Adolescent antisocial behavior is a major health concern, and along with conduct disorders are the most common behavioral and mental health problems in children and young people globally. Studies in the United States have shown that multisystemic therapy reduces such behavior and the number of criminal offences committed by this group. Multisystemic therapy (MST) is an evidence-based therapeutic approach, that according to Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, “focuses on diagnosed behavioral health disorders and on environmental systems (family, school, peer groups, culture, neighborhood, and community) that contribute to, or influence an individual’s involvement, or potential involvement in the juvenile justice system.” MST is typically administered by a trained team of therapists who work intensively with the teenager and their family. The therapy is typically conducted in the home and community settings, which allows for a more natural and comprehensive approach to addressing the various factors contributing to antisocial behavior.
Multisystemic therapy offers an array of benefits for teenagers who exhibit antisocial behavior and conduct problems. Penn State College of Health and Human Development highlights various proven outcomes of MST, some of which include the following:
- Reduced long-term rates of criminal offending in serious juvenile offenders.
- Reduced rates of out-of-home placements for serious juvenile offenders.
- Extensive improvements in family functioning.
- Decreased behavior and mental health problems for serious juvenile offenders.
- Favorable outcomes at cost savings in comparison with usual mental health and juvenile justice services.
- Decreased recidivism and arrests.
A study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, found that MST helped the teenagers identify positive future goals (e.g., completing school) which increased their self-esteem. The same study went on to note that MST prompted adolescents to recognize the “negative effects their behavior had had on others, including family members, [which] helped the children understand the consequences of their antisocial patterns and develop a sense of empathy.” This therapeutic modality relies on family strengths to promote positive coping activities. It works with parents and caregivers to reinforce positive behaviors, and reduce negative behavior, as well as encourages the family to practice accountability and cultivate effective anger management, communication, and conflict resolution skills.
For Information and Support
Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.
Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
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