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Multisystemic Therapy (MST) is a family and community-based model of treatment for young people at risk of entering, or who have recently entered, out-of-home care. It’s an evidence-based early intervention program that aims to keep young people living safely at home, in school and out of the justice system.

Before fourteen-year-old Theo* was referred to MST, he’d been involved in a series of verbally and physically aggressive incidents at home as well as in the community. He had also been using drugs, regularly running away and offending. His use of aggression at home had resulted in an Intervention Order – a court order to protect a person, their children and their property from another person – being put in place.

Theo had recently returned to his mother’s care after an extended period living with another family member. His mum was struggling to cope and was considering relinquishing care of Theo.

Theo’s family was referred to Berry Street’s Multisystemic Therapy program, giving them the opportunity to get much-needed support to prevent Theo’s placement in out-of-home care.

A highly-trained MST therapist met with Theo and his family to set goals and map out their strengths and struggles across all key ‘systems’ covered by MST – individual, family, wider family, peers, school and community. Theo’s mum was introduced to strategies to address the behaviours that she was most concerned about, which were then shared with the extended family. With 24/7 on-call support, the family was coached through the new approaches they were trying.

The family became increasingly concerned about the people that Theo was associating with and his risk of sexual exploitation while he was away from home. The therapist worked with his mum to establish relationships with the parents of the other young people that Theo was running away with – this increased her network of support and his safety.

As MST is a holistic, early intervention program, the practitioner also worked with Theo, his mum and family to:

  • Improve their connection to their culture
  • Advocate for cultural support services within the systems
  • Access paediatric assessments
  • Identify more appropriate housing
  • Enrol Theo at a school better equipped to meet his needs.

Theo is now living safely with his mum and younger siblings. He has regular contact with his wider family including his older brother and has re-engaged in his education.

Berry Street’s MST program has provided Theo’s family with support to make critical changes in their relationships, which has restored safety and prevented him from going into out-of-home care. Theo has significantly reduced substance use and is no longer using violence at home. He has also had no recent involvement with the police or youth justice.

With the improved family and social supports, the family is equipped to manage any future issues and enable sustained changes for Theo and his family.

Learn more about Berry Street's Multisystemic Therapy program

*The names of the children and the families we work with have been changed, and models are used in our photographs to protect their identities.