The Riggs Blog
The Riggs blog is a mix of news about clinical work, research and educational activities from the Austen Riggs Center, as well as a source for information beyond our walls that we find interesting and thought-provoking.
The first task of a psychotherapist is to listen. This is not as easy as it might seem. Another person’s suffering can be hard to witness without turning away. Formal education in mental health teaches us to categorize and formulate according to patterns and principles. These are necessary guides but they cannot fully capture the sources of an individual’s trouble nor pinpoint guaranteed cures.
Whenever a person or persons belonging to a group carry out a task related to the larger group’s functioning, there exists the possibility for thoughts, feelings, and experiences to be split off and dissociated, held by the subgroup. When those experiences are threatening, as they are in war, this provides some sense of security to the larger group. It is, however, a false and brittle sense of safety that leaves everyone vulnerable.
Congratulations to Dr. M. Gerard Fromm for the recent review by Michael Shulman in the October 2013 publication of the Journal of American Psychoanalytic Association. Dr. Shulman gives Lost in Transmission: Studies of Trauma Across Generations, which Dr. Fromm edited, a detailed and very favorable review.
Dr. Edward Shapiro, former Medical Director/CEO of the Austen Riggs Center delivered a moving talk during the reunion weekend. He spoke about the central aspects of the treatment at Austen Riggs and how relationships and the open setting are crucial to the knowledge developed at Riggs for staff and patients. The negotiation between patients taking up their authority and finding their voice within a community and staff learning to sharpen their capacities to listen develops a deeper clarity in our work with one another and has large implications in the world outside of Riggs.