About Us : What We Do

What We Do

“The BSFT® Program addresses critical needs of our society and provides a positive return on investment”. – José Szapocznik, Ph.D., BSFT® Program Developer and Director, Center for Family Studies.

Brief Strategic Family Therapy® (BSFT®) is an effective, problem focused, and practical approach to the elimination of substance abuse risk factors. It successfully reduces problem behaviors in children and adolescents 6 to 17 years old and strengthens their families. The BSFT® Program provides families with tools to decrease individual and family risk factors through focused interventions that improve problematic family relations and skill-building strategies that strengthen families. It targets:

  • Conduct problems
  • Associations with antisocial peers
  • Early substance use
  • Problematic family relations

The program fosters parental leadership, appropriate parental involvement, mutual support among parenting figures, family communication, problem solving, clear rules and consequences, nurturing, and shared responsibility for family problems. In addition, the program provides specialized outreach strategies to bring families into therapy.

Target Population:Father and Son

Father and SonThe BSFT® Program helps children and adolescents 6 to 17 years old who exhibit rebelliousness, truancy, delinquency, early substance use, and association with problem peers. The BSFT® Program also benefits families that are affected by poor behavior management, parental discord, anger, blaming interactions, and other problematic relations. This program was tested and proven in Hispanic families and adapted and tested with African-American and white families.


  • Reduces youth behavior problems, substance use, and association with antisocial peers
  • Successfully engages and retains youth and families in treatment
  • Increases parental involvement and develops more positive and effective parenting
  • Makes parental management of children’s behavior more effective
  • Improves family cohesiveness and collaboration
  • Improves family communication, conflict resolution, and problem-solving skills

How It Works

The BSFT® Program can be implemented in a variety of settings, including community social services agencies, mental health clinics, health agencies, and family clinics. The BSFT® Program is delivered in 12 to 16 weekly sessions. The family and the BSFT® Program therapist meet either in the program office or the family’s home. There are four important BSFT® Program steps:

  1. Step 1: Development of a therapeutic alliance with each family member and with the family as a whole is essential for the BSFT® Program. This requires therapists to accept and demonstrate respect for each individual family member and the family as a whole.
  2. Step 2: Diagnose family strengths and problem relations. Emphasis is on family relations that are supportive and problem relations that affect youths’ behaviors or interfere with parental figures’ ability to correct those behaviors.
  3. Step 3: Develop a change strategy to capitalize on strengths and correct problematic family relations, thereby increasing family competence. In the BSFT® Program, the therapist is plan and problem-focused, direction-oriented (i.e., moving from problematic to competent interactions), and practical.
  4. Step 4: Implement change strategies and reinforce family behaviors that sustain new levels of family competence. Important change strategies include reframing to change the meaning of interactions; changing alliances and shifting interpersonal boundaries; building conflict resolution skills; and providing parenting guidance and coaching.

Implementation Essentials

  • Trained therapists who can implement the program as tested are required for successful replication. The ideal therapist has a master’s degree in social work, marriage and family therapy, psychology, or a related field. One full-time therapist can provide the BSFT® Program to 15 to 20 families for in-office sessions and 10 to 12 families for in-home sessions. The typical youth and his/her family are treated to completion in four months.
  • Administrative Support is key to successful BSFT® Program replication. The BSFT® Program requires an agency that is open at times that are convenient for participating families, provides transportation and, if needed, provides childcare when sessions are conducted in the office.
  • Training and Technical Assistance is available through the Brief Strategic Family Therapy® Institute. The Institute provides a broad range of training programs in Miami or will train onsite at agencies around the country and world. Training is tailored to agency needs and populations and offered in English and Spanish.