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Teaching Family Model

Program Description

The Teaching-Family Model (TFM) is a comprehensive, mental health treatment model that targets children and youths (ages 6–17) and is conducted in family-style, group care settings. TFM is based in a cognitive–behavioral approach, which is derived from behavioral principles and learning theory. TFM is designed to reduce problem behaviors and increase prosocial behaviors among youths. TFM aims to help youths internalize socially appropriate strategies and attitudes to enhance functioning and development. Overall goals of the program include reduced problem behaviors, increased prosocial behaviors, increased social skills, accomplishment of age-appropriate tasks, and relationship development.

The TFM is designed to provide a family-like environment in which six to eight children are placed in a home with a married couple (“family teachers”), who also have the help of one or two assistants (“assistant family teachers”). The TFM uses four primary treatment strategies aimed at improving the mental health outcomes of the youths: 1) positively focused, structured motivational systems/token economies; 2) youth self-government/self-determination; 3) skill-teaching interactions for children by family teachers; and 4) development of mutually rewarding relationships between youths and the family teachers in a family-like setting. The highly trained and supervised family teachers help youths learn living skills and positive interpersonal interaction skills. These family teachers are also involved with the children’s parents, teachers, and other support networks to help maintain progress. All children receive the TFM treatment components in an individualized way to meet the needs speci?ed in their individual care plans. Children remain in the program for varying lengths of time; program completion is achieved when the child either meets speci?ed treatment objectives and returns home, or graduates from high school.

TFM has most commonly been used in residential group homes; however, it has also been expanded to treatment settings that include foster care facilities, in-home treatment, schools, and hospitals. The model has been adapted to meet the needs of children as young as 6 years old, and with a range of diagnoses and symptoms (including internalizing and externalizing disorders, as well as developmental and intellectual disabilities) and for youths who have experienced significant trauma or maltreatment.

Program Snapshot
Evidence Ratings
Non-Specific Mental Health Disorders and Symptoms
Program Contact
Peggy McElgunn
Executive Director
Teaching-Family Association
P.O. Box 2007
Midlothian, VA 23113


Dissemination/Implementation Contact
Peggy McElgunn
Executive Director
Teaching-Family Association
P.O. Box 2007
Midlothian, VA 23113


Program Type
Mental health treatment


6-12 (Childhood)
13-17 (Adolescent)
18-25 (Young adult)

Geographic Locations
Information not provided

Residential Facility

American Indian or Alaska Native
Black or African American
Hispanic or Latino

Implementation materials available
Dissemination materials available