Multisystemic Therapy

Summary: Multi Systemic Therapy is an intensive home based intervention for children and families.
Age: 12-18
Sex: n/a
Cost: yes




  • To address complex psychological problems in children aged between 12 and 18 and provide alternatives to out of home placements.
  • To increase the skills and resources of parents and carers of children to manage challenging behaviours.



Multi Systemic Therapy (MST) is an intensive home based and family driven intervention for children aged between 12 and 18. MST therapists work intensively with families and other people in the child’s life several times a week to address the causes of their behaviour.


Family members work with MST therapists to develop a treatment plan over three to five months. The plan is individually tailored to the needs of each child and is intended to build on the existing structures in their lives.


MST therapists are intended to be there when needed and are often on call out of office hours. Such an intensive service is possible because therapists work with a limited number of families at any given time. Therapists then aim to gradually reduce their contact time over the course of the plan. Please see Multisystemic Therapy (MST) London Tri-borough for an example of how MST is being implemented.



There is strong international evidence about the effectiveness of MST in reducing youth offending and providing positive returns on investment[1]. Evaluation has shown that MST can have a positive impact on:

  • Serious and violent offenders[2];
  • Young people convicted of sexual offences[3]; and
  • Young people with substance use problems[4].


[1] Aos, S., & Drake, E. (2013). Prison, police, and programs: Evidence-based options that reduce crime and save money. (Doc. No. 13-11-1901). Olympia: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.

[2] Sawyer, A. M., & Borduin, C. M. (2011). Effects of multisystemic therapy through midlife: A 21.9-year follow-up to a randomized clinical trial with serious and violent juvenile offenders. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 79, 643-652. doi:

[3] Borduin, C. M., Schaeffer, C. M., & Heiblum, N. (2009). A randomized clinical trial of multisystemic therapy with juvenile sexual offenders: Effects on youth social ecology and criminal activity. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 77, 26-37. doi:10.1037/a0013035.

[4] Henggeler, S. W., Clingempeel, W., Brondino, M. J., & Pickrel, S. G. (2002). Four-year follow-up of multisystemic therapy with substance-abusing and substance-dependent juvenile offenders. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 41, 868-874. doi:10.1097/00004583-200207000-00021