Alternatives for Families: A Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (AF-CBT)

The information in this program outline is provided by the program representative and edited by the CEBC staff. This program has been rated by the CEBC in the following Topic Areas:

Currently in Summary View
View Detailed Report

About This Program

Target Population: Caregivers who are emotionally or physically aggressive or abusive with their children, children who experience behavioral dysfunction, especially aggression, or trauma-related symptoms secondary to their as exposure to physical discipline/abuse, and high conflict families who are at-risk for these problems.

For children/adolescents ages: 5 – 17

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 5 – 17

Brief Description

Alternatives for Families: A Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (originally named Abuse-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) is designed for families who are referred for problems related to the management of anger and/or aggression, which include several behaviors on a continuum reflecting the use of coercion and/or physical force. Specifically, AF-CBT seeks to improve the relationships between children and their parents/caregivers who experience any of the following clinical concerns:

  • Anger and verbal aggression, including emotional abuse
  • Ongoing family conflict
  • Child behavior problems, including physical aggression
  • Threats or use of harsh/punitive/ineffective physical discipline or punishment 
  • Child physical abuse

Any and all of these patterns may be demonstrated by an individual caregiver or a child/adolescent, but they also may characterize the interactions of the family. Accordingly, AF-CBT targets individual caregiver and child characteristics, as well as the larger family context.

AF-CBT is a treatment based on principles derived from learning and behavioral theory, family systems, cognitive therapy, developmental victimology, and the psychology of aggression.

Program Goals:

The goals of Alternatives for Families: A Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (AF-CBT) 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).
  • Improve child safety/welfare and family functioning.

Contact Information

David J. Kolko, PhD, ABPP
Agency/Affiliation: University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine
Department: Department of Psychiatry
Phone: (412) 246-5888
Fax: (412) 246-5341
Elissa J. Brown, PhD
Agency/Affiliation: St. John’s University,
Department: Dept. of Psychology
Phone: (718) 990-2355
Fax: (718) 990-1586

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: November 2017

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: October 2017

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: May 2006