A cross-sectional assessment of the long term effects of brief strategic family therapy for adolescent substance use

Viviana E. Horigian, Daniel J. Feaster, Michael S. Robbins, Ahnalee M. Brincks, Jessica Ucha, Michael J. Rohrbaugh, Varda Shoham, Ken Bachrach, Michael Miller, A. Kathleen Burlew, Candace C. Hodgkins, Ibis S. Carrion, Meredith Silverstein, Robert Werstlein, José Szapocznik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background Young adult drug use and law-breaking behaviors often have roots in adolescence. These behaviors are predicted by early drug use, parental substance use disorders, and disrupted and conflict-ridden family environments. Aim To examine long-term outcomes of Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT) compared to treatment as usual (TAU) in the rates of drug use, number of arrests and externalizing behaviors in young adults who were randomized into treatment conditions as adolescents. Design 261 of 480 adolescents who had been randomized to BSFT or TAU in the BSFT effectiveness study were assessed at a single time, 3-7 years post randomization. Methods Assessments of drug use, externalizing behaviors, arrests and incarcerations were conducted using Timeline Follow Back, Adult Self Report, and self-report, respectively. Drug use, arrests and incarcerations were examined using negative binomial models and externalizing behaviors were examined using linear regression. Results When compared with TAU, BSFT youth reported lower incidence of lifetime (IRR = 0.68, 95%CI [0.57, 0.81]) and past year (IRR = 0.54, 95%CI [0.40, 0.71]) arrests; lower rates of lifetime (IRR = 0.63, 95%CI [0.49, 0.81]) and past year (IRR = 0.70, 95%CI [0.53, 0.92]) incarcerations; and lower scores on externalizing behaviors at follow-up (B = -0.42, SE =.15, p =.005). There were no differences in drug use. Conclusions and Scientific Significance BSFT may have long term effects in reducing the number of arrests, incarcerations and externalizing problems. These effects could be explained by the improvements in family functioning that occurred during the effectiveness study. This study contributes to the literature by reporting on the long term outcomes of family therapy for adolescent drug abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-645
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal on Addictions
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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