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Brief Strategic Family Therapy

NCJ Number
Date Published
Robbins, M. S., Szapocznik, J.
This Bulletin features a family strengthening strategy--brief strategic family therapy (BSFT)--that integrates theory with decades of research and practice at the University of Miami in an intensive, short-term, problem-focused intervention, generally lasting 3 months; it also describes the therapy's implementation by the Spanish Family Guidance Center, which serves Miami's Hispanic community.
The goal of BSFT is to improve youth behavior by improving family relationships that are presumed to be directly related to youth behavior problems, as well as to improve relationships between the family and other important systems that influence the youth. BSFT assumes that each family has its own unique characteristics and properties that emerge and are apparent only when family members interact. This family "system" influences all members of the family. Thus, the family must be viewed as a whole organism rather than merely as the composite sum of the individuals or groups that compose it. BFST uses a strategic approach that includes pragmatic, problem-focused, and planned interventions. There are three intervention components: joining, diagnosis, and restructuring. "Joining" involves the use of techniques designed to address family resistance and engage families in treatment. Diagnosis involves identifying interactional patterns (structure) that allow or encourage problematic youth behavior. Restructuring involves the development of specific plans for changing the family interactions and individual and social factors that are directly related to the child's problem behavior. BSFT therapists use a range of techniques that fall within three broad categories: working in the present, reframing, and working with boundaries and alliances. The implementation of BSFT in the Spanish Family Guidance Center illustrates the development of a culturally specific family approach. 25 references
Date Created: August 11, 2014