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    Journal article

    Core Elements of Family Therapy for Adolescent Behavioral Health Problems: Validity Generalization in Community Settings

    Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology

    Published: October 2021


    The core elements of family therapy for adolescent mental health and substance use problems, originally distilled from high-fidelity sessions conducted by expert clinicians, were tested for validity generalization when delivered by community therapists in routine settings.

    The study sampled recorded sessions from 161 cases participating in one of three treatment pools: implementation trial of Functional Family Therapy (98 sessions/50 cases/22 therapists), adaptation trial of Multisystemic Therapy (115 sessions/59 cases/2 therapists), and naturalistic trial of non-manualized family therapy in usual care (107 sessions/52 cases/21 therapists). Adolescents were identified as 60% male and 40% female with an average age of 15.4 years; 49% were Latinx, 27% White Non-Latinx, 15% African American, 3% another race/ethnicity, 6% race/ethnicity unknown. Session recordings (n = 320) were randomly selected for each case and coded for 21 discrete family therapy techniques. Archived data of one-year clinical outcomes were gathered.

    Confirmatory factor analyses replicated the factor structure from the original distillation study, retaining all four clinically coherent treatment modules comprised of all 21 techniques: Interactional Change (ICC = .77, Cronbach’s α = .81); Relational Reframe (ICC = .75, α = .81); Adolescent Engagement (ICC = .72, α = .78); Relational Emphasis (ICC = .76, α = .80). Exploratory analyses found that greater use of core techniques predicted symptom improvements in one treatment pool.

    Core techniques of family therapy distilled from manualized treatments for adolescent behavioral health problems showed strong evidence of validity generalization, and initial evidence of links to client outcomes, in community settings.

    Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology. 2021.