Parenting and family services
Multisystemic Therapy (MST)
South Eastern region
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 aims to keep young people living safely at home, in school and out of the justice system.
MST is an evidence-based, early intervention program that helps keep families safely together.
How it works
MST is a holistic, therapeutic intervention with multi-skilled and highly trained MST therapists. A team of 4 therapists work intensively with 4 to 6 families each for up to 6 months at a time.
Research shows MST is effective because it:
- goes beyond only working with the young person to working with the networks around them, such as family, school and neighbours
- is behaviour focused and addresses the causes of behaviour
- supports young people to join in positive social activities, build healthy interactions with peers and stay in school, all of which contribute to better physical and mental health
- works with the family at times and in places that are convenient and comfortable to them
- builds the family's strengths and relationships
- empowers parents and carers with the skills and resources they need to manage challenges independently
- provides families with 24/7 support.
Typically over 90% of families who start MST complete it, showing high engagement with the program.
MST has more than 35 years of research evidence. It also has the highest rating of evidence on California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (CEBC), Blueprints Clearing Houses and Early Intervention Foundation.
Goals of MST
MST aims to support young people to:
- keep living safely at home and avoid entering out-of-home care
- keep attending school
- stay out of the justice system.
More broadly the program aims to improve family functioning and relationships so that families can stay together safely.
Who we support
MST supports young people who:
- are 10 to 17 years old
- have significant challenging behaviours, including offending
- are at risk of entering or have recently entered out-of-home care.
The need for MST
The number of children and young people in out-of-home care in Victoria has increased by 21% in the last 4 years. The current system is stretched; we know that keeping children and young people out of care is one of the most effective interventions to improving their future outcomes.
Berry Street is focusing on and implementing programs that keep families together safely and address challenges before they spiral out of control. As an evidence-based, early intervention program, MST is aligned with one of our key goals to reorientate the child and family system towards early intervention and prevention.
Supported by funding from a 2020 Westpac Impact Grant, Berry Street's first MST team is working in our South Eastern region. This MST pilot will support around 150 at risk young people and their families over 3 years.
We hope to expand the program into other regions in Victoria in the future. This will prevent more children and young people from entering out-of-home care and create better outcomes for them and their families.