Family Effectiveness Training (FET)
Family Effectiveness Training (FET) is a prevention/ early intervention model, effective in reducing risk factors and increasing protective factors for children and adolescents who are at risk for substance abuse and related disruptive behaviors. FET is a family-based program originally developed for Hispanics/Latinos. However, the developer, Olga Hervis, has adapted it for other populations. Family Effectiveness Training, while tested with preadolescents ages 6 to 12, can be applied to other ages as long as the target use is in the prevention/early intervention stage.
It targets three family factors that place children at risk: 1) problems in family functioning, 2) parent-child conflicts, and 3) intergenerational / cultural conflicts between children and parents. Family Effectiveness Training uses two primary strategies:
1) Didactic lessons and participatory activities that help families master effective family management skills
2) Planned family discussions in which the therapist/facilitator intervenes to correct dysfunctional communications between or among family members
Concerns addressed by Family Effectiveness Training include:
• Normal family changes during the transition to adolescence
• Substance use and adolescent alternatives to using
• Parent and family supervision of children and their peer relationships
• Family communication and parenting skills
• Conflict resolution skills
Family Effectiveness Training grew out of a long-standing tradition of work with Hispanic/Latino immigrant families in Miami.
In the process of implementing Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT), researchers observed that families of problematic and drug-abusing adolescents were characterized by acculturation differences between parents and adolescents which resulted in high levels of parent-child conflict and ineffective communication between parents and children.
It was theorized that increasing parents' familiarity with American culture, and increasing children's familiarity with their parents' Hispanic/Latino culture, would help improve family relationships. FET, nonetheless, can be adapted to situations other than acculturation, where intergenerational conflicts are exacerbated by gaps in value orientation.
Program evaluation showed Family Effectiveness Training helped Hispanic/Latino immigrant families with 6- to 12-year-old children, particularly in cases where the child is exhibiting behavior problems, associating with deviant peers, or experiencing parent-child communication problems.
1 35% reduction in children’s disruptive behaviors
2 66% reduction in children’s associations with antisocial peers
3 34% reduction in children’s irresponsible behaviors
4 14% improvement in children’s self-concept
5 75% improvement in family functioning
• Bridges the culture gap between parents and children
• Improves family cohesiveness and child bonding to the family
• Improves parental knowledge, understanding, competence, and skills to effectively manage children’s behavior
• Increases parental and child knowledge about and negative attitudes toward substance use
• Increases substance use resistance skills in children.
• Improves child self-discipline and self-concept
• Reduces child antisocial and immature behavior
• Families who self-refer
• Children with school problems
• Extended and/or blended families
• Multi-generational parenting groups
• Referrals from places of worship, youth groups, etc.
• Families that are reuniting after separation - military, immigrant families, etc.
• Families experiencing temporary, situational, external stressors: e. g. loss of a job, children acting out, early identification of at-risk behaviors
Family Effectiveness Training can also be a powerful tool for geographic locations that have a limited supply of qualified clinicians and resources.
How It Works
During the course of 13 family sessions, Family Effectiveness Training uses the following strategic interventions:
• Teaching bicultural skills to promote bicultural effectiveness, when in multicultural settings
• Providing certain elements of Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT), a problem-focused, direction-oriented, and practical approach to the elimination of substance abuse risk factors
• Educating parents on normal adolescent development
• Promoting effective parenting skills
• Promoting family communication, conflict resolution, and problem-solving skills
• Disseminating substance abuse information to parents
FET can be implemented in a variety of settings, including community social services agencies, schools, mental health clinics, faith communities, and community youth centers. Because FET works with the entire family, the program is usually offered in the afternoons, evenings, and weekends.
Family Effectiveness Training requires committed, enthusiastic, sympathetic counselors who are familiar with and respectful toward multicultural settings, languages, and values. Minimum professional qualifications include basic knowledge of how family systems operate and 3 years experience working with children and families. The ideal candidate has a master's degree in social work, or marriage and family therapy, or mental health counseling. However, individuals with a bachelor's degree and equivalent clinical experience may also qualify.
Counselors must be able to:
1 Present didactic material in an understandable way
2 Elicit family participation in structured exercises
3 Intervene in family discussions to improve dysfunctional family interactions
4 Be flexible enough to adapt the intervention to the specific needs of each family
Each family participates in the program for 13 weeks, with one 1.5- to 2-hour session per week. One full-time counselor can provide FET to 15 to 20 families per week, depending on the experience and maturity of the counselor.
Olga Hervis, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. is the co-author and developer of Family Effectiveness Therapy (FET). She conducted research, developed the therapeutic models, and designed training programs for clinicians. In 2003, she founded the Family Therapy Training Institute of Miami, as a private effort to disseminate the models and clinical findings of 35 years of research and practice in this field.
1 Model Program—Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
2 Presidential Award—Society for Prevention Research
3 Research Award—Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
4 Family Effectiveness Training, was selected as the winner of the 2000 Exemplary Model in Substance Abuse Prevention Award by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention.
Contact Information: Information on costs, materials, technical assistance, and other aspects of the program can be obtained from