Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Brief Strategic Family Therapy

  • Austen R. Anderson
  • Stephen K. Denny
  • Joan A. Muir
  • José SzapocznikEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_159

Name of Model

Brief Strategic Family Therapy


The Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT) model is an evidence-based intervention used with families of adolescents who are engaging in problematic behaviors (Horigian et al. 2016). It is usually delivered weekly for 12–16 sessions, with each session lasting about 1–1¼ h. It most often occurs at the client’s home, but can also occur at other places that are convenient for the family, including schools or community clinics. The intervention is guided by a clinical manual that outlines the model’s theory and techniques (Szapocznik et al. 2003). As described below, the current BSFT intervention emerged from a rich history of treatment development that included theoretical principles, clinical experience and experimentation, empirical treatment research, and implementation science. It should be noted that in the BSFT model, “family” is defined as all individuals who “function” in the role of family members, and “parents” are...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.



This work was funded in part by grants UL1TR000460 and U10DA013720 to José Szapocznik. José Szapocznik is the developer of this method. The University and José Szapocznik have the potential for financial benefit from future commercialization of this method.


  1. Coatsworth, J. D., Santisteban, D. A., McBride, C. K., & Szapocznik, J. (2001). Brief strategic family therapy versus community control: Engagement, retention, and an exploration of the moderating role of adolescent symptom severity. Family Process, 40(3), 313–332.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1545-5300.2001.4030100313.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Haley, J. (1976). Problem-solving therapy. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  3. Horigian, V. E., Feaster, D. J., Brincks, A., Robbins, M. S., Perez, M. A., & Szapocznik, J. (2015a). The effects of Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT) on parent substance use and the association between parent and adolescent substance use. Addictive Behaviors, 42, 44–50.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2014.10.024.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Horigian, V. E., Feaster, D. J., Robbins, M. S., Brincks, A. M., Ucha, J., Rohrbaugh, M. J., … Szapocznik, J. (2015b). A cross-sectional assessment of the long term effects of brief strategic family therapy for adolescent substance use. The American Journal on Addictions, 24(7), 637–645.  https://doi.org/10.1111/ajad.12278.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Horigian, V. E., Anderson, A. R., & Szapocznik, J. (2016). Taking brief strategic family therapy from bench to trench: Evidence generation across translational phases. Family Process, 50(3), 529–442.  https://doi.org/10.1111/famp.12233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Minuchin, S. (1974). Families and family therapy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Robbins, M. S., Feaster, D. J., Horigian, V. E., Rohrbaugh, M., Shoham, V., Bachrach, K., … Szapocznik, J. (2011a). Brief strategic family therapy versus treatment as usual: Results of a multisite randomized trial for substance using adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 79(6), 713–727.  https://doi.org/10.1037/a0025477.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  8. Robbins, M. S., Feaster, D. J., Horigian, V. E., Puccinelli, M. J., Henderson, C., & Szapocznik, J. (2011b). Therapist adherence in brief strategic family therapy for adolescent drug abusers. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 79(1), 43–53.  https://doi.org/10.1037/a0022146.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  9. Santisteban, D. A., Szapocznik, J., Perez-Vidal, A., Kurtines, W. M., Murray, E. J., & LaPerriere, A. (1996). Efficacy of intervention for engaging youth and families into treatment and some variables that may contribute to differential effectiveness. Journal of Family Psychology, 10(1), 35–44.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0893-3200.10.1.35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Szapocznik, J., Scopetta, M. A., de los Angeles Aranalde, M., & Kurtines, W. M. (1978a). Cuban value structure: Treatment implications. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 46(5), 961–970.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.46.5.961.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Szapocznik, J., Scopetta, M. A., Kurtines, W., & Aranalde, M. D. (1978b). Theory and measurement of acculturation. Revista Interamericana de Psicología, 12(2), 113–130.Google Scholar
  12. Szapocznik, J., Perez-Vidal, A., Brickman, A. L., Foote, F. H., Santisteban, D., Hervis, O., & Kurtines, W. M. (1988). Engaging adolescent drug abusers and their families in treatment: A strategic structural systems approach. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 56(4), 552–557.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.56.4.552.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Szapocznik, J., Rio, A., Murray, E., Cohen, R., Scopetta, M., Rivas-Vazquez, A., … Kurtines, W. (1989). Structural family versus psychodynamic child therapy for problematic Hispanic boys. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 57(5), 571–578.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.57.5.571.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Szapocznik, J., Hervis, O., & Schwartz, S. J. (2003). Brief strategic family therapy for adolescent drug abuse (NIDA therapy manuals for drug addiction, NIH publication 03–4751). Bethesda: Department of Health and Human Services.Google Scholar
  15. Szapocznik, J., Muir, J. A., Duff, J. H., Schwartz, S. J., & Brown, C. H. (2015). Brief strategic family therapy: Implementing evidence-based models in community settings. Psychotherapy Research, 25(1), 121–133.  https://doi.org/10.1080/10503307.2013.856044.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Szapocznik, J., & Coatsworth, J. D. (1999). An ecodevelopmental framework for organizing the influences on drug abuse: A developmental model of risk and protection. In M. Glanz & C.Hartel (eds.), Drug abuse: Origins and interventions, American Psychological Association, Washington, DC, pp. 331–366.Google Scholar
  17. Santisteban, D. A., Coatsworth, J. D., Perez-Vidal, A., Kurtines,W. M., Schwartz, S. J., LaPerriere, A., et al. (2003). Efficacy of brief strategic family therapy in modifying Hispanic adolescent behavior problems and substance use. Journal of Family Psychology,17,121–133.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Austen R. Anderson
    • 1
  • Stephen K. Denny
    • 1
  • Joan A. Muir
    • 2
  • José Szapocznik
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.University of MiamiMiamiUSA
  2. 2.Brief Strategic Family Therapy Institute® (BSFT®), University of Miami Miller School of MedicineMiamiUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Corinne Datchi
    • 1
  • Ryan M. Earl
    • 2
  1. 1.Seton Hall UniversitySouth OrangeUSA
  2. 2.The Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA