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Newly Appointed Director of Admissions, Samar Habl, MD, Keeps Families in Mind

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Samar Habl, MD is the director of admissions at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, MA.The Austen Riggs Center is a unique residential treatment center that offers a completely open and voluntary setting for adults with complex psychiatric problems. In place of locks and privilege systems, a series of interconnected relationships and treatment alliances are forged to hold and support patients as they engage in intensive psychodynamic treatment. 

Those relationships begin when a patient, family member or clinician first contacts our admissions office. “We need to remember, it is a big deal for families to bring their children here, their family members here . . . and we need to attend to that in a way that is sensitive and recognizes the role of the family without taking away from the patient’s authority,” says newly appointed Director of Admissions Samar Habl, MD.  

Habl succeeds Eric Plakun, MD, who was the director of admissions at Riggs for the past 35 years and is the current associate medical director and newly appointed director of biopsychosocial advocacy.  “This is a big transition and part of the challenge is that Eric’s are big shoes to fill,” remarks Habl. “Eric trained me and has greatly informed the way I think about admissions . . . he thinks a great deal about boundaries and does not miss a beat when it comes to patient authority. I am grateful to have his guidance during this transition.” 

Because of the open setting at Riggs, the admissions process is thorough, which can be frustrating to prospective patients, families and referring clinicians. Habl says “We need to acquire clinical information, hear from the patient, discuss finances and, throughout the process, protect the patient’s authority.” While she acknowledges that the current process can be cumbersome, she adds “we are trying very hard to get people to a place where we are likely to say ‘yes’ to admission.” And, she is optimistic for the future: “I am hopeful that there are ways to streamline parts of the process, so that those seeking treatment at Riggs can know what we need in advance and have a way to provide us with that information quickly, allowing us to provide answers more quickly.”

Beyond the admissions process, Habl sees opportunities to further develop and strengthen relationships with other organizations and institutions, look more closely at how we handle utilization reviews, and explore ways for the admissions office to communicate securely via email. 

For Habl, being the director of admissions comes back to the importance of the interface Riggs has with each family. “What we do with families is often at the heart of the work,” she says. And that begins with the admissions office, where staff work hard to establish a foundation that gives our unique treatment the best possible chance for success. 


Read more about our admission process: 

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