Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT) is a short-term, structured, and practical approach to intervention and treatment.  This approach is used with families who have an adolescent in the home and who might be engaging in problematic behaviors such as substance abuse.

BSFT can reduce behavioral problems while providing the resources to overcome individual and family problems.  It can help to reduce risk against adolescent drug use through focused interventions, skill building, and operates on the premise that families are a strong force in the development of an adolescent.  This “force” is just hidden by the problems experienced by the adolescent.

Treatment using this approach is built into the family life and can be implemented into the family’s own environment through therapy sessions that can be conducted at home.  The “brief” of this model is generally between 8 and 24 sessions, and has been found to be effective for treating adolescent substance abuse.  During the sessions, families are taught how to change their family functioning and how to interact with each other.  BSFT is integrative and uses structure and strategy to address relationships and how each family member interacts.   The overall focus of therapy is planned and practical and identifies the changes needed to better understand the adolescent’s problems.

BSFT is also used in residential treatment centers and substance abuse treatment programs and is appropriate for either inpatient of outpatient care.  The goals of BSFT include reducing problem behavior such as substance abuse and to change the family’s pattern of interacting.  These interactions might be reinforcing the negative behaviors.  Other goals include learning effective communication skills and coaching the family in learning new ways to interact.

BSFT also provides “maps” which outline how the family interacts and focuses on problems that might influence structural problems.  The adolescent is a part of this structure and family members can articulate how they perceive the problem with the adolescent during sessions.  There is also an opportunity to pragmatically address emotions in the family and how to change emotional and behavioral patterns whereby connecting family members in a positive way.

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