Treating Adolescent Substance Abuse by Addressing Family Interactions

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Cover of Therapy Manual

Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT) is described in the latest addition to the Therapy Manuals for Drug Addiction series. The short-term intervention is used to treat adolescent drug use that occurs along with other problem behaviors. This therapy focuses on an adolescent's drug use within the context of family dynamics.

The BSFT manual introduces counselors to concepts they need to understand the family as a vital context within which adolescent drug abuse occurs. It also describes strategies for creating a therapeutic relationship with families, assessing and diagnosing maladaptive patterns of family interactions, and changing family interaction patterns from maladaptive to adaptive.

BSFT can be adapted to a range of family situations and used in a variety of service settings--such as mental health clinics, drug abuse treatment programs, and other social service settings. It also can be delivered in various ways, such as on an outpatient basis or in combination with residential or day treatment. Treatment lasts 8 to 24 sessions, depending on the severity of the problem.

In addition to targeting an adolescent's conduct problems at home and at school, BSFT addresses oppositional, aggressive, violent, or risky sexual behavior; association with antisocial peers; and delinquency. Family dynamics are a key focus of this therapy.

Over 25 years of extensive evaluation has found BSFT to be effective in treating adolescent drug abuse, conduct problems, association with antisocial peers, and impaired family functioning. It has been shown to be particularly successful with cultural groups that emphasize family and interpersonal relationships. BSFT has not been tested with adult addicts and is not considered a treatment for adult addiction.

The upcoming manual and the series of which it is a part exemplify NIDA's commitment to applying basic research findings to treatment needs. In addition to describing scientifically based therapies for addiction, the five manuals provide guidance on content for counseling sessions and effective counseling techniques. Audiences include drug abuse treatment practitioners, mental health professionals, and others involved in treating drug abuse and addiction.

Therapy Manuals Offer a Range of Treatment Strategies

The four earlier therapy manuals can be downloaded from NIDA's Web site. The Brief Strategic Family Therapy manual also will soon be available from these sources.