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How My Work Makes a Difference - Part 1

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Austen Riggs held a blog competition among staff members where we asked them to write about the topic: “How My Work Makes a Difference.”  Congratulations to Ellen Broderick, Therapeutic Community Center Education Coordinator, for creating the winning blog entry below.

Ellen Broderick, Therapeutic Community Center Education CoordinatorThe Therapeutic Community at Austen Riggs is not unlike the movie 'Groundhog Day', where Bill Murray is caught in an unending repetition of February 2nd. He makes numerous desperate but unsuccessful attempts to escape this cycle, but over time he begins to see his problem as an opportunity. Realizing his behavior has alienated people, he begins to experiment with new approaches to connect with town residents, using his knowledge of how the day will unfold to help those around him. He becomes someone people not only relate to but admire, and begins to enjoy life in the process. 

At Riggs, patients often arrive with little hope that they will connect meaningfully with others or create a life worth living. Here, they are faced with the plethora of interpersonal challenges that develop from living with others. But unlike other environments they may have encountered, at Riggs they have the support of the community. Patients and staff members alike develop trust in their voices and the validity of their perspectives. They realize their own strengths, develop skills and explore interests. For patients, this might include taking on a leadership position, getting a job (either at Riggs or in the larger world), taking music lessons, providing a workshop for other patients, or planning an outing for the patient community. As the Education Coordinator, I act as a resource to patients as they face challenges interpersonally, educationally, as leaders; and I support them as they prepare to return to the world outside Riggs. 

A community is a living organism that is in constant flux. Patients and staff are continuously redefining the kind of community we want. When relationships or communication break down, we notice. We investigate our contribution to the impasse. We recognize that staff and patients are more alike than different. Knowing that I am also a 'work in progress,' I have daily opportunities to notice my strengths and short comings. I model this process, though imperfectly, with as much heart as possible. It is a privilege and a daily challenge. A decade ago, when searching for a meaningful job, I aimed for a position where I could share my strengths while continuing to grow. I believe I found it.

Patients often wonder if they will ever get better. To quote Bill Murray at the end of the film, "You can. It just takes an awful lot of work."

Past blog competition entries

What Does the Open Setting Mean to You?

What Makes Riggs Unique

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