To honor Mother's Day, we are sharing a few stories over the next few weeks that honor our amazing MST mothers. Today we are sharing a story of one mom in Louisiana who changed her life to help her son
Jared had two weeks to produce a clean drug screen for drug court, or he was facing six months in detention. Two weeks is not a lot of time, especially when he was smoking many bowls of marijuana and half-a-pack of cigarettes every day. On top of that, he had already missed more than 20 days of school, and it was only November. I knew that his truancy also needed to be addressed, but as his Multisystemic Therapy (MST) therapist, I had to focus first and foremost on helping Jared get clean for his drug screen.
It was a hard two weeks. Mom, who was also using marijuana, was frustrated. Jared was frustrated. Drug court was frustrated. The frustration was all understandable, and during that time, I was the only one with hope. I knew we could do it, but I also knew I needed to be honest with Jared about how high the stakes were. In the end, the choice was theirs: The entire family had to change their behavior and help Jared get clean, or they would be helping him pack his bags for detention.
With the stakes clear, and the reassurance that I would be there to help the whole time, we were able to give the court a clean drug screen after those first two weeks. After that, the rest of the work began.
Basic needs not being met
Part of the reason Jared was in so much trouble was that he was missing court dates and drug screens. It wasn’t malicious—little did the court know, the family had significant barriers to overcome just to get to and from these appointments. I worked with them to arrange transportation when needed so Jared could start making his appointments and gain better standing with the court.
Jared had a lot of influences surrounding him that contributed to his drug use. His mother smoked marijuana, and she didn’t realize how big of an impact that was having on her children. His neighborhood was intense—11- and 12-year-olds smoked blunts outside while taking photos of a fight. These influences were strong, especially on 13-year-old Jared. We did a lot of role play. We went through scenario after scenario where I acted like guys on the street pushing him and where he practiced resisting that temptation. We discussed the pros and cons endlessly, and he began to believe that the pros outweighed the cons.
If Jared was going to really stay out of the streets, he also needed to get involved in positive social activities to pass his time. He was too young to find a job, but he participated in community service through drug court. We worked on getting him into a Boys and Girls Club. His older brother also became a key positive influence—Jared respected and looked up to him—and he started encouraging Jared to keep clean.
The biggest turning point was when mom decided to quit using marijuana. During treatment, Jared had failed a drug screen and been sent to a rehab center—just for a week. But the frustration of this setback caused his mother to realize that she made a heavy impact on her child. “I had to be a role model. How can I expect my boys to stop if I’m not quitting?”
Multisystemic Therapy affects the whole family
Jared’s mom reflecting on how her own choices were impacting her children played a pivotal role in Jared’s success. MST is about making small changes in the home, school and community that have a huge impact on anti-social behavior—and often, these changes are better for the parents, as well. Jared’s mother became such a positive influence in his life after her decision, by the close of treatment, he had graduated out of his drug court program and was attending school regularly. It felt so good to walk out of that last meeting knowing that he and his family were in a better place and that mom was empowered to parent her kids more effectively. Jared had so many obstacles to overcome, but with the help of MST, he proved so many people wrong and is on a positive path forward—and one that his family intends to stay on.
His mom had this to say about her experience with MST: “It’s worth everything. MST takes the time out to truly understand the child and the parent at the same time. I used to be stuck, and now I’m not. I listen to my kids and they listen to me.”