BSFT® Program News : 2016 : January

Brief Strategic Family Therapy Institute Welcomes Switchboard of Miami

The wooded surroundings create a serene and peaceful atmosphere for youth and their families visiting Family Counseling Services, a division of Switchboard of Miami. The grounds surrounding the clinic transition youth and families from their home environment of unrest and uncertainty to an ambiance of ease and tranquility. Before ever a word is spoken, Family Counseling’s geographic location has already set the stage for emotional healing, treatment, and recovery.

Family Counseling Services began in 1917 when Mrs. Mamie Torell founded the Travelers’ Aid Society which provided residential care and support for young, single, pregnant women. In 1936, the Traveler’s Aid Society in conjunction with the United Way developed a youth and family service program with the goal to meet the mental health and emotional wellness needs of the residents of Miami Dade County. In 1936, The Travelers’ Aid Society Services started the first family-based program for African-American children in Miami. In the 1960’s, the agency placed over 470 unaccompanied refugee children fleeing Cuba and in the mid 1980’s, the name was changed to Family Counseling Services.
Family Counseling Services’ partnership with the University of Miami’s Brief Strategic Family Therapy Institute began in 2006 with a training program funded by the Eckerd Family Foundation. Family Counseling Services participated in the training program along with four other treatment providers in Miami. Under the supervision of BSFT Supervisor, Maria Tapia, four therapists and their clinical supervisor, Heather Winters were trained in the BSFT model. In February, 2012, Heather Winters became CEO of Family Counseling Services.
Family Counseling Services has an extensive history in the southern part of Miami-Dade community, serving Perrine, Richmond Heights and Homestead/Florida City. Family Counseling Services is the longest serving agency in Miami-Dade County dedicated to promoting mental health and providing mental health services. Family Counseling Services has served thousands of youth during the past decade, providing psychotherapy, case management, youth development and prevention services. Today, Family Counseling Services serves more than 46,000 children and families each year.
In July, 2014, Family Counseling Services merged with Switchboard of Miami. With an extensive history of mental health services, Family Counseling Services became a major partner with Switchboard of Miami. Family Counseling Services now operates as a division of Switchboard of Miami and will provide clinical services with special emphasis on mental health, trauma, and emotional wellness. Switchboard of Miami Inc. is a private, 501© (3) nonprofit organization that has collectively served more than 6,000 individuals in 2014 to 2015 and answered over 140,000 information and referral requests and suicide prevention/crisis intervention calls. Switchboard of Miami provides suicide prevention, counseling, child developmental screenings, youth substance abuse, youth pregnancy, STD, and HIV prevention programs with a focus on evidence-based programs for adolescents.
As a result of the merger with Switchboard of Miami, Family Counseling Services is now integrated into Switchboard of Miami’s helplines system. This 24/7 fully staffed operation provides a wide range of crisis prevention services, including suicide prevention services and veteran services. Switchboard offers a toll free line that operates on several platforms for clients to access the (2-1-1) and suicide intervention systems. These platforms include phone calls, online chats, texting capability and email as well as monitoring social media for potential crisis posts. Switchboard also serves as a referral source for Family Counseling Services whose target population is at-risk youth.
Switchboard of Miami applied to the Office of Minority Health for a research grant to work with male, high risk youth. The BSFT model was selected for this youth empowerment program. This selection by Family Counseling Services was driven by a familiarity with BSFT implementation.
Project EMERGE (Empowered Males Each Reaching Goals Effectively) was successfully funded and began in December, 2014. Under the supervision of BSFT Model Manager, Elizabeth Guinea, three BSFT therapists have already made a long lasting impact on the lives of the families served. Youth are referred to Project EMERGE from a variety of sources such as schools and the Probation and Community Intervention Division as well as the Department of Juvenile Justice of Miami Dade County. “The results are clearly seen in the rapid development of positive outcomes” Winters states. With the BSFT program completing the first year, successful outcomes are being seen.
The vision of Switchboard of Miami is to expand the scope of the Family Counseling Services Division. “Through the Emerge program, we have a target population that we are working with to serve 50 – 75 male youth”, says Winters.
Family Counseling Services, Switchboard of Miami continues to expand by opening its doors to youth and families regardless of cultural differences, ethnic diversity and financial status. A good majority of the population served are at or below the poverty level. A number of the families are uninsured. Although national healthcare reforms have decreased the uninsured, families that have yet to qualify for healthcare assistance or who are currently uninsured are not denied treatment. “Clients are not turned away based upon their inability to pay.” says Winters. Because of Family Counseling’s dedicated commitment to provide treatment for families, Switchboard of Miami actively pursues other sources of funding such as grants and awards from private foundations which enables the entire organization to provide services to youth and their families. Grants from the Victims of Crimes Act and the United Way provide services to victims of sexual violence. With the help of social media and community exposure, Family Counseling also relies heavily on donations and various fundraising opportunities.
There are three areas of focus in the Family Counseling Services Division:
• Infant Early Childhood Services
• Counseling and Support Department
• Trauma Prevention/Intervention Services
The Division of Family Counseling Services’ vision is to:
1. Develop a Family Based Intervention Program partnering with Department of Juvenile Justice
2. Implement a fully operational BSFT program throughout the clinical division
3. Train more clinical staff in the BSFT model.
The Brief Strategic Family Therapy Institute is proud to partner with Switchboard of Miami