Multisystemic Therapy

MST Services.
United States
An intensive, flexible, family and community-based treatment programme that addresses all environmental systems negatively affecting chronic and violent juvenile offenders’ behaviour to improve the quality of life for both them and their families.
What solution does the innovation propose?

Multisystemic Therapy (MST) aims to transform adolescents’ impact environments (community, culture, neighbourhood, school, peers and family) and break the cycle of antisocial behaviour by keeping juvenile offenders at home, in school and out of trouble. Through an enabling approach, the programme empowers parents and guardians to face and prevent, in an autonomous way, the numerous challenges youth may have in multiple systems. If needed, the adolescents are taught to manage the stressful social situations that surround them.


MST Services has received worldwide recognition by several public and private institutions, including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development, that has rated the programme as Model Plus.

Impact evidence

  • Over 200,000 youth served.
  • A 22-year follow-up study showed that juvenile offenders who received MST had 75% fewer violent felony arrests, 33% fewer incarceration days and 37% fewer divorce, paternity and child support suits. Another 14-year study showed 54% fewer rearrests among the same target group.
  • In a study carried out over 16 months, 91% of abused and neglected children who received MST reported no post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • According to the Journal of Family Psychology, every dollar spent in MST yields up to 23.59 in return for communities.
How does it work?

According to Bronfenbrenner’s ‘Ecological Systems Theory’, interventions must address a wide variety of risk factors through a tailored approach in order to be effective. In this vein, MST blends the best clinical treatments to reach its target population, including cognitive behavioural therapy, behaviour management training, and family therapies. Therapists work together with caregivers to increase their parenting skills and strengthen their ability to lead changes in discipline, family relations and a stronger engagement with the educational environment. The role of family members is also relevant in the definition of a treatment plan, which enhances the chances for success, both during and after the therapy. Furthermore, the intervention is strengthened through a support network of extended family, neighbours and friends that help caregivers maintain the changes achieved. Special attention is paid to peer groups: the programme fosters pro-social behaviours and positive activities to the detriment of antisocial bonds. MST professionals travel to where the youth and family live, hang out, work and attend school more than once a week. They also meet with other influencing people when needed, and are available for families 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Geographical scope

Where was initially developed
United States.
Where has been implemented so far
Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Denmark, United Kingdom, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Scotland, Switzerland and Sweden.