Multisystemic Therapy (MST)

MST is a behavioral based community program that works intensively with any family that has a child from ages 12-17 who is currently at risk of out-of-home placement. The program’s primary goal is to decrease a youth’s involvement with the juvenile justice system through addressing behaviors that may range from truancy, substance abuse, criminal activity, or other common antisocial behaviors. MST accomplishes this task through looking at all of the different systems in a youth’s life (individual, family, school, peer, and community) and then working with the youth’s caregivers to develop interventions that will help reduce any negative behaviors.

Liberty Resources currently has MST programs in Onondaga, Tompkins and Tioga counties in New York state as well as Nueces County in Texas.

MST is an internationally known program that was first conceived in the 1970’s by Dr. Scott Henggeler. After struggling with some very difficult cases Dr. Henggeler decided to visit the adolescents in their homes. It was during those visits that he realized he needed to treat the adolescents by addressing all of the systems that impacted their lives on a daily basis. After many years of research word of MST’s success began to spread and this led to the creation of MST Services in 1996. MST Services is a licensed organization that offers assistance in developing and maintaining MST program services worldwide.

Tompkins County Department of Social Services contacted Liberty Resources in spring 2001 to discuss their various services needs, specifically their need to develop alternatives to residential placements. The County was interested in learning more about MST and Liberty spent several sessions with County representatives, both describing MST as well as conducting a needs assessment to determine whether MST would be the best intervention given the specific needs of the County. Throughout this process, Liberty engaged key stakeholders within Tompkins County, including the leadership from the Youth Bureau, Probation and Mental Health departments. Liberty submitted a proposal in fall 2002 and the project was funded and became operational on April 1, 2003, focusing on youth who are at high risk of residential placement due to significant behavioral problems in the community. Youth are referred to the program by Tompkins County DSS.

Scope of Services

MST’s interventions aim to improve caregiver parenting skills through developing discipline strategies, strengthen positive relationships among family members, decrease a youth’s contact with negative peers, increase prosocial activities for youth, improve youth’s performance in school, and develop a strong network of supports for the youth and family to help caregivers maintain positive changes.

To reach these goals the family meets with a therapist multiple times per week to participate in setting goals and developing interventions for the youth. MST uses a strength’s based model to build upon the positive skills the family is already utilizing. Family members get to build their own goals and work with their therapist to reach the outcomes that are most important to them. At the end of the treatment period, success is measured by eliminating the need for out-of-home placement, reducing contact with police and other members of the juvenile justice system, as well as improving behavior in the home, school, and community.

The MST program in Tompkins, Onondaga and Tioga Counties also provides substance abuse treatment through a research based model. This unique treatment program allows youth that are struggling with substance abuse issues to work together with their MST therapist and their caregiver to identify their personal triggers and develop self-management plans to reduce their risk of drug or alcohol use. Through this program youth are able to create a personalized plan that targets their struggles with substances while caregivers are given the opportunity to learn more about their youth’s drug use and become an active part of the support system that helps reduce this behavior.

All staff have clinical experience and hold a master’s degree in social work, marriage and family therapy, counseling, or a related discipline. All staff also adheres to the Multisystemic Therapy Model which is grounded in research and evidence that best supports success for every family. For additional information regarding the MST Program please check out the links below: