Frequently Asked Questions

What are the differences Between the Original Strengthening Families Program Versions (ages 6-11 and 12-16) and the new SFP 7-17 Version?

  1. The most comprehensive parenting skills in SFP6-11 and SFP12-16 were combined into one parenting model so families with children in both age categories could attend the same parent class. (SFP 7-17 has lessons for Parents, Teens, Children, and the Family Practice Session.)
  2. PowerPoints and video clips were added to the SFP lessons, to better keep attention focused during in-person lessons, and also to teach SFP 7-17 effectively online via Zoom.
  3. The order of the Parent lessons were changed so that each skill builds on the previous one. Examples:
    • The Communication and Family Meeting was moved from Lesson #5 to Lesson #2 so families could begin quickly speaking nicely to one another, and could use the Family Meeting time to discuss SFP skills earlier in the series.
    • The Problem Solving Lesson #5 was moved so it comes before #6 Anger Management, so parent and youth would have skills to solve problems that made them angry before we ask them to manage their anger.)
    • The Positive Discipline lesson from weeks #11-13 were combined and moved to Lesson 4 so parents would have the skills to deal with misbehavior in an effective way sooner in the series, without reverting to harsh discipline – which damages relationships.
  4. The order of the Youth lessons were changed so the youth are learning the same subject and skills that the parents are learning each week. This facilitates parents and youth discussing and practicing the same skills together at home. (This differs from SFP6-11&12-6 where parents and youth are sometimes taught different subjects in their weekly class sessions.)
  5. The Family Session was adjusted so it focuses more on parent-child skill practice instead of playing random games; as skill practice in class helps ensure they will do it at home.
  6. The three discipline lessons (#10, #11, #12) were combined into one lesson, because the discipline skills work together as a whole; and it is best to learn them at the same time. The lesson was moved to #4 so parents would have the skills they needed to correct misbehavior in a more effective way sooner in the lesson series so they would know how to correct misbehavior without resorting to harsh discipline which harms the parent-child relationship. This move also gives parents more time to work on these skills with their Family Coaches before the SFP classes end. It also allowed us to shorten the series from 14 weeks to 11 weeks, which lowers the cost of hosting classes, and increases retention.
  7. Mindfulness as a brain-training exercise was added, as it has been shown to increase emotional regulation, the ability to focus, and reduces anxiety and stress. We added a mini-mindfulness activity to the beginning of each SFP lesson.
  8. Information on how the brain develops was added, as well as information on how practice changes the brain and increases neuron density to make new habits. This gives people hope they can change, and they have confidence that skill-practice can make it happen. We also teach families how to have a healthy brain, including having a healthy diet, exercise, adequate sleep, and avoiding automatic negative thoughts. Better brain health means better behavior.
  9. New information on Anger Management was added to lesson #6, including ways to track anger triggers and cues, cool “hot-thoughts” that produce rage, and re-program anger habits by “walking through” new prosocial responses to their usual anger triggers.
  10. The skill of monitoring children and teens’ emotional well-being and their social activities to see that they stay in an alcohol and drug free environment was added. (Dr. Kumpfer’s research showed that this is one of the three key prevention skills, along with Bonding, and setting clear rules or Boundaries).
  11. More information on how alcohol and marijuana cause youth brain damage was added, including videos of scientists showing the damage in their brain scans. Information on prescription drug abuse and the harms of e-cigarettes and vaping were added, which are missing in previous SFP lessons.
  12. We created a Home-Use 11-session video series that parallels the SFP 7-17 lessons, for families to watch at home for a review, or if they have to miss a lesson.
  13. We added video clips from the SFP Home-Use videos to the lessons to show the SFP skills they discuss in class in action.
  14. We updated the SFP Handouts and added many new ones.
  15. We changed the name of a SFP facilitator from a “Group Leader” to a “Family Coach” to help families feel more connected to them, and be more willing to take his/her advice and practice the SFP skills.
  16. We train the SFP 7-17 Coaches to use the “SFP 12-Step Teaching Model” as they teach SFP classes because that method helps motivate families to practice and learn the SFP skills faster. (Major teaching components for each lesson are: Review past skills, teach new skill, ask questions, show video clip, demonstrate skill, tell a success story, ask for situations in their lives where the skill would be useful, have families practice the skill, praise their efforts, resolve concerns, commit them to practice skill at home).
  17. We added the “12 Essential Qualities of an Effective SFP Family Coach” to the SFP 7-17 training, so Coaches learn how to connect with families and motivate them to adopt and practice the SFP skills.

Have the "adjustments" to the SFP 7-17 Years, Compared to the Evidence-based SFP 12-16 Years, improved outcomes?

(See above FAQ question and answer to see the differences in the two programs.)

Dr. Karol Kumpfer, the original creator of all SFP programs, did an evaluation of outcomes comparing SFP 7-17 classes to the SFP Home-Use Video and SFP 6-11 and SFP12-16 class lessons. Here is the abstract from her published paper:

Effectiveness of the Strengthening Families Program 7 to 17 Years in Group Class and Home Use DVD Versions Compared to the Evidence-based SFP 12-16 Years


Significance. After 12 years of continuous decreases, adolescent substance abuse has increased since 2008 in the U.S. particularly in 30-day binge drinking and marijuana and prescription drug use (SAMHSA, 2015). This upswing could lead to increased social and health care costs, including mortalities from traffic crashes, which had dropped by a third. According to comparative effectiveness reviews including the Cochrane Reviews (Foxcroft, et al., 2003; Foxcroft & Tsertsvadze, 2012) and CSAP’s cost-benefit analysis (Miller & Hendrie, 2008), the most successful evidence-based program (EBP) to prevent youth substance use is the Strengthening Families Program (SFP). Like other effective family interventions, SFP changes the family environment to produce immediate and long-term results. The group classes, which parents and youth attend together, teach research-based parenting, family relationship, and youth social skills. SFP is cost effective ($9.60 to 11 saved/dollar spent), yet costly to administer—$880 to $1400/family for a 7 or 14 week course.

Methods. The aim of this pilot study was to determine if a newly created and much lower cost 11-session Home Use SFP DVD for parents and youth aged 7-17 years was as effective as its new 11-session group class version for parents and youth aged 7-17 years which included video clips from the SFP DVDs. About 244 parents and youth from 61 families watched the SFP DVD at home; and 144 parents and children from 36 families of 6th and 8th graders attended SFP 7-17 parent and youth group classes which were held in the evening at four inner city schools. Valid data on the same SFP standardized instrument was collected from 55 families completing the Home Use DVD and 29 families completing the SFP 7-17 group classes. Using a quasi-experimental 2 group x 2 repeated measures (pre-and post-test) design, both within and between group results were analyzed using 2 x 2 ANOVAs. This analysis included Cohen’s d effect sizes to compare the Home Use DVD condition to the SFP 7-17 group classes condition. Results of both new experimental conditions were also compared to the existing evidence-based 14-session SFP 12-16 year norms, but using only the same aged youth.

Results. The outcomes revealed the 11-session SFP7-17 group class outcomes were significantly better than the 14-session SFP norms particularly in larger positive youth improvements. All seven youth outcomes had larger effect sizes with a mean of d = .54 vs. .48 than the much longer and more expensive 14-session SFP 12-16 Years.

Major protective factors in the youth increased significantly including improved social skills and concentration and reduced depression, overt and covert aggression and also attention deficit. The Home Use DVD had almost as large Cohen’s d effect sizes for the mean of the five family outcomes (d = .69 vs. .70), but not the five parenting outcomes (d = .48 vs. 65). The results are presented with implications of the use of computer technology increasing dissemination by reducing cost.

Conclusions. The results of this pilot study suggest that the new Home Use SFP 7- 17 DVD has the potential to be a very cost-effective way to reduce risk factors for adolescent substance abuse. If proven effective in larger scale RCTs in improving risk and protective factors plus reducing substance use, the new SFP DVDs and a planned interactive web version will be widely disseminated at minimal cost ($5). A more cost-beneficial SFP has the potential to create a dramatic breakthrough in low-cost dissemination of EBPs to create major public health impact in reducing adolescent substance use and associated mental, physical, and social costs.”

Can I purchase and use the SFP curriculum without a training?

Yes, you can. However, a training makes it easier to set up a site to teach SFP, and the Family Coach training allows actual practice teaching time of the lessons, as well as suggestions on how to recruit, retain families, and motivate them to change. See the two different Training Agendas under the TRAINING tab.

Do the SFP facilitators need advanced degrees in a social science?

No. While a college degree in social science or teaching is preferred, it is not necessary. What is necessary is a person with a charismatic personality, who enjoys teaching and can genuinely relate to both parents and youth. We also want a person who is willing to live and put in practice the SFP concepts and skills he/she is teaching.

If I schedule a training, does the SFP curriculum come with it?

Yes, a curriculum CD or flash-drive with one SFP version in one language comes free with the training. Additional versions can be purchased for a reduced rate of $300 if a training is completed.

How long does the training last?

SFP trainings are two days long – usually 9-5. See the different training agendas under the Training Tab. THE EXCEPTION: If you are going to be using the SFP videos and the SFP DVD Family Discussion Guide instead of the full-class curriculum, and you are training 10 or fewer people, and they are willing to complete 6 hours of pre-training assignments before the training begins and bring their completed written assignments to the training, you could qualify for a 1-day training.

How can we teach SFP skills if we don’t have funding to pay 4 or 6 facilitators?

Although not ideal, you can teach SFP skills by training the parents and youth in the same classroom together using the SFP Home-Use DVD/videos and two facilitators. There is a SFP DVD Discussion Guide that takes you through each lessons, telling you where to pause the video, what questions to ask, and what skills the families are to practice together. In two different trials the results were nearly as good as the SFP Group Norms, (a data base of over 5000 families who have taken the regular SFP classes).

How can the SFP 7-17 curriculum (which has 11 main lessons) be taught in 10, 12, or 14 weeks??

We consider 11 or 12 lessons the best dosage SFP 7-17. However, if an agency is only funded for 10 weeks, then Lesson 8 and 9 can be combined and taught in one lesson period, making 10 weeks. It is not ideal – but it is doable as both lessons deal with alcohol and drugs and how to keep children from using. There are also three Booster sessions with SFP 7-17, which would take the class sessions up to 14 weeks, if that is what your population needed.