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Multisystemic Therapy

Multisystemic Therapy (MST) is a form of therapy that focuses on helping adolescents and families effectively deal with many of the elements that lead to antisocial behavior in children and teens. The contributing factors are typically found in the child’s or teen’s environment and stem from various causes such as:

  • Personal characteristics of the adolescent (no problem-solving skills)
  • Performance in school (failing grades; inability to understand lessons)
  • Relationships with family members (little to no discipline; dysfunctional communication)
  • Relationships with peers (friends with juvenile delinquents)

Treatment is individualized and developed in conjunction with the family. In addition to tapping into the family’s strong points, various therapies are used in the MST program, such as cognitive therapy, to achieve positive outcomes such as minimizing antisocial behavior, reducing the number of child extractions from the home, and providing the family with the tools and skills needed to resolve issues in the future.

Program Success Factors

Several factors contribute to the success of the Multisystemic Therapy program. Accountability falls on the shoulders of the service providers. The professionals working on the case must identify and remove barriers to satisfying resolutions to the issues as well as engage the family in their own treatment. The result is a higher level of patient retention and positive outcomes.

Another success factor is the choice to use a home-based model for delivering services. Professionals organize themselves and their caseloads so that they are able to provide the high levels of patient interaction required to remove barriers to treatment and successfully steer troubled youths and their families back onto a beneficial course.

The last two factors are the continuous evaluation of the clinician’s progress by his or her supervisor and the considerable amount of resources the MST programs devotes to helping therapists stay on top of their game which include ongoing training, clinical consultations, and other quality assurance tasks that help maintain program integrity.

The Multisystemic Therapy program has undergone numerous randomized clinical trials designed to test the efficacy of the treatment. The program has been found, consistently, to lower rates of incarceration, criminal activity, and concomitant costs when it comes to adolescents and antisocial behavior. Other trials have found that when therapists stick to the program protocols, they experience higher rates of favorable outcomes. Currently, studies evaluating the program’s effectiveness at treating a variety of other serious clinical problems, the cost effectiveness of continued care, and variables that contribute to successful outcomes are underway.