MST therapists help families overcome their initial anxiety about treatment
“You can come back now,” the doctor said. I apprehensively followed her into the room and watched the door close behind us. My heart raced. The doctor picked up on my anxiety. She assured me, “I make people nervous every day, but getting past that fear is what benefits them in the long run.”
This got me thinking. I imagine that families going into Multisystemic Therapy (MST) feel similar anxiety when they meet their therapist for the very first time.
Picture this. A stranger is about to come knocking at your door, asking all kinds of questions, making you tell your family’s life story, a story that you’ve told at least a dozen times before. This person is coming into your home—I cannot help but believe for some this must feel very intrusive.
I can imagine that sometimes caregivers want to shut the curtain and just pretend that we are not out there knocking on their door.
But equally, I wonder if it would help families to know we as MST therapists experience those same kinds of anxiety-producing moments every day? That we understand and empathize because just like them, we are parents, family members, patients and more—and we come face to face with anxious moments that require us to have courage to confront what lies ahead. There are times when we, too, wish to run in the opposite direction when faced with apprehension. However, it is pushing through that fear that instills lifelong gains.
Therapist’s first family
In considering this further, I thought about the very first family I worked with. I remember the anxiety I felt walking up the (what seemed as never-ending) pathway to their door. I was unsure of who or what was on the other side. As I took a deep breath, I thought about how they might be feeling, as well. I worried about any preconceived notions they might have about me, formal services or therapy in general. I thought about what they had been told about MST and how that might impact our working together. I thought about how hard it might be, especially in the early days, to trust someone with the most vulnerable and maybe even hurtful moments of their lives. To have the courage to let me into their family’s life would take trust that I had yet to earn. I pushed past those thoughts and knocked on their door anyway. I was relieved when the mom answered and invited me in.
As we began to talk together, I found a caretaker who was at her wit’s end. She shared “we were unsure of what we had gotten ourselves into...we were offered placement or MST and thought it was worth giving our last option a shot before the end of the line.” For her, MST was an opportunity to turn things around for her family. Together, we were able to think about what she hoped for her child and work together to achieve goals each week to keep her child in school, at home and out of placement.
Getting beyond apprehension
Looking back, although I instinctively knew that anxiety existed on both ends, I discerned that pushing past those apprehensions would benefit all those involved. In learning to recognize anxiety in myself, and understanding that families, too, may feel a certain way when faced with their MST therapist for the first time, I learned as MST therapists we are better able to create a comfortable and non-judgmental environment when we remember we experience similar feelings as those we work with.
To the families who are referred to MST, we know it might be scary—but push past that. The MST therapist you let in the door just might be that person who helps you push past your fears, your pain, your insecurities and anxieties, and helps you discover growth you never thought possible.