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Brief Strategic Family Therapy

Created by the Center of Family Studies in 1975, a part of the University of Miami School’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, the Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT) program focuses on treating troubled adolescents aged 8 to 17 for a variety of behavioral problems such as substance abuse. This form of therapy is based on the idea that adaptive and consistent exchanges within the family can prevent children from falling prey to negative and harmful influences. It is believed that oppugning and detrimental family interactions can contribute to the development of harmful behavioral issues and, therefore, are typically the target of this type of therapy.

The primary goal of BSFT is to correct and improve the family dynamics that may be at the root cause of the child’s troubling behavior. This, in turn, can lessen the child’s risk factors for substance abuse and other negative behavioral issues while strengthening family bonds. The therapy is tailored to address troublesome interactions and conduct that are specific to the affected family. The therapist working the case will use several techniques to change these behaviors and patterns as they present themselves during each session including:

  • Entering the family home and observing the family system
  • Identifying detrimental family exchanges as well as the family’s strong points
  • Restructuring family interactions so they are beneficial and call on the family’s strengths

This therapy has been used with success on a number of family types including urban and minority families. Therapists are trained to work within the family’s cultural norms, which can promote program adherence and lead to favorable outcomes.

Brief Strategic Family Therapy is a short-term therapy that focuses on correcting specific problems and can be conducted in clinical settings or the home and/or community where the family lives. Sessions typically last between 60 to 90 minutes and the average course of treatment requires 12 to 15 sessions. Severe cases, such as those involving drug abuse, may require longer or more treatment sessions.

This therapy has been the focus of several rigorous studies and found to be an effective way to improve adolescent conduct, reduce youth recidivism rates, and strengthen family relationships.