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What are the Goals of AF-CBT?

Families that experience conflict, coercion, and/or physical abuse create substantial risk to children for the development of significant psychiatric, behavioral, and adjustment difficulties, including aggression, poor interpersonal skills/social relationships, and emotional reactivity. Caregivers in such families often report punitive or excessive parenting practices, frequent anger and hyperarousal, and negative child attributions, among other stressful conditions.

During the past four decades, research has documented the effectiveness of several behavioral and cognitive-behavioral methods, many of which have been incorporated in Alternatives for Families: A Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (AF-CBT). AF-CBT targets both the contributors to angry and aggressive behavior and the impact of these behaviors on a child’s adjustment. AF-CBT adopts a comprehensive treatment strategy that incorporates anger and behavior management, affect regulation, problem solving, social skills training, cognitive restructuring, communication, and clarification. The advantage of this program is that all of these techniques, relevant handouts, training examples, and outcome measures are integrated in a structured approach that practitioners and supervisors can easily access and use.

AF-CBT is a trauma-informed, family-centered intervention in which both children and caregivers are important participants in treatment. The primary goals of AF-CBT treatment are to:

  • Improve caregiver-child relationships
  • Strengthen healthy parenting practices
  • Enhance children’s coping and social skills
  • Maintain family safety
  • Reduce coercive processes (anger, verbal aggression, threats of force, emotional abuse) by caregivers and other family members
  • Reduce use of physical force (aggressive behavior) by caregivers, child and, if relevant, other family members
  • Reduce child physical abuse risk or recidivism (prevention of child welfare system involvement or repeated reports/allegations)
  • Promote child safety/welfare and child well-being


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