Close this search box.

Family-Focused Therapies

Family-focused therapies are appropriate for children and adolescents with conduct disorder, oppositional-defiant disorder, and/or psychopathy.

Family-focused therapies are targeted therapeutic techniques aimed at helping affected children develop skills for managing their emotions, relationships, and behavior. These techniques are empirically demonstrated to help improve outcomes for children at high risk for psychopathy.

Family-focused therapy is NOT aimed at criticizing parents whose children are struggling. These therapies aim to be collaborative and non-judgmental and to help families accommodate the atypical needs of their child. It is important for parents of high-risk children to recognize that their children have different needs than typical children—needs that cannot be met with typical parenting techniques.

Not all therapists are trained to use all of these approaches. Finding a therapist trained to use, or able to learn, any of these approaches is an important first step.

Parent Child Interaction Training (PCIT)

Family therapy • Children • Offered by many clinicians • Used in the home

PCIT is a family-based program that targets the development of the parent-child relationship by focusing on teaching positive parenting strategies. It is conducted through “coaching” sessions through which the therapist provides in-the-moment coaching on skills to manage your child’s behavior. Standard PCIT can be successful for children with CU traits, but an even more targeted adaptation known as PCIT-CU may be even more effective for more severely affected children. PCIT-CU emphasizes creating a warm and emotionally responsive parent-child dynamic, supplements punishment-based strategies with reward-based systems. It also provides an adjunctive, or “add-on,” treatment module called CARES that targets emotional skills.

Learn more about PCIT here. Find a certified PCIT provider here.

Parent Management Training (PMT)

Family therapy • Children • Offered by many clinicians • Used in the home

PMT is a family-based program during which parents learn skills and techniques from a therapist to more effectively manage challenging behaviors. Skills are modeled by the therapist and role-played with parents, who are then asked to practice the skills at home. The program usually requires at least 10 sessions and is aimed at fostering rapid changes in children with oppositional, disruptive, or aggressive behaviors.

Learn more about PMT here.

Book a free 15-minute PMT consultation here.

Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST)

Family therapy • Children • Offered by few clinicians • Used in the home and school 

MST is an intensive, family-based approach designed for children and adolescents. It is aimed at reducing the likelihood that children at very high risk for delinquent and aggressive behavior will need to be removed from their homes for treatment. It targets risk factors related to the child as well as to peers, the school, and family. Empirical studies have shown that MST can reduce a child’s risk of engaging in future violent or criminal behavior. Standard MST approaches may need to be tailored to focus specifically on social and emotion deficits to be effective for children with psychopathy.

Learn more about MST here.

Family Check-Up (FCU)

Family therapy • Children • Offered by many clinicians • Used in the home 

FCU is a brief, family-based approach designed to prevent and reduce antisocial behavior. FCU can be used by any mental health provider. It has been adapted for use in both adolescents and young children. FCU generally involves three sessions. In the first session, the therapist learns more about parents’ and caregivers’ concerns and needs, the resources available to them, and the challenges they are facing. Next, the therapist gathers detailed information about the child’s interactions in the home and at school. Finally, a behavior management plan tailored to the needs and concerns of the family is provided. Empirical studies have shown that FCU can reduce a child’s risk of engaging in future antisocial and delinquent behavior.

Learn more about FCU here.

Integrated Family Intervention

Family therapy • Children • Offered by few clinicians • Used in the home

Integrated Family Intervention is a family therapy program designed to reduce disruptive and aggressive behaviors in children by focusing on social learning processes and providing parents with techniques to change children’s behavior and adjustment The approach involves modifying parenting behaviors that are believed to inadvertently maintain disruptive or aggressive behaviors, as well as consideration of the role of other family relationships and the home environment.

Learn more about Integrated Family Intervention.

Ask Me Anything

Have you ever wanted to hear someone diagnosed as a sociopath talk about what it’s like to be them–and to ask them your questions?

August 12th, 11am PDT on Zoom. Click below for more information and registration (limited to 50 attendees).