CTN-0014: Brief Strategic Family Therapy for Adolescent Drug Abusers

José Szapocznik, PhD
Lead Investigator
Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Center for Family Studies
University of Miami

Adolescent drug abuse continues to be one of the most pressing public health issues in the United States –- our nation’s teenagers continue to use illicit drugs at a worrisome rate.  Broad reviews of the treatment outcome literature indicate that family interventions in general and BSFT in particular, are effective with drug-using youth.  This study was designed to compare BSFT to treatment as usual (TAU).  The researchers believe that BSFT will be much more effective than TAU in reducing adolescent drug use.  They are also examining which of these treatment approaches does a better job of engaging adolescents and family members in treatment, decreasing problem behaviors, decreasing sexually risky behaviors, increasing pro-social activities (e.g., school, work), and improving the functioning of the family.

Primary Findings

No overall differences between conditions were observed in the trajectories of self-reports of adolescent drug use. However, the median number of days of self-reported drug use was significantly higher in TAU than in BSFT at the final observation point. BSFT was significantly more effective than TAU in engaging and retaining family members in treatment and in improving parent reports of family functioning. The findings provide support for the impact of the BSFT intervention on engagement, retention, and parent-reported family functioning with adolescents from diverse racial/ethnic groups. However, the weak effects on drug use outcomes, combined with the difficulties in establishing optimal implementation of the BSFT model, raise concerns about how to most successfully transport the BSFT model into community settings.

Primary Outcomes Article: Robbins MS et al. Brief Strategic Family Therapy versus Treatment as Usual: Results of a Multisite Randomized Trial for Substance Using Adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 2011;79(6):713-727. [get article]

    Node Involvement

    Lead Node(s):

  • Florida Node Alliance

  • All Participating Nodes:

  • Florida Node Alliance
  • North Carolina Node
  • Ohio Valley Node
  • Pacific Region Node
  • Rocky Mountain Regional Node
  • Western States Node