What Does it Mean that Austen Riggs Has an Alumni Community?
By Suzanne R. Dewey, M.B.A.
Many often remark that Austen Riggs is a unique place and program. For those who have spent time here – as an employee, a student, or a patient – the experience is often called “transformational.”
For some, it is the slowing down of our modern notion of time. Taking time out of the hustle in our world, to pause, consider, and reflect. Riggs allows and encourages that slowing down. For others, it is examined living – the thoughtful and deliberate focus and awareness of how we impact others and ourselves by the choices we make and the conversations we have. Even others believe it is the integrated system that allows an individual to see themselves in multiple roles (patient, citizen, and student) while obtaining feedback from multiple interested sources (therapist, nurse, social worker, peer, teacher, and others). But for all, it is the ability to learn about oneself; to deeply explore what has meaning and value about our own individuality, that can be transformational, that marks us as having passed through the Austen Riggs Center.
It is this self-knowledge that brings over one hundred former patients and staff members back to Riggs for an idyllic autumn weekend to share stories, observe accomplishments, discuss concerns, and to continue learning about one’s self.
Yes, former patients and former staff often return to Riggs – some for reunion, others less formally. People return to Riggs to remember and reconnect with one another and with the values that Riggs promotes, especially one’s own authority and one’s awareness and commitment to relationship building.