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An assessment is made to understand the "fit" between identified problems and how they play out and make sense in the entire context of the young person's environment. Assessing the “fit” of the young person's successes also helps guide the treatment process.
Principle 2: Focusing on positives and strengths
MST Therapists and team members emphasise the positives they find and use strengths in the young person's world as levers for positive change. Focusing on family strengths has numerous advantages, such as building on strategies the family already knows how to use, building feelings of hope, identifying protective factors, decreasing frustration by emphasising problem solving and enhancing parents or carers’ confidence.
Principle 3: Increasing responsibility
Interventions are designed to promote responsible behaviour and decrease irresponsible actions by family members.
Principle 4: Present-focused, action-oriented and well-defined
Interventions deal with what’s happening now in the young person's life. Therapists look for action that can be taken immediately, targeting specific and well-defined problems. Such interventions enable participants to track the progress of the treatment and provide clear criteria to measure success. Family members are expected to work actively toward goals by focusing on present-oriented solutions, versus gaining insight or focusing on the past. When the clear goals are met, the treatment can end.
Principle 5: Targeting sequences
Interventions target sequences of behaviour within and between the various interacting elements of the adolescent’s life—family, teachers, friends, home, school and community—that sustain the identified problems.
Principle 6: Developmentally appropriate
Interventions are set up to be appropriate to the young person's age and fit his or her developmental needs. A developmental emphasis stresses building the young person's ability to get along well with peers and acquire academic and vocational skills that will promote a successful transition to adulthood.
Principle 7: Continuous effort
Interventions require daily or weekly effort by family members so that the young person and family have frequent opportunities to demonstrate their commitment. Advantages of intensive and multifaceted efforts to change include more rapid problem resolution, earlier identification of when interventions need fine-tuning, continuous evaluation of outcomes, more frequent corrective interventions, more opportunities for family members to experience success and giving the family power to orchestrate their own changes.
Principle 8: Evaluation and accountability
Intervention effectiveness is evaluated continuously from multiple perspectives with MST team members being held accountable for overcoming barriers to successful outcomes. MST does not label families as “resistant, not ready for change or unmotivated.” This approach avoids blaming the family and places the responsibility for positive treatment outcomes on the MST team.
Principle 9: Generalisation
Interventions are designed to invest the parents or carers with the ability to address the family’s needs after the intervention is over. The parent or carer is viewed as the key to long-term success. Family members drive the change process in collaboration with the MST therapist.