Our Treatment

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. Patients and therapists 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 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 the Initial Evaluation and Treatment phase 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 Abuse 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 abuse 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 abuse 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, are available to address physical illnesses that may arise during treatment. When appropriate, patients are referred for consultations with other off-site medical specialists.

Health and Wellness Program

The Health and Wellness Program at the Austen Riggs Center offers patients an opportunity to enhance their overall health and wellbeing though a range of offerings that include:

  • support in developing personal health goals
  • health education
  • healthy food options developed by patients and staff
  • mindfulness and mind-body practices instruction (yoga, yoga nidra/mindfulness meditation, Qigong, slow breathing techniques) 
  • personal training
  • exercise classes
  • daily walks
  • nutrition education and counseling (initial nutrition assessment upon admission and the opportunity for regular nutrition appointments thereafter) 

In this program, patients explore what wellness means to them through exposure to a variety of practices designed to improve self-care and the capacity to cope with stress. Patients are encouraged to learn ways to enhance their individual sense of wellbeing through personal exploration and experimentation with a range of approaches and can receive ongoing guidance to strengthen their ability to meet their personal health goals.