Strategic Family Therapy comes from the work of Milton Erickson, reknown for his hypnotist work.
Jay Haley, one of the founders of the Mental Research Institute and a pioneer in family therapy, continued Erickson’s work and calls it Strategic because,
“ It is a therapy where the therapist initiates what happens during the therapy, designs a specific approach for each person’s presenting problem, and where the therapist takes direct responsibility for directly influencing people.”
1.) Context: the adolescent lives within a family and neighborhood, has peers and cultures which derive the rules, values and behaviors of the adolescent – counseling as context (set of rules, expectations and experiences).
2.) Systems: Made up of parts that are interdependent and interrelated. Families are systems made up of individuals (parts) who are responsive (interrelated) to each other’s behaviors. Families are to be viewed as a whole organism. Each family member becomes accustomed to act, react, and respond in a specific manner within the family.
3.) Structure: Family interactions are through actions or conversations. Families interactions become habitual and repetitive and are called "patterns of interaction". It’s as if a script is being followed during interactions
4.) Strategy: Interventions are strategic in that they are practical, problem-focused and planned. Practical: BSFT uses whatever technique, approach or strategy that will help change the maladaptive interactions that contribute to or maintain the family’s presenting problem. These may be borrowed from other treatment modalities.
5.) Problem-focused: Counselor makes a choice about which problems to zero in on even if there are other problems that are noticed. If they do not relate to the family dynamics that directly influence the adolescent’s problem behaviors, they do not become a priority.
Content of therapy refers to what family members talk about, including their explanations for family problems, beliefs about how problems should be managed, perspectives about who or what causes the problems, and other topics.
Process of therapy refers to how family members interact, including the degree to which family members listen to, support, interrupt, undermine, and express emotion to one another, as well as ways of interacting. Identified by the behaviors that are involved in a family interaction,. Nonverbal behavior included here. (Content gets the counselor off track.)
THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN CONTENT AND PROCESS IS ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL TO BSFT. TO BE ABLE TO IDENTIFY REPETITIVE PATTERNS OF INTERACTION, IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT THE BSFT COUNSELOR FOCUS ON THE PROCESS RATHER THAN THE CONTENT OF THERAPY.
BSFT diagnoses by identifying the current family process – focusing on the nature and characteristics of the interactions that occur in the family and either help or hinder the family’s attempts to get rid of the adolescent’s problem behaviors.
“ In this therapy, the therapist takes responsibility for the outcome of the therapy. This has nothing to do with good or bad, guilt or innocence, right or wrong. It is the simple acknowledgement that you make a difference.” – Eileen Bobrow, MA, MFT, Senior Research Fellow at MRI