Nine Principles of MST

Principle 1: Finding the fit

An assessment is made to understand the "fit" between identified problems and how they play out and make sense in the entire context of the youth's environment. Assessing the “fit” of the youth's successes also helps guide the treatment process.

Principle 2: Focusing on positives and strengths

MST Therapists and team members emphasize the positives they find and use strengths in the youth’s world as levers for positive change. Focusing on family strengths has numerous advantages, such as building on strategies the family already knows how to use, building feelings of hope, identifying protective factors, decreasing frustration by emphasizing problem solving and enhancing caregivers’ confidence.

Principle 3: Increasing responsibility

Interventions are designed to promote responsible behavior and decrease irresponsible actions by family members.

Principle 4: Present focused, action oriented and well defined

Interventions deal with what’s happening now in the delinquent’s life. Therapists look for action that can be taken immediately, targeting specific and well-defined problems. Such interventions enable participants to track the progress of the treatment and provide clear criteria to measure success. Family members are expected to work actively toward goals by focusing on present-oriented solutions, versus gaining insight or focusing on the past. When the clear goals are met, the treatment can end.

Principle 5: Targeting sequences

Interventions target sequences of behavior within and between the various interacting elements of the adolescent’s life—family, teachers, friends, home, school and community—that sustain the identified problems.

Principle 6: Developmentally appropriate

Interventions are set up to be appropriate to the youth’s age and fit his or her developmental needs. A developmental emphasis stresses building the adolescent’s ability to get along well with peers and acquire academic and vocational skills that will promote a successful transition to adulthood.

Principle 7: Continuous effort

Interventions require daily or weekly effort by family members so that the youth and family have frequent opportunities to demonstrate their commitment. Advantages of intensive and multifaceted efforts to change include more rapid problem resolution, earlier identification of when interventions need fine-tuning, continuous evaluation of outcomes, more frequent corrective interventions, more opportunities for family members to experience success and giving the family power to orchestrate their own changes.

Principle 8: Evaluation and accountability

Intervention effectiveness is evaluated continuously from multiple perspectives with MST team members being held accountable for overcoming barriers to successful outcomes. MST does not label families as “resistant, not ready for change or unmotivated.” This approach avoids blaming the family and places the responsibility for positive treatment outcomes on the MST team.

Principle 9: Generalization

Interventions are designed to invest the caregivers with the ability to address the family’s needs after the intervention is over. The caregiver is viewed as the key to long-term success. Family members drive the change process in collaboration with the MST therapist.