Family therapy for conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder

Some evidence – there is enough evidence to indicate that this can be a helpful treatment option.

Family therapy involves working with you, your parents or carers and other family members. There is good evidence that family therapy can be helpful for teenagers who have a conduct disorder. Family therapy can also be offered as a treatment for ODD in younger children although there is less research evidence that it is effective.

There are different types of family therapy and the type which is most effective for conduct disorder is called Functional Family Therapy. This involves you, your parents or carers and other important family members meeting with a therapist each week (although at the beginning the sessions could be more frequent). The sessions last 45-60 minutes and can often be arranged wherever works best for your family, for example at your home or your local Family Hub.

Functional Family Therapy usually involves 8–16 sessions but could be up to 24-30 sessions if your conduct disorder is more complex or severe. The sessions take place over about 3-6 months.

Functional Family Therapy has different stages. The beginning stages involve the therapist and your family getting to know each other and agreeing on the aims of the therapy. The next stage involves looking at your family interactions and relationships and understanding how they might contribute to your conduct disorder. Then, your therapist will help you and your family to learn new ways of dealing with problems and communicating. Specifically, Functional Family Therapy will try to:

  • reduce inconsistency between your parents
  • improve how your parents or carers supervise you
  • help you and your family to make and stick to rules
  • help you and your family with consequences for breaking those rules

Treatments outlined on these webpages may not be available in every local area. It’s important that you discuss with your GP or mental health professional the treatment options available to you. You can also search for services near you on our Youth Wellbeing Directory and find out more about referral processes here.

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