Multisystemic therapy as an alternative community-based treatment for youth with severe emotional disturbance: empirical literature review

Journal article citation:
Social Work in Mental Health, 8(2), March 2010, pp.190-208.
Taylor and Francis
Place of publication:
Philadelphia, USA

This article presents the theoretical basis of multisystemic therapy (MST), an evidence-based, validated technique already used as a culturally competent, home-based service for treating young people in the juvenile justice service. This author champions the use of MST, over and above the techniques of intensive case management and treatment foster care, to bridge the gaps in the current mental health system for children and young people with severe mental health problems, recently identified, in the United States by the New Freedom Commission report of 2003. Program designs and details of social care provision are discussed, by way of a review and critique of the empirical literature available on MST. Eight studies reviewed were used along with five follow-up trials. All of the studies reported how effective MST was in improving family relationships and decreasing offending behaviour. It is not a one-size-fits-all in-home treatment but its success results from both its flexibility and benefits from its definite structure. The core principles of MST, such as commitment to clients and not attaching blame, are consistent with those of the social work profession. In addition, evidence of its success across cultural, socioeconomic and racial groups exists. The author calls for additional research in natural environments and community mental health settings on children and young people with severe mental health problems.

Subject terms:
intervention, literature reviews, severe mental health problems, social care provision, therapies, therapy and treatment, young people, community mental health services;
Content type:
research review
United States
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