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Multisystemic Therapy

MST family

Multisystemic Therapy (MST) is an intensive family- and community-based treatment program that focuses on addressing all environmental systems that impact chronic and violent juvenile offenders -- their homes and families, schools and teachers, neighborhoods and friends. MST recognizes that each system plays a critical role in a youth's world and each system requires attention when effective change is needed to improve the quality of life for youth and their families. MST works with the toughest offenders ages 12 through 17 who have a very long history of arrests.

  • MST clinicians go to where the child is and are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • They work intensively with parents and caregivers to put them in control
  • The therapist works with the caregivers to keep the adolescent focused on school and gaining job skills
  • The therapist and caregivers introduce the youth to sports and recreational activities as an alternative to hanging out

MST is based on evidence

This means it has been proven to work and produce positive results with the toughest kids. It blends the best clinical treatments—cognitive behavioral therapy, behavior management training, family therapies and community psychology to reach this population.    

After 30 years of research and 18 studies, MST repeatedly has been shown to:

  • Keep kids in their home, reducing out-of-home placements up to 50 percent
  • Keep kids in school
  • Keep kids out of trouble, reducing re-arrest rates up to 70 percent
  • Improve family relations and functioning
  • Decrease adolescent psychiatric symptoms
  • Decrease adolescent drug and alcohol use

Parents and caregivers are given tools to handle difficulties. The MST therapist and the caregivers show the youth how to develop constructive ways to cope with family, school and peer problems.

One father in Maryland said he couldn't remember precisely when the MST therapist first came. "It was just so smooth. She came in, she did her thing, and she left. Even today, right now, we're still using everything she taught us. She still calls from time to time to check on us."

His son added, "...I thought she was part of our family."