She didn't think MST would work, but now this Scottish mum is grateful she gave MST a chance so her son could remain at home
Sean* was referred to Multisystemic Therapy (MST) Edinburgh by his social worker in July 2017. He was being reported missing to police as frequently as every day. He was using drugs, offending in the community and would often smash up property within the home. Sean’s mother, Ms. Spencer*, described the family as being in a “desperate situation.” She believed that having her son taken into Local Authority care was her only option. She said, “I couldn’t cope. My whole family was stressed, and it all became unbearable. I had to resign from my job as I was calling in sick continuously due to Sean’s behaviour. It was impossible to manage.”
Sean’s social worker discussed MST intervention with Ms. Spencer, who went on to research the programme online. She admits that she didn’t believe that it was ever going to help to bring about change in her child. “I was reluctant. An American textbook program could not change a child from a housing estate in Scotland that was a law unto himself. I was worried that, being a busy single mum, I couldn't commit to such an intense programme.”
Ms. Spencer gallantly agreed to the referral and was allocated an MST therapist, Julie Stewart. As per the model, Julie worked hard to create an environment of strong engagement and alignment with Ms. Spencer. They quickly developed a positive working relationship, and were open and honest with each other. Ms Spencer found that Julie really understood how she felt. “Julie understood that it takes time for change. She spoke to us in a way that we understood. She made sessions at a time that suited my family and altered everything to suit us.”
Hard work begins
With plenty of hard work and continuous effort from both Julie and Ms. Spencer, plans were developed, changes were made, and positive shifts in Sean’s behaviours started to occur. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, though. There was initially significant kickback from Sean to the changes that his mum was making. She admits that she felt at times like giving up.
“It would have been easier to stop this programme and avoid the backlash, but I knew that this was a short-term fix. I wanted my son living at home, and I needed his behaviour to change long term in order for this to happen. I had to carry on through some of the toughest times I've experienced as a mum. Many times, I had to step back, evaluate and put together new plans that suited my child when previous ones were failing. Julie recognised this—going back to the board and reassessing what was and wasn't working, and altering plans to suit him. There were lots of tears and tantrums along the way, but slowly the penny has started to drop. This is a new way that I am doing things, and no amount of kick offs are going to change that!”
Intervention a success
Five months down the line, and at the end of MST intervention, it is testament to Ms. Spencer’s commitment to MST, and ultimately to Sean, that has brought her here successfully with positive changes in Sean’s behaviours.
She summarises in her own words: “I would like to say my son is now an angel, but he's not! However, I now have the tools to deal with that with a confidence that I never had before. Each time that there's an incident with him, I follow MST plans to the letter, and each time it becomes less and less of a problem. Sean hasn't been reported missing at all lately, and his offending is almost non-existent. I can't remember the last time he smashed my house up, and I have been able to return to work and not needed any days off. The issues that I faced before are now becoming a thing of the past. I can now see the signs before they happen and stop him in his tracks with confidence. Most importantly, my son is still at home where he belongs, my house is calmer than it's been in a long time, and for that, I will be forever grateful to MST for helping me to achieve this.”
*Names have been changed