1st Edition

Family-Focused Treatment for Child and Adolescent Mental Health A New Paradigm

By Paul Sunseri Copyright 2024
    256 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    256 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book is designed as a treatment manual for using family-based treatments with children struggling with mental illness, supporting both family therapists and the families they are helping.

    Based on over 40 years of research, it has been shown that involving the entire family in treatment is effective. However, family therapy is still not used as a first line of treatment. Paul Sunseri explains and explores why family-based approaches should be used with struggling young people and how this can be applied in practice. Chapters discuss the causes, contributors, and social determinants for the rise in childhood mental illness and provide empirical evidence and treatments for working with children and adolescents suffering from self-harm, suicidal ideation, anxiety, anger, and depression. Filled with case studies throughout, the book also touches on mitigating the effects of screen time in our increasingly technological lives and interventions to help reluctant children participate in therapy. This book will be invaluable reading for graduate-level students, clinicians in training, and fully licensed clinicians, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, marriage and family therapists, and clinical social workers.

    The book is also a practical resource for parents and other caregivers; it pulls back the curtain on therapy and teaches parents exactly what to do to best love and support their child at a time when they need it the most.

    Part I: What In the World is Going On and Where Does Change Begin?

    Chapter 1: Causes and Known Contributors to the Rise in Childhood Mental Illness

    Chapter 2: Lesser Known But Likely More Impactful Causes and Contributors

    Chapter 3: Righting the Ship: Getting Families Back on Course

    Chapter 4: The Case for Family-Focused Treatment

    Chapter 5: Intensive Family-Focused Therapy (IFFT)

    Part II: Treating Suicide and Self-Harm

    Chapter 6: Suicide and Self-Harm: Prevalence, Evidence-Based Treatments, and the Role of Family and Situations

    Chapter 7: The Treatment of Suicide and Self-Harm from a Family-Focused Perspective

    Chapter 8: Case Example of Treating Self-Harm: The Girl Who Wouldn’t Stop Hurting Herself 

    Part III: Treating Social Isolation and Anxious Avoidance

    Chapter 9: Anxious Avoidance: Prevalence, Evidence-Based Treatments, and the Role of Family and Situations

    Chapter 10: The Treatment of Anxious Avoidance from a Family-Focused Perspective

    Chapter 11: Case Example of Treating Anxious Avoidance: The Boy Who Disappeared

     Part IV: Directions for the Future

    Chapter 12: An 18-Item, Research-Informed Plan for Reversing the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Crisis


    Paul Sunseri, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist who treats children and adolescents with serious mental health conditions. He has conducted research demonstrating the important role that families play in treating childhood mental illness. Dr. Sunseri is the developer of Intensive Family-Focused Therapy (IFFT), a family-based form of mental health care, in the United States.

     “Child and adolescent mental health are a global public health priority.  Youth, parents, and systems are looking for effective solutions for improving lives and helping children thrive. Dr. Sunseri, in this book, provides timely guidance for helping practitioners navigate the complexities of working with children and adolescents.  At the core, this work understands the critical and dynamic influence of the family on healing, change, and happiness.”

    Michael Robbins, PhD, Clinical and Research Director for Functional Family Therapy LLC and Senior Scientist at the Oregon Research Institute, USA

    “In this current and impressively thoughtful book, Dr. Sunseri’s spot-on insight brilliantly interweaves established theory, research, and real life examples.  Within its professionally warm and easy to read narratives, he offers a treatment guide for both parents and practitioners that courageously pulls back the veil from the child and family therapeutic process and offers recommendations that actually make complete clinical and real-life sense.”

    Don Grant, PhD, American Psychological Association Division 46 chair of the “Device Management & Intelligence” committee, National Advisor for Healthy Device Management for Newport Healthcare, USA


    “As a therapist that has worked with children and families for almost 30 years, I found this book to be incredibly helpful and insightful. The book is extremely well researched and thoughtful, outlining numerous clinical strategies and interventions for improving the lives of children and teens. And as a parent, Dr. Sunseri's book speaks from the heart and has given me some new ways to better love my own family.”

    Debbie Walsh, LMFT, USA


     “Our child started self-harming and developed suicidal ideation at 11-years-old, which was the start of a terrifying two-year journey for our family. I anxiously devoured child psychology and parenting books, but none taught me anything useful or practical about how to best help her. Dr. Sunseri’s whole-family approach to adolescent mental health makes complete sense to me, and I so wish this book had been available when my daughter first began to struggle.”

    Katrina Budde, Parent, USA


    “I did not realize how broken our healthcare system is until my daughter started to experience a serious mental health decline in her early teens.  We were left to struggle through one of the biggest nightmares of our lives with very little help or guidance.  This book is a must read for healthcare providers and for parents who feel lost with no light at the end of the tunnel.”


    G. Anderson, Parent, USA


    “Working as a family to improve our daughter's mental health was absolutely critical. As parents, learning how to set boundaries, normalize our expectations, and communicate more effectively with her has had a far greater positive impact on her mental health than any individual child therapy in the past did. The treatment recommendations in this book have returned our daughter and family back into a healthy functioning dynamic.”

    J.C., Parent, USA