An MST newcomer shares her experience of becoming a supervisor
You know that feeling when everything just seems to ‘click’? That ‘aha’ moment when your brain clears and you understand whatever problem you have been trying to solve? That’s my favorite part about being an MST supervisor—being a part of the moment when the family ‘arrives’—when a mother looks at me and says, “You mean when I parent from guilt and keep letting my child get away with things, or let him off punishment early, that is why he keeps doing the things he is doing? I am not running my home, my child is? I get it. I want this to work. He is not going to like it, but I am the parent here, not him!” That is the moment that makes the challenges of Multisystemic Therapy (MST) worth it.
I wasn’t always involved in MST. My background was in private practice working with St. Louis urban families who were having trouble dealing with the various programs and organizations that should have been helping their at-risk children. I was liaison between two elementary schools and community, legal and healthcare systems. My goal was to help these families manage the often difficult path to keeping their children out of the courtroom and jail.
After 10 years, the opportunity to become a MST supervisor arose. I leaped at the opportunity.
Five days of orientation
Orientation was five intense days different from other training I had experienced. The amount of information to be absorbed. The role-playing—a lot of role-playing. Shifting from the treatment model I used to MST’s. Luckily for me, MST’s approach wasn’t radically different from my theoretical framework—systems theory, social learning, operant conditioning with practical interventions surrounding cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy and integrative treatment of complex trauma, structural and behavioral family therapy. Still, I had to leave all that “at the door” and become consumed by the MST analytical process and principles.
It would have been overwhelming if not for my MST trainers, Lori Moore and Ellen Shifko. There was so much outside of my ecology that without their help and guidance, I am not sure I would have felt equipped to return to St. Louis and start supervision development with an already established team. But I knew I had support, and a very clearly defined and effective framework to follow.
Using prior experience
It helped me as an MST supervisor that I have always been strength based and value focused whether I was supervising a team, a student or just working within a clinical team. I firmly believe that all individuals should be given the power to deal with problems and get them to recognize that they and what they do is significant to attaining success.
In addition, clear and effective communication, with well-defined expectations and continuous effort to improve self, skill level and outcomes, are other attributes that have transferred well to my role as supervisor. The MST therapist has a very difficult, rewarding, but challenging charge in performing these services. They are on call 24/7 and do “whatever it takes.” It is my responsibility as their supervisor to ensure that I am there for them—available, accessible and aware of whatever they may need to continue doing what they are best at doing.
It’s a lot of work and responsibility—but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.