About BSFT

Request Info
View from above of diverse group of hands united View from above of diverse group of hands united
The BSFT® Program helps troubled youth and their families grow through strengthening relationships, building connections, and creating long-lasting change.

The Brief Strategic Family Therapy® Institute The Premier Center for Development and Testing of Minority Family Therapy Interventions

The BSFT® Program was developed by a team of researchers led by José Szapocznik, Ph.D. and Olga Hervis, M.S.W. at the Center for Family Studies, University of Miami. The Center for Family Studies is the nation’s oldest and most prominent center for development and testing of minority family therapy interventions for prevention and treatment of adolescent substance abuse and related behavior problems.

Dr. Szapocznik is an internationally known expert on families and family-based interventions. A professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Psychology, and Educational Research and Counseling Psychology, he is also director of the Spanish Family Guidance Center and the Center for Family Studies, all at the University of Miami. Dr. Szapocznik received the 2000 Presidential Award for “Contributions to the Development of Family-Based Interventions” from the Society for Prevention Research, and, in 1999, received the first ever Research Award from the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention.

The Brief Strategic Family Therapy® Institute Model Managers offer an unparalleled depth and range of experiences with regard to their higher education, certification, licensure, professional experience, publications, funded research performed, honors and awards, editorial responsibilities, professional and honorary organizations, professional associations, teaching, invited and key note presentations, and community services. Our model managers have implemented programs all over the world including but not limited to the United States, Sweden, and Chile.

Family together smiling

Brief Strategic Family Therapy® (BSFT®) is designed to:

  • Prevent, reduce, and/or treat youth behavior problems.
  • Improve family functioning, including effective parental leadership and involvement with the youth. (Improve youth’s behavior by improving family relationships.)

The BSFT® Program targets children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 17 who are displaying or are at risk for developing behavior problems, including substance abuse, conduct problems and delinquency. The BSFT® Program has been implemented as a prevention, early intervention and intervention strategy for delinquent and substance-abusing adolescents.

The BSFT® Program is typically delivered in 16 family sessions, depending on the severity of the communication and management problems within the family. Sessions are conducted at locations that are convenient to the family, including the family’s home in some cases. The BSFT® Program has been implemented with Hispanic, African-American and white families.

The BSFT® Program considers adolescent symptomatology to be rooted in maladaptive family interactions, inappropriate family alliances, overly rigid or permeable family boundaries, and parents’ tendency to believe that a single individual (usually the adolescent) is responsible for the family’s troubles. The BSFT® Program operates according to the assumption that transforming how the family functions will help improve the youth’s presenting problem. The focus of the work is on how interactions occur. The emphasis is on identifying the nature of the interactions in the family and changing those interactions that are maladaptive.

Engagement begins from the first contact with the family. The BSFT® Program has developed specialized procedures to successfully engage families into treatment. There are three intervention components in the BSFT® Program: joining, diagnosing, and restructuring. Joining occurs at two levels. At the individual level, the therapist establishes a relationship with each family member. At the family level, the therapist joins with the family system to create a new therapeutic system.

In the BSFT® Program, diagnosis refers to observing how family members behave with one another, in order to identify interactional patterns that allow or encourage problematic youth behavior.

The ultimate goal of the BSFT® Program is to change family interactions that maintain the problems to more effective and adaptive ones. The BSFT® Program accomplishes this restructuring task working in the present, using reframes, assigning tasks and coaching family members to try new ways of relating to one another.

The BSFT® therapist receives ongoing supervision and accountability to the fidelity of the model. All therapy sessions are video recorded for the purpose of providing the best possible supervision and consultation to meet the specific and individual needs of each family being served.

The BSFT® Program’s unique video feedback allows the trainer and the therapist to observe and communicate during case supervision and consultation, while reviewing actual video recordings of the therapist’s work with individual families. The BSFT® Program helps families grow through strengthening relationships, building connections and creating long-lasting change.

Please contact the Brief Strategic Family Therapy® Institute at 305-243-7585 to learn more about supervision to competency, consultations, assessments, outcome evaluations, booster workshops and site licensing.

The BSFT® Program is a cost-effective, evidence-based, family-focused intervention which improves family interaction, treats conduct problems and reduces delinquency and drug use.


Positive young teenage girl outside in park holding mobile phone

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

The 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 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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

The BSFT® Program addresses critical needs of our society and provides a positive return on investment.


Portrait of José Szapocznik

José Szapocznik, Ph.D.

BSFT® Program Director and Developer
Chair, Department of Public Health Sciences


José Szapocznik, Ph.D. has received over $100 million in NIH funding, and is among the best 100 NIH- funded investigators in the world. With over 250 scholarly publications, he is PI and Director of the Miami Clinical Translational Science Institute, Chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences and Director of the Center for Family Studies. He pioneered the national effort to prevent and treat adolescent drug abuse and related behavior problems in Hispanic youth developing and testing family-based, evidence- based approaches. Szapocznik has a profound interest in the role of context in development, behavior and health outcomes, dedicating his career to studying culture, family, neighborhood and the built environments as important contexts influencing minority populations.

Portrait of Joan Muir

Joan Muir, Ph.D.

BSFT® Executive Director


Dr. Joan Muir is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. She received her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from Fordham University, completed her pre- doctoral fellowship at Yale University School of Medicine and post-doctoral fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychology at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. Dr. Muir began her career at the University of Miami School of Medicine developing new psychotherapies for drug using youth. For the last sixteen years, she has been the Executive Director of the Brief Strategic Family Therapy® (BSFT®) Institute. The BSFT model is an Evidence Based Model for families of drug using, delinquent youth. Dr. Muir developed the implementation model to disseminate the BSFT model in community agencies. Under her leadership, BSFT programs have expanded to major cities in the USA and abroad as well as in many suburban and rural counties.

Portrait of Ann Sofie Larsson

Ann Sofie Larsson, M.S.W.

BSFT® Senior Model Consultant, Business Development


Ann Sofie Larsson joined the BSFT® Institute as a Senior International Consultant in April 2023. Her primary role is to market the BSFT® model to all Swedish municipalities and encourage applications for BSFT® implementation funds. Ms. Larsson has a diverse background in working with children, youth, and their families. Throughout her career, she has worked closely with law enforcement agencies, particularly in addressing issues involving young offenders. Ms. Larsson has also been responsible for overseeing juvenile sanctions in Stockholm, to ensure appropriate interventions and support for young individuals within the justice system. In addition, she has been responsible for implementing programs aimed at helping crime victims and vulnerable youth, including the mediation program. Ann Sofie Larsson's commitment to improving services and outcomes in the critical field of addiction care for young individuals and their families is evident through her impactful work in method development at Sweden's largest addiction treatment center. Her extensive experience as a BSFT® Therapist, BSFT® On-Site Supervisor, BSFT® Model Manager and director of several successful BSFT® programs makes her uniquely qualified for her new position at the BSFT® Institute.

Portrait of Luciana Wimbish

Luciana Wimbish, M.S., L.M.H.C.

BSFT® Model Manager


Luciana Wimbish is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor practiced in counseling, prevention, and use of evidence-based interventions, with extensive work experience with Community Mental Health Systems. Luciana completed a Master of Science degree in Mental Health Counseling. Since moving to the United States from her native Argentina, Luciana has always been passionate about working in the field of psychology and counseling, which lead her to hold roles in crisis intervention and forensic settings. Before joining the Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT®) Institute, Luciana has overseen several federal and state-funded projects that included the implementation of different evidence-based interventions in the community to strengthen protective and positive health behaviors with at-risk youth and families at one of the oldest social services organizations in Miami. Luciana became a Brief Strategic Family therapist in 2014, and that same year she was selected to lead her team as the BSFT® On-Site Supervisor. In 2017, Luciana became a Model Manager at the BSFT® Institute, University Miami. Today, Luciana is a Social Services Director at the BSFT® Institute and manages a portfolio of local and international programs implementing the BSFT® Model. Luciana leads teams in New York City funded by the Administration for Children Services, and in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2022, she helped start, and is now leading, the BSFT® implementation of a project in Puerto Rico. Luciana is fluent in oral and written Spanish.

Portrait of Shanika Hart

Shanika Hart, MSW, L.C.S.W.

BSFT® Model Manager


Shanika Hart is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is a graduate of Stony Brook University where she obtained both her Bachelors degree (in Psychology) and Masters degree (in Social Welfare). Shanika began her career in 2021 as a BSFT Model Manager for the Brief Strategic Family Therapy® Institute. In this role, Shanika is responsible for the clinical implementation and organization restructuring for several BSFT® programs based in New York City and one in Florida. The connection to the BSFT® model began long before 2021 for this New York native. In 2017, Shanika Hart was hired as a BSFT® therapist for one of New York City’s largest social welfare agencies. She demonstrated high fidelity to the model and was promoted to BSFT® On-Site Supervisor at the end of her first year of practice. During this time, Shanika garnered significant experience working with families within the child welfare system – supporting families to remain together and to prevent out of home placement of children. The strengthening of the family unit, especially those at higher risk for separation due to factors like racism and systemic injustice continues to be a passion for Shanika. When not working to keep families together, Shanika can be found enjoying the many sights and sounds of New York with her own family. Shanika also enjoys traveling and cooking in her spare time.

Portrait of Jennifer Stafford

Jennifer Stafford, M.A., Ed.M.

BSFT® Model Manager Consultant


Jennifer is a licensed psychotherapist, certified heart-centered hypnotherapist and crisis consultant practicing privately in New York City and Los Angeles. Practical, passionate and genuine, Jennifer’s dedication to her own self-discovery is an endless excursion that consistently keeps her on her toes. She has a breadth of unique experience working on improving mental health services provided to businesses, families, couples and individuals. Jennifer has contributed to the management of critical incidents in sports and entertainment, the implementation of mental health clinics in schools, the roll out of evidenced based programs to underserved communities and supervised the clinical development of culturally mindful mental health clinicians in both English and Spanish. Hailing from a multicultural, multiracial, multi-whatever else you could think of that elicits the inquiry, “how are all of these people part of the same family?” Jennifer’s understanding of the intersectionality of culture and helping human beings is inherent to her personality and evident in her clinical work. Her diverse background has been a significant component to her existence and has carried itself into her professional pursuits. Jennifer completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at San Diego State University as a Gates Millennium Scholar and her M.A./Ed.M. in Psychological Counseling at Columbia University. She has worked with the Brief Strategic Family Therapy Institute® as a consultant since 2017.

Portrait of Catherine Fornarola

Catherine Fornarola, M.S.W., L.C.S.W.

BSFT® Model Manager Consultant


Catherine Fornarola is a clinical social worker in private practice in Rochester, NY. Catherine received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts and her M.S.W. degree from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College in New York City. Her journey with the Brief Strategic Family Therapy® program began in 2015 with a child welfare agency providing in-home therapy to families in Manhattan. She transitioned from therapist to supervisor of the program in 2017 and led the program through 2019. After getting married in 2019, Catherine changed her life up by moving to Vermont to continue her clinical career in a group private practice providing counseling to families and individuals. After successfully receiving her LCSW in November 2020, Catherine began private practice, this time in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State to be closer to family. She is both licensed in New York and Vermont providing remote and in-person therapy. She began clinical consulting for BSFT® because of a love and respect for the model. Catherine has seen so much positive change for families through its implementation and is excited to support the team in this new role.

Portrait of Michael E. King

Michael E. King, M.S.I.T.

BSFT® Database Development Consultant


Mr. Michael King is the BSFT® Institute’s longest serving consultant. Mr. King, a retired US Army service member, was a Counterintelligence Agent and an Administrative Senior Non-Commissioned Officer for his unit after 25 years of service. In 2013, Mr. King started working in Business Development for the BSFT® Institute. As the need arose, using his master’s degree in information technology, he designed, tested and manages an interactive BSFT® spreadsheet as a tool for data collection. Mr. King interacts with all BSFT® programs worldwide: Collecting data, supervising cleaning of the data and generating monthly and annual reports on the effectiveness of the BSFT® intervention at all BSFT® programs.