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Juvenile Drug Courts with Contingency Management and Multisystemic Therapy



Juvenile drug courts are administered by a team of professionals, including court personnel and other treatment and social service providers. Juvenile drug court programs involve drug testing, ongoing case management, and weekly status hearings. In addition, treatment providers work closely with juvenile offenders and their families to target substance use and related problem behaviors.

Contingency management is a threefold process consisting of 1) addressing the target behavior or behaviors, 2) providing tangible reinforcers when those behaviors are exhibited, and 3) removing incentives when those behaviors are not shown. Integrating the contingency management protocol with juvenile drug court services includes several components. The first component is the use of validated instruments and clinical interviews to determine the extent of the juvenile’s substance use. The scale ranges from experimental use to abuse/dependency. If the juvenile’s substance use is measured toward the latter end of the scale, he or she is introduced to the contingency management protocol and referred to treatment services.

Multisystemic therapy enlists the support of family members in the treatment process. The juvenile drug courts incorporate key therapeutic elements and skills building of multisystemic therapy into their creation and implementation of treatment programs. Key strategies include juvenile and family collaboration in the development of treatment goals, conceptualizing interventions to meet those goals, maintaining a non-blaming stance, and incorporating skills such as empathy, reflective listening, and flexibility. The overall goal of multisystemic therapy is to keep juveniles who exhibit serious problems—such as criminal behavior—at home, in school, and out of trouble. Juveniles are treated in the environments where their problem behaviors exist (i.e., home, school) rather than in an unfamiliar environment (i.e., custody) to enable change.

Henggeler and colleagues (2006, 2012) found that juveniles in the drug court with multisystemic therapy enhanced with contingency management (DC/MST/CM) condition reported significantly less alcohol use, marijuana use, and polydrug use at 12 months following treatment than juveniles in the usual family court with community services (FC) condition. Juveniles in the DC/MST/CM condition reported significantly fewer status offenses, crimes against persons, and property crimes at 9-12months following treatment than juveniles in the FC condition.

Risk Factors


Antisocial/delinquent beliefs

General delinquency involvement

High alcohol/drug use

Life stressors

Makes excuses for delinquent behavior (neutralization)

Poor refusal skills


Broken home/changes in caretaker

Family history of problem behavior/criminal involvement

Low parental attachment to child/adolescent

Poor parental supervision (control, monitoring, and child management)


Poor school attitude/performance; academic failure


Availability and use of drugs in the neighborhood

Neighborhood youth in trouble


Association with antisocial/aggressive/delinquent peers; high peer delinquency

Peer alcohol/drug use


Model Program Guide: Promising

Crime Solutions: Promising


Marshall Swenson, MSW, MBA
MST Services, Inc.
710 J. Dodds Boulevard, Suite 200
Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
Phone: (843) 856-8226
E-mail: [email protected]
Web site: www.mstservices.com

Web site: www.mstinstitute.org


Henggeler, S. W., Halliday–Boykins, C.A., Cunningham, P. B. et al. (2006). Juvenile Drug Court: Enhancing Outcomes by Integrating Evidence-Based Treatments. Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology 71, 42–54.

Henggeler, S. W., Cunningham, P. B., McCart, M. R. et al. (2012). “Enhancing the Effectiveness of Juvenile Drug Courts by Integrating Evidence-Based Practices.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 80, 264–75.

Date Created: April 7, 2021