Model Family Programs for Delinquency Prevention
Rating * Exemplary Target * 10-18 Speciality * Comprehensive
Program * Multisystemic Therapy Program
Description *

  Multisystemic therapy (MST) is an intensive family-based treatment that addresses the known determinants of serious antisocial behavior in adolescents and their families. As such, MST treats those factors in the youth's environment that are contributing to his or her behavior problems. Such factors might pertain to individual characteristics of the youth (e.g., poor problem solving skills), family relations (e.g., inept discipline), peer relations (e.g., association with deviant peers), and school performance (e.g., academic difficulties). On a highly individualized basis, treatment goals are developed in collaboration with the family, and family strengths are used as levers for therapeutic change. Specific interventions used in MST are based on the best of the empirically validated treatment approaches such as cognitive behavior therapy and the pragmatic family therapies. The primary goals of MST are to reduce rates of antisocial behavior in the adolescent, reduce out-of-home placements, and empower families to resolve future difficulties.

Several programmatic features are crucial to the success of MST. First, use of the family preservation model of service delivery (i.e., low caseloads, home-based services, time limited duration of treatment) removes barriers of access to care and provides the high level of intensity needed to successfully treat youths presenting serious clinical problems and their multi-need families. Second, the philosophy of MST holds service providers accountable for engaging the family in treatment and for removing barriers to successful outcomes. Such accountability clearly promotes retention in treatment and attainment of the treatment goals. Third, outcomes are evaluated continuously, and the overriding goal of supervision is to facilitate the clinicians' attempts to attain favorable outcomes. Fourth, MST programs place great emphasis on maintaining treatment integrity, and as such, considerable resources are devoted to therapist training, ongoing clinical consultation, and service system consultation.

Rigorous evaluation is a hallmark of MST. Well designed randomized clinical trials with chronic and violent juvenile offenders have demonstrated the capacity of MST to reduce long-term rates of criminal activity, incarceration, and concomitant costs. Other randomized trials have demonstrated that favorable outcomes are linked to therapist adherence to the MST treatment protocol. Current studies have examined or are examining the effectiveness of MST in treating a variety of serious clinical problems, are evaluating variables that predict the successful dissemination of MST, and are assessing the clinical and cost effectiveness of an MST-based continuum of care.

    Contact * Scott W. Henggeler Ph.D. , Director 
    Address* Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Family Services Research Center
Medical University of South Carolina
67 President Street, Suite CPP 
        Charleston, SC  29425 Box 250861
    Phone * 843 876-1800
    Email  * 
    Dept. of Health Promotion and Education

Funded by - Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention