Clinical Work

Clinical Work


Our clinical program offers people with significant psychiatric problems new pathways for understanding and relief. People often come to Riggs after previous treatment efforts have failed. They may carry multiple diagnoses that describe clusters of symptoms. These labels frequently fail to capture the essence of an individual’s struggles or the strengths each person brings to the clinical endeavor.

The Riggs treatment approach emphasizes the importance of human relationships both in creating and in resolving problems; the value of symptoms as an effort, in many cases, to communicate something essential about the trouble; and the necessity of respecting patients’ authority in their own lives, including in the treatment process. We provide a range of opportunities for people to develop new insights and new strategies for lasting change. People often leave Riggs feeling more accepting of themselves and others. They have greater freedom to work, play, and love. In addition, they have learned new methods for overcoming obstacles that may arise in the future. 

Intensive individual psychotherapy with a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist is the core of the treatment.  Supporting the psychotherapy is an interdisciplinary team of professionals, including nursing staff, social workers, teachers, and experts in psychopharmacology, substance abuse, and nutrition. A sophisticated therapeutic community program surrounds the individual services, offering opportunities for participation in patient government, in social and recreational activities, and in reflective process groups.  Balancing the clinical work is a novel activities program in which working artists provide instruction in painting, ceramics, woodworking, theater, and other artistic forms. Patients can also work in the school, the greenhouse, or in various jobs in the work program. Each person works with staff to find the combination of services and activities suited to them, and no two treatments are exactly alike.  

Psychodynamic approach to clinical care

For some individuals who don’t respond to standard psychiatric methods, optimal treatment requires a different approach. In every facet of the program at Riggs we apply these basic principles:

  • Relationships are central in human life.
  • Symptoms have meaning that can be understood.
  • Patients have authority in their own lives, including their treatment.
Psych testing

At Riggs, your psychiatrist may prescribe medication to help control your symptoms, but your therapist will want to help you understand these symptoms because they mean something.

Therapeutic relationships

Developing trusting and fulfilling relationships is not only a goal of treatment, it is an important expectation of the treatment program itself. By examining powerful family dynamics and social role functioning in the Therapeutic Community, Riggs offers a tremendous opportunity to learn about the importance of relationships for lasting change.

Our treatment program

The goal of our treatment program is to help individuals take charge of their lives more fully so that they may return to more productive outpatient work after discharge. This may involve finding new solutions.

Woodworking at the Activities Program

Patients are encouraged to take authority over their own treatment by participating as self-reflective community members who are respectful of the process and of others.