Introduction to Functional Analytic Psychotherapy

Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP) is a contextual, behaviorally oriented approach to psychotherapy that focuses on the therapeutic relationship as a means to create meaningful and lasting change. Developed by Robert J. Kohlenberg and Mavis Tsai, FAP emphasizes the role of genuine and intense emotional experiences within the therapy session as a catalyst for personal growth and change.

Core Principles of Functional Analytic Psychotherapy

FAP is grounded on five core principles that guide the therapeutic process:


Fostering an acute awareness of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors within the therapy session.


Encouraging clients to express and share inner feelings and vulnerabilities bravely.

Therapeutic Love

Creating a warm, compassionate, and accepting therapeutic relationship.

Behavior Change

Utilizing the therapeutic relationship as a context for clients to practice new behaviors.


Ensuring that changes made within the therapy session transfer to the client’s daily life.

The Process of Functional Analytic Psychotherapy

Establishing the Relationship

The therapeutic relationship in FAP is foundational. Therapists are not just observers but active participants, engaging in a genuine, emotionally connected relationship with the client.

Identifying Clinically Relevant Behaviors (CRBs)

CRBs are behaviors that occur within the therapy session that are direct reflections of the client’s outside problems or successes. FAP focuses on identifying and understanding these behaviors as they happen.

Evoking and Reinforcing Change

Therapists use the therapy session as a real-time environment to evoke change by reinforcing positive behaviors and providing genuine responses to negative behaviors.

Techniques Used in Functional Analytic Psychotherapy

FAP uses various techniques rooted in behavioral theory, including:

Contingency Management

Altering the consequences of behaviors to increase desirable behaviors and decrease harmful ones.


Demonstrating healthy communication and emotional expression within the session.

Socratic Questioning

Guiding clients to discover insights and understandings through targeted questions.

Benefits of Functional Analytic Psychotherapy

FAP has been shown to be effective in treating a variety of psychological disorders and issues, including:

Emotional Dysregulation

Helping clients understand and manage their emotions more effectively.

Interpersonal Difficulties

Improving relationships through genuine and empathetic connection.

Chronic Mental Health Issues

Providing new avenues for clients who have struggled to make progress in other forms of therapy.


Functional Analytic Psychotherapy offers a unique and impactful approach to psychotherapy by focusing on the therapeutic relationship as the primary mechanism of change. By emphasizing authenticity, emotional expression, and real-time feedback, FAP helps clients transform their lives within and beyond the therapy session.

To explore other therapeutic approaches and understand how they might complement your journey, visit our resources on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Narrative Therapy, Integrative Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, and Humanistic Therapy.