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Multisystemic Therapy

What is MST?

Multisystemic Therapy is a family- and community-based treatment for youth with complex clinical, social, and educational problems. MST is delivered in homes, neighborhoods, schools and communities by master's level professionals with low case loads.  A crucial aspect of MST is its emphasis on promoting behavior change in the youth's natural environment. Therapists work in the home, school and community and are on call 24/7 to provide caregivers with the tools they need to transform the lives of the youth and their family. Initial family sessions identify the strength and weaknesses of the adolescent, the family, and their transactions with extra familial systems (e.g., peers, friends, school, parental workplace).  Identified problems throughout the family are explicitly targeted for change, and the strengths of each system are used to facilitate such change.  Although specific strengths and weaknesses can vary widely from family to family, several problem areas are typically identified for serious juvenile offenders and their families.  Additional information about MST is available via the Internet at


Who is MST for?

The MST program targets youth, ages 12-17, who are recommended for a community-based, family focused program, as an alternative to out-of-home placement due to delinquent or anti-social behavior.  MST also accepts youth, ages 12-17, who are in an out-of-home placement due to delinquent or anti-social behavior and are recommended for accelerated return to the community. All youth and families who enter the MST Program are asked to make a commitment verifying their willingness to participate in the program and comply with all program requirements.


Why MST?

When you have young people who can’t seem to keep themselves out of trouble, who are heading toward prison, they and their families need help. Some have bounced from one therapy and therapist to another. And still, they repeat offend. Parents and caregivers can get to the point where they believe placement might be best for all involved.

It isn’t. Studies have shown prisons and detention centers are schools for crime where youths pick up new ways to get in trouble. Tens of thousands of dollars are spent on locking them up, only to have them end up back in prison again. But there are alternatives to this endless cycle.

One alternative is Multisystemic Therapy (MST), an intensive family- and community-based treatment that addresses the many different factors that lead to serious anti-social behavior. The MST approach views the individual as being surrounded by a network of interconnected systems that include the teen, family, peer group, school and neighborhood. Work may be necessary in any one or a combination of these systems. The MST “client” is the entire ecology of the youth - family, peers, school, and neighborhood.

Using and building on the existing strengths of each system to reach positive outcomes, MST strives to promote long-lasting and sustainable positive change.


How does a person receive MST through COFY?

Any person interested in making an MST referral may call our office at 925-943-1794 to informally discuss whether a potential referral would be appropriate for MST, and to determine the appropriate method for initiating and managing a formal referral.


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