What Is Behavioral Family Intervention?


For families experiencing extreme stress relative to behavior issues, behavioral family intervention offers a long-term, therapeutic approach. Many parent training programs offered through social service agencies, educational programs and private counselors utilize aspects of behavioral family intervention to treat everything from severely disruptive behavior to mental health issues. Some clients utilize these programs for years, while others attend a few sessions to acquire the tools to do a more self-directed program.

Approach and Parental Involvement

The key factor in behavioral family intervention is the use of cognitive therapy techniques; meaning, that families reflect upon and discuss issues surrounding family problems, triggers for outbursts and possible solutions, according to Child Trends, a nonprofit children’s research center. The process typically begins with identifying the most significant problems and agreeing upon target behaviors. Typical approaches for reaching these target behaviors include setting short-term goals, providing positive reinforcement, implementing a consistent system of developmentally appropriate consequences and parents setting aside time for giving their full attention to their children.

How It Works

Successful experiences in behavioral family intervention not only involve changing patterns of misbehavior. Families spend more positive time together and learn to communicate with less conflict. Children can flourish in their linguistic, emotional, academic, social and behavioral development, as stated by Victorian Parenting Centre researchers Warren Cann, Helen Rogers and Jan Matthews in an article titled, “Family Intervention Services program evaluation: A brief report on initial outcomes for families,” published in the 2003 edition of “Advances in Mental Health.”

Aspects of Participation

A significant consideration in this type of intervention involves parents’ willingness to participate and their current emotional and psychological state. Some parent training programs may involve treating parents for depression or stress, plus giving them coping techniques to remain calm during a conflict. Parents may learn deep breathing, meditation or visualization.


Behavioral family intervention provides a unique function in which families can address problems in a non-threatening environment. Families typically elect to participate in the program, which can help in the early identification and modification of problem behaviors.


The process does not provide a smooth path to solving behavior problems. Clients experience many failures as they apply the recommended strategies. In some cases, families may need to try a variety of techniques before finding a solution. A licensed, experienced intervention specialist will be able to support a family through this process.



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