An Evidence-Based Program That Keeps At-Risk Youth Home With Family
MST is an internationally-known program that helps fragile families cope with out-of-control teenagers. MST’s goal is to keep youth arrest-free and with their families. The program, based on a model developed and researched by Scott Henggeler and the Medical University of South Carolina, provides three to four months of almost daily support by trained therapists.
MST, which was conceived of in the mid-1970s and developed in the 1990’s, was designed to serve youth with serious anti-social behavior and often long arrest histories, blending cognitive behavioral therapy, behavior management training, family therapies and community psychology to get results. After 30 years of research and 18 studies, MST repeatedly has been shown to:
- Keep youth in their homes, reducing out-of-home placements up to 50 percent
- Keep youth in school
- Keep youth out of trouble, reducing re-arrest rates up to 70 percent
- Improve family relations and functioning, and
- Decrease adolescent drug and alcohol use.
How MST Works
MST interventions typically aim to:
- improve caregiver’s ways of raising the kids,
- strengthen relationships within the family
- decrease youth association with negative influences,
- increase youth association with positive influences,
- improve youth’s performance in and out of school,
- engage youth in pro-social activities, and
- develop a support network of extended family, neighbors, and friends to help caregivers achieve and maintain positive changes.
The program uses a strength-based model that recognizes the family’s strengths and combines them with areas for change. MST services are delivered in the natural environment (e.g., home, school, community). The treatment plan is designed with youth and family members and is, therefore, family-driven rather than therapist-driven. The ultimate goal of MST is to build on youth and family strengths and empower families to build an environment, through the use of child, family, and community resources, that promotes health.
Youth and families participate in setting specific goals. At the beginning, we will meet with each family unit and work with them to make a statement of expectation of services and an outline of specific desirable goals, focusing on using the family’s strengths to make changes. The family signs this statement and we use this document throughout the service period. At the end of the service period, we evaluate the attainment of those goals and the success of the program.