MST Offers New Treatment for Troubled Juveniles
> 6/2/2006 12:42:45 PM

Researchers report encouraging levels of success with a new form of home-based therapy aimed at removing detrimental elements from the family settings and social lives of violent, crime-prone kids. Multi-systemic therapy involves specialists who work with four to six families at a time, regularly visiting homes for periods of approximately five months in order to identify the sources of their problems and make steps toward rectifying the situation. These therapists can be reached twenty four hours a day, and their main concerns, according to a treatment summary, are:

Empowering parents and improving their effectiveness by identifying strengths and developing natural support systems (e.g., extended family, neighbors, friends, church members) and removing barriers (e.g., parental substance abuse, high stress, poor relationships between partners).

In a recent New York Times article, author Paul Raeburn examines the program's efficiency as an alternative to centers for juvenile delinquency. Though multi-systemic treatment is hardly free, it is considerably less expensive than residential programs, and various studies found MST graduates commiting almost fifty percent fewer felonies than those who went without. Using outside activities and peer interventions, therapists try to instill a further sense of responsibility in kids who might otherwise end up hospitalized for psychiatric treatment. Some wonder if specialists cross unseen lines by entering a child's home and advising parents, but one of MST's core principles is a belief that families should stay together and that all environmental factors should be tackled simultaneously. If a multi-systemic specialist can make even slight inroads toward reforming troubled kids, this still-developing method deserves increased media attention.

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