FFT, a useful contacts sheet and a trouble shooting guide to help reduce the likelihood of future difficulties escalating.

Outcomes and results

After working with the family intensively between January and May matters have improved significantly. Dad and son have now discovered a shared interest and are season ticket holders for the local rugby team. Both parents now have lower anxiety levels and report family life is much better. The daughter has seen an improvement at home too. The son has made significant progress and has gone from an isolated, sad and lonely young man to making friends at school and has joined a local youth club. The young person was no longer on a CIN Plan and was considered to be no longer at risk of being accommodated.


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