What to Expect When an MST Therapist Comes into Your Home


Nov 17, 2015 9:00:00 AM

Sometimes a stranger can bring great meaning to your life

If you’re a parent whose child is referred to Multisystemic Therapy, chances are you are wondering about the stranger being sent to your home. Thoughts running through your brain might include, who is this person, what is his or her clinical experience? Are they skilled enough to help with my child? Will this therapist judge or blame me? What makes this therapist and this program different from the other programs we’ve tried?

Six months ago, after working as a therapist on an MST team, I was promoted to its clinical supervisor. Now, I’d like to “pull back the curtain” and tell you more about the four dedicated therapists with whom I work. They all have different strengths in their work, but they have one thing in common—their passion to help families create change.

Their backgrounds range from clinical social work to marriage and family therapy. Despite their previous experiences, they, like all therapists, must go through MST’s rigorous and continuous training to learn the model and how to implement it as closely as possible. They are out in the field, rain or shine, at the mercy of New York City public transit. They run between the families’ homes and try to always meet them where they are.

My therapists stay strong in the ebbs and flows of their families’ emotions and support them through some of the toughest moments. They advocate for these families in a system that often lets them slip through the cracks. They put their clinical skills to the test in every single session, in every treatment plan they write, in weekly group supervision and in their individual clinician development.

Therapists are ready day or night to help their clients

I often receive phone calls or a head popping into my office when a therapist wants to run ideas by me to make sure they are helping their families in the best way possible. I have seen my therapists laugh with their families, be a cheerleader for tired parents when hopelessness consumes them, shed tears of empathy for them, be a stable support for a family experiencing setbacks, and beam with pride when a kid meets his or her treatment goals. They bend their schedules to accommodate their families’ needs. Sometimes, this means before the parents and kids have changed out of their pj’s in the morning or after they have changed into them in the evening or any time in between. My therapists take seriously the responsibility of being invited into a family’s home. When a crisis arises at 2 a.m., they are the caring professional on the other end of the phone ready to offer support and walk the family through it.

I am saying all of this because if you are a family considering whether to accept MST treatment for your child, you will not only get an evidence-based model but also the support needed to create behavioral change in kids. As a clinical supervisor, I am humbled to be able to tell families that if they choose MST they are welcoming a therapist that will genuinely care about them and do whatever it takes to help them create the change they want. I am grateful to my therapists for allowing me to be able to say this with certainty because I see them delivering on that promise every single day.

Sarah Johansson is an MST Clinical Supervisor at Little Flower Children & Family Services