How to Be an Effective Provider of Multisystemic Therapy

Posted by Michelle Robinson, MST Expert, Community Solutions, Inc.

Mar 2, 2017 8:30:00 AM

There is a question that occasionally keeps me up at night

Sometimes, when I can’t fall asleep, I think about what it means to be an effective model purveyor of Multisystemic Therapy (MST). I understand that, on the surface, it’s about oversight and fidelity to this evidence-based model that we provide to youth and families. But I want to dig deeper into this idea. What does it take to not just be an effective model purveyor, but an exceptional one? What does it take to create an environment in which an evidence-based model like ours can grow?

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At the 2016 Network Partner Conference, Keller Strother, director of MST Services, challenged us to think about expanding our reach in a climate in which many organizations nationally and internationally are being forced to cut their budgets. He reminded us that this model is such an important part of communities and asked us to consider what it requires from us to grow and expand to meet the needs of those around us in this tumultuous time.

Well, I have one answer to that. Let me first lay out the core responsibilities of being an MST expert and model purveyor. We are tasked with teaching new staff the MST model during orientation training, overseeing supervisor and clinician development, and assessing whether interventions are effective. But as model purveyors, it is not solely about data and charts. In all these tasks, there is one constant that seems to make this all possible: relationships.

One answer—building effective relationships

Relationships, for me, are key to answering Keller’s question. We must first and foremost build relationships with the communities in which we serve. When I speak of communities, I am including the program staff (therapists, supervisors, program administrators), families, key stakeholders such as judges, probation officers, child-protective workers, school personnel and local leaders.

Relationship is an invaluable word. It cannot be quantified just by saying it, but must be experienced. It is not just interaction moving between two or more individuals, but the absorption of those experiences that forms lasting impacts. Relationships are where MST begins and ends, and holds the key to making change

Relationships are a delicate balance—they are not just built on agreements, but also on disagreements. It is so important to see the perspective of the project manager, program director, funder, courts, child protection agency and organization to bridge the sometimes wide gap of differences to a place of agreement. What we all want is the sustainable success of the family, but there may be differences along the way to reaching that goal.

It took a long time for me to take into account that not everyone sees things from the same perspective and not everyone arrives at the same solutions. There are times that I still have to remind myself of this and change course.

So, how do we form these important relationships?

For me, it starts with understanding the value and importance of an open discussion. Slow down. Really listen to one another’s perspectives. Make sure others realize they are truly being heard. Before we can expect anyone to listen, hear and understand what they are saying.

Once we have an understanding of one another’s perspectives, then we can begin to define the problem/need together and look to develop solutions that will work for everyone.

At the very foundation of our model is the art of solving problems. When communities, like families, face needs, it is our role to use our MST model to help them find solutions that work for them. Creating an environment that does so starts with listening and understanding the needs of that environment. For me, this all starts with having solid relationships built on trust and open communication.

As we look ahead to the ever-changing landscape of our communities as MST model purveyors, let’s be committed to building relationships that allow us to be effective listeners and problem solvers.

Michelle Robinson is an MST expert at Community Solutions, Inc

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Topics: MST, Multisystemic Therapy

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