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J Fam Psychol. 2012 Apr;26(2):187-97. doi: 10.1037/a0027120. Epub 2012 Feb 13.

Multisystemic therapy for young offenders: families' experiences of therapeutic processes and outcomes.

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Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom.


Multisystemic Therapy (MST) has been found to be effective in reducing youth antisocial behavior, but little is known about the process and impact of MST from the perspective of families themselves. This qualitative study explored parents' and young people's experiences of MST, focusing on aspects of the intervention that promoted or limited change. Thirty-seven semistructured interviews were conducted with a consecutive sample of 21 families (21 parent interviews, 16 young people) who had participated in a randomized controlled trial of MST for young offenders in the United Kingdom. Thematic analysis yielded 10 themes, organized into two domains: (a) engagement in MST and initial processes of change captures the central importance of the therapeutic relationship and the MST engagement model in families' positive experiences of MST; and (b) outcomes are complex reflects the range of positive outcomes reported (notably increased parental confidence and skills, improved family relationships, a return to education, and greater reflection and aspiration on the part of the young person) and mixed behavior outcomes. Even when the young person had reoffended, respondents indicated a range of other benefits for the family. The findings support the MST theory of change as well as point to some outcomes not usually measured in MST outcome studies. They also suggest some adaptations that may increase the impact of the intervention, including more attention to the influence of deviant peers, and ongoing support for families struggling to maintain strategies beyond the prescribed treatment period.

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