I worked on a story this spring about a troubled teen who, with the help of her family and therapist, got on the right track. Below is a selection of photos and a small story I photographed and wrote for Illumination magazine. The longer article about multisystemic therapy can be found here on the Illumination website. During a ten-month period when she was 14, Kayla Cody ran away from home more than 20 times. “We were in shock,” says her father, Dennis Cody. “We just kept asking ourselves what we did wrong to make her go down that path.” Cody, now 17, disappeared for weeks at a time, sometimes staying with friends and, at one point, spending an entire week sleeping in a car. “Running was scary, but it was the only thing I had,” says Cody. “If it would have continued, I would have ended up in a juvenile home.”

After seeing a family counselor with little success, Cody’s family turned to Rheagan Fernandez, a multi-systemic therapist working at Places for People, a mental health services provider in St. Louis. It didn’t take long for Fernandez to figure out the problem — a lack of communication. Today, thanks to six months of therapy and work with the Missouri Option Program — a Department of Elementary and Secondary Education initiative that allows students to make up missed credits — Kayla is on schedule to graduate with her class. “Kayla is still Kayla. She has a little attitude but knows what she has to do now to succeed,” says her father.