What Is Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP)?

FAP is a framework designed to help clinicians who use evidence-based treatments improve the overall achievement of client’s goals by focusing on improving interpersonal relationships and emphasizes the importance of the client-therapist relationship as a way to practice improved awareness, courage and the expression of love and compassion for self, others and the world itself. FAP takes into account the wide variety of client needs by embracing a broad range of therapeutic interventions that each embody the FAP heartbeat: connection, acceptance and love.

FAP therapists pay special attention to identifying clinical relevant behaviors — behaviors that take place in sessions and represent the client’s real-life problem behaviors (or CRB1’s) and the client’s real-life desired behaviors (or CRB2’s).  Inn other words, in FAP we focus in session on identifying the behaviors that move clients away from their goals and behaviors that move clients towards their goals.

FAP incorporates clinicians, trainers and researchers, all aiming to work together to identify and attend specifically to the clinically relevant behaviors (CRB’s) of both the therapist and the client, for the purpose of illuminating the micro-behaviors not typically noticed and that either foster deeper connections or tend to create more disconnection, thus teaching both therapist and client ways to become more genuine, more open and vulnerable and ultimately, more comfortable with the experience of making human connections and strengthening the existing bonds within our interpersonal relationships.

FAP is grounded in both contextual and behavioral sciences. A behavior is considered as ‘clinically relevant’ when it serves the same function both in and out of session even when the way the behavior appears in session doesn’t look the same as it would out of the session and in the client’s real life.

FAP is considered a Third Wave Behavior therapy model, along with Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Behavioral Activation and Integrative Behavioral Couples Therapy. FAP was first conceptualized in the 1980s by psychologists Robert Kohlenberg and Mavis Tsai, and undergone an extensive amount of scientific study. The goal of FAP is to use the relationship with the therapist and teach the client how to create a meaningful connection with others. Understanding one’s self is essential in building valued relationships with others; therefore, by creating a safe environment for the client, FAP aims to teach the client how to take healthy goal-oriented risks with the therapist aimed at increasing the skill of “being aware of self” which in turn, helps the client develop a sense of self, an extremely difficult concept for many people who have lived a life of extremely intense and unpredictable emotions and subsequent behaviors.

When FAP is woven into DBT and other evidence-based treatments, the client’s sense of inner control improves and gives rise to the sense of security within the often confusing and chaotic terrain of relationships.  The five main focal points or targets in FAP are: 1-Improving awareness of self and others. 2-Courageously making steps towards behaviors that are challenging yet goal oriented. 3-Responding naturally or reinforcing behaviors from others that tend to foster connection and responding honestly to behaviors that don’t. This is also called love since because reinforcing people when they move toward their goals (and being reinforced by the fact that they’re doing this) is part of what love is. 4-The therapist notices his or her own impact on the client and works to improve those behaviors that foster the client’s ability to reach goals. 5-Functional Analysis:  The therapist works with the client to generalize in-session behavioral improvements to the client’s out-of-session relationships.