NAFI CT’s Leíla Zureiqi Connor Presents MST-EA Model in France

August 30, 2022
Leíla Connor of NAFI CT traveled to Lyon, France, in early July to give a presentation at the 37th International Congress on Law and Mental Health about the MST-EA model pioneered by NAFI CT.
Leíla Zureiqi Connor of NAFI CT

Leíla Zureiqi Connor, Assistant Program Director of MST programs for NAFI Connecticut, Inc., traveled to Lyon, France, in early July to give a presentation at the 37th International Congress on Law and Mental Health about the MST-EA model pioneered by NAFI CT.

The July 3-8 conference, presented under the auspices of the International Academy of Law and Mental Health, was held at Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3 in the heart of France’s Burgundy region, known for superior food and producing some of the world’s finest wines.

“Lyon is an incredibly beautiful place, rich in history and architecture,” Connor said. “The food was amazing, as was Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, the indoor food market.”

The trip, sponsored by NAFI CT, was terrific, and so was the reception to the presentation about the groundbreaking Multisystemic Therapy for Emerging Adults (MST-EA), a model designed to reduce recidivism and treat behavioral health conditions in transition age youth.

Connor presented with an MST-EA model co-developer, Ashli J. Sheidow, Ph.D., of the Oregon Social Learning Center.  Sheidow was previously a faculty member at MUSC’s Family Services Research Center (FSRC is where the bulk of standard MST research took place). Sheidow researches treatments for youth and young adults with complex problems.

Mike McCart, Ph.D., of the Oregon Social Learning Center, is the other MST-EA model co-developer. Sheidow and McCart provide the training and clinical consultation to ensure MST-EA is delivered as it was designed. Connor provided a clinical and model delivery overview of MST-EA program.

Connor is a Licensed Professional Counselor with over 15 years of experience working with adolescents through to adulthood within the mental health and criminal justice system.  She specializes in trauma informed care and co-occurring disorders.

“I have always been passionate about the EA population, as it provides an opportunity for individuals to change the trajectory of their lives so that they are able to be successful throughout their adulthood, by learning to manage their mental health in healthy ways, reducing and/or eliminating their involvement in the criminal, behavioral health and child welfare systems. Not only for themselves but for future generations.” 

NAFI was the first agency to pilot and participate in the early MST-EA research completed in Connecticut from 2008 to 2013, funded by state Department of Children and Families (DCF). This data led to two Randomized Control Trials with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA).

MST EA is now in the final phase of the Randomized Control Trials (RCT) with NIMH and NIDA. The NIMH study’s purpose is “to test the effectiveness of a promising intervention for emerging adults (EAs) with mental illness (MI) and serious antisocial behavior in achieving the ultimate outcome of reduced antisocial behavior, and proximal intermediate outcomes.”

In the second RCT, NIDA had this focus: “to examine the effectiveness of a promising intervention for emerging adults (EAs) with alcohol and other drug (AOD) abuse and justice involvement in achieving the ultimate outcome of reduced criminal activity. The study will also examine that effect on intermediate outcomes as follows: 1) reduced AOD use; 2) greater gainful activity (increased educational success, employment and housing stability; decreased antisocial peer involvement and relationship conflict); 3) and greater improvement in self-regulation (self-efficacy, goal directedness and responsibility taking).”

MST-EA is an adaptation of standard MST (multisystemic therapy) that provides comprehensive treatment for high-risk, multi-problem young adults who can be living on their own, with family/friends, in foster care, in supportive housing, or in community-based group homes. NAFI CT has been providing MST-EA for nearly a decade and offers this program statewide.

Clients must have justice system involvement within the past 18 months and carry a mental health and/or substance use diagnosis. MST-EA provides for a coach in addition to a therapist, and parents don’t need to be involved in the treatment but are welcome to be involved.

MST-EA treatment targets may include but are not limited to:

  • Safety
  • Social network
  • Housing & independent living
  • Career goals (education/vocation)
  • Mental illness & antisocial behavior
  • Substance use and trauma problems
  • Medical and psychiatric care
  • Relationship skills, conflict, & prosocial peers

“The MST-EA model is most effective when implemented by team members with an innate strengths focused disposition and harm reduction approach to treatment,” Connor added. “We have been incredibly lucky at NAFI as we have a strong core set of supervisors and therapists who have been on our teams for three or more years!”

NAFI MST-EA, services are available across the state of Connecticut in conjunction with the DCF, as well as Court Services Support Division (CSSD) . If you are interested in learning more about the MST Emerging Adults model, go to, or if you are interested in working with this population check out our Careers page.