by Comprehensive Staff

07/05/2019 5:19 pm

Local Therapists Making Monumental Impacts in the Lives of Youth and Our Communities

Multisystemic Therapy – Family Integrated Transitions (MST-FIT) team at Comprehensive Healthcare in Pasco is making waves of positive influence for the youth in the Tri-Cities communities. The program assists youth who are in the criminal justice system or have been in juvenile detention and currently on probation or parole. In 2018, Comprehensive Healthcare in Pasco found that 84% of the youth who complete the program do not recommit a crime and 94% remain in the home and out of a juvenile detention facility.

Incarcerating youth increases the likelihood of adult offenses by 171%.  The main focus of MST-FIT is to change the ecology of the youth and their family system in order to interrupt the patterns of behavior that could lead them to further offenses.

Unlike the traditional idea of therapy, the MST-FIT is a short-term intensive program where the therapists visit the home twice a week for an average of four to six months. Parents are also heavily involved in the program.  When youth referrals are currently in placement, the therapists begin engaging the youth (and sometimes their family) two months prior to release. 

 “The biggest impact is the parents.” said Joy Aerts, Comprehensive Healthcare Therapist and Team Lead for the MST-FIT program in Pasco. “We teach parents valuable skills such as how to increase boundaries and how to also create a warm, welcome and safe home.”

Therapy resembles planning sessions and collaborative problem-solving with the whole family to establish consequences and rewards incentives, monitor what the youth are doing, filling their spare time with positive activities, and changing their peer groups. Building communication skills through dialectical behavioral therapy interventions (DBT) are also a significant part of the process.

Therapists like Aerts emphasize the importance of being involved in their community, sports or after-school activities. “What we know through studies is that when something negative is taken away, or a certain type of behavior is not allowed, we need to fill that void with something positive,” said Aerts.

From the time the program started in 2016 to present, the team has worked with 55 individual youth. They have been witnessing more successful outcomes each year. In reference to a recent case, Aerts said, “I have really enjoyed seeing [them] excel in school. They even started volunteering, joined a club and have stopped all substance use. I am really proud of them.”

Not only are Comprehensive Healthcare therapists positively impacting youth and our community, but also saving state and county criminal justice systems close to $20,000 per youth through reducing recidivism for program participants. One MST-FIT therapist is also bi-lingual, helping the program effectively serve families who primarily speak Spanish.

Comprehensive Healthcare believes the MST-FIT program is effective largely due to its specific care model with evidence-based principles. As a nationally approved MST program, Comprehensive Healthcare therapists implement the model using interventions from DBT as well as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and other types of therapy mixed into their work. Each therapist providing MST-FIT must undergo five days of specific training on this model before beginning treatment with clients.

Comprehensive Healthcare is the only MST-FIT provider in the Benton, Franklin, and Yakima Counties. You can learn more about the National MST-FIT program being implemented by visiting http://www.mst-fit.com/.  For more information about Comprehensive Healthcare’s services call (509)-412-1051 or visit www.comphc.org.

Additional statistics: According to a study by the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, results show that MST-FIT participants had significantly lower recidivism rates at follow-up than did their counterparts who participated in individual therapy, (50% vs. 81%, respectively). Moreover, MST-FIT participants had 54% fewer arrests and 57% fewer days of confinement in adult detention facilities. (Schaeffer, Borduin, 2005).