Clinical Work

Individual Services

Psychotherapy: At the core of each patient’s work at Riggs is intensive psychodynamic psychotherapy with a doctoral level clinical psychologist or psychiatrist on staff. Patient and therapist meet four times a week (with the exception of holidays, vacations or illnesses), working together to understand the meanings of symptoms and the sources of pain in the context of the patient’s life. The unfolding of this process is unique to each individual and usually includes: an exploration of personal history; reflection on present day experience, including what happens in the therapy relationship itself; and consideration of the person’s aspirations and goals.

Psychopharmacology: Many patients entering Austen Riggs have been labeled “treatment-resistant,” having tried and failed multiple previous treatments. Often individuals have tried numerous medications that offer little relief. While modern psychopharmacologic intervention is a key part of the treatment program, our unique approach to medication management, called “psychodynamic psychopharmacology,” attends to the meaning of medications and relies on the patient to be an active participant in assessing the effectiveness of medications. Specialized psychopharmacologic consultation is provided as needed.

Social Work Services: With the patient’s permission, families can contribute to a more successful treatment for their loved one in several important ways. First, families join in understanding the importance of collaboration in managing the potential risks of treatment in an open setting. Second, families provide a detailed history, helping to locate the patient’s central difficulties in a social context. Sometimes families participate in periodic family meetings or family therapy in order to support the patient's work. The social worker also serves as the liaison between the treatment team and family members, providing basic education, answering questions and giving updates, with the patient’s participation and consent. In addition, social workers are available to assist patients with discharge planning and to support their efforts to find their way in the world outside of Riggs.

Psychological Assessment:  All patients receive a psychological assessment during their initial evaluation and most who stay a year or more are re-tested, focusing on evidence of change in preparation for a treatment review at a representation conference. A team of clinical psychologists administers a series of tests aimed at understanding a person’s internal world, including their central conflicts and struggles, their characteristic ways of managing emotions and relationships and their cognitive strengths and weaknesses. We also offer screening and referrals for people needing further neuropsychological assessment.

Substance Use Disorder Services:  Because of the difficulty of engaging in serious self-examination in the presence of active substance abuse, we ask that patients achieve abstinence prior to admission.  However, many people who come here have struggled with addictions in the past.  Our Substance Use Disorder Services support the community’s commitment to maintaining an environment free from the adverse influence of alcohol and drugs.  Counselors provide an initial assessment, individual support, educational offerings and a weekly group.  They also help people connect to self-help groups in the community, including Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon. When needed, counselors can provide information about programs and facilities that offer specialized substance use disorder treatment not available at Riggs.

Medical Services: Every patient receives a full physical exam on admission and the medical office staff, including registered nurses and a consultant in internal medicine, is available to address physical illnesses that may arise during treatment. When appropriate, patients are referred for consultations with other off-site medical specialists.

Nutritional Counseling: A registered dietitian works with patients in both individual and group settings to provide nutrition information and counseling. In addition to providing basic education about food, the dietitian works to address each patient’s strengths and liabilities in formulating successful treatment strategies.

Fitness Instruction:  Riggs offers a fully equipped, modern gym in the basement of the Inn. Treadmills, elliptical machines, spinning bikes, a rowing machine, free weights and weight machines are available to patients in all programs. A fitness instructor offers  personal training sessions, and there are various group classes including yoga, spinning, aerobic kickboxing, tennis (in season) and others according to interest.  

 

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