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|Networker News: No Gurus Need Apply - Page 2|
Scott Who? Few people in the broad mental health community, much less the culture at large, probably know the name. But Henggeler has arguably carried the torch for family systems therapy more effectively than any other practitioner, though its 21st-century embodiment might surprise the early practitioners.
The comparison also bemuses Henggeler himself. A clinical psychologist by training, he's the pioneer of what's called Multi-Systemic Therapy, or MST. As its name suggests, MST is focused on the many overlapping worlds of childhood and adolescence. It emphasizes treating problem kids in their own natural environment, and practitioners routinely use genograms to visually depict the stresses and sources of support in a teenager's life.
Yet Henggeler is cautious about tracing MST's roots entirely back to the family therapy of the '70s. While acknowledging the influence of those innovators, he's quick to point out important departures from the scriptures. Most notably, he rejects guru status not only for himself but for the field generally. "Thirty years ago," Henggeler recalls, "the training model was to go to the guru, the grandmaster, and sit at his feet, then go out and be a guru yourself. From a public policy perspective, this is not a very effective model." It isn't effective, he adds, because it produces a very limited number of trained therapists--not nearly enough to take on the massive public health challenge of keeping a growing population of troubled kids out of jail.
In place of the flamboyant-guru model, Henggeler emphasizes the mundane task of "service transport"--getting what works to those who need it in the most efficient way possible. To that end, he's devised a training program (licensed to the Medical School of South Carolina, where Henggeler is a professor) with a rigid protocol, which MST therapists (almost exclusively M.S.Ws.) are expected to use as unvaryingly as possible. Since MST began gaining popularity in the mid-1990s, this practical approach has produced a large cadre of public sector clinicians, practicing in 30 states and 10 countries. An estimated 12,000 teenagers have received MST treatment, many of them because they've been arrested for illegal drug use or violent crimes like sexual assault.