Our Treatment

Our Treatment

The Austen Riggs Center provides intensive psychodynamic psychotherapy in a voluntary, open, and non-coercive community.Our treatment program offers people with significant psychiatric problems new pathways for understanding and relief. People often come to us after previous treatment efforts have failed. They may have found themselves caught up in treatments that are at an impasse, characterized by chronic crisis management and interrupted by frequent short-term hospitalizations. Often, their treatment stirs up such intense feelings that a patient cannot function adequately between sessions, no matter how frequent. 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 importance of human relationships both in creating and in resolving problems is a central element in our treatment model.  Symptoms may be seen as an effort, in many cases, to communicate something essential about the trouble.  Respecting patients’ authority in their own lives, including in the treatment process, is critical. 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.

A Psychodynamic Approach to Clinical Care

The Austen Riggs Center provides intensive psychodynamic psychotherapy in a voluntary, open, and non-coercive community. We offer a continuum of programs and services within a core treatment framework that remains consistent throughout the patient’s stay.

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 pre-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.  No two treatments are exactly alike.  

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:

 

 
Considering psychotherapy

In this six-part series, exploring borderline personality disorder, we will present excerpts from a longer interview, conducted by former Erikson Scholar Joshua Wolf Shenk in 2009, with M. Gerard Fromm, PhD, ABPP, a senior consultant to the Erikson Institute for Education and Research at the Austen Riggs Center. At the end of the series, we will make the interview, in its entirety, available in our Resource Center.

Related Resources

 
Jane Tillman, PhD, ABPP

Jane G. Tillman, PhD, ABPP, Director of the Erikson Institute for Education and Research talks about how psychoanalytic treatment has changed over the years.

 
Eric M. Plakun, MD, DLFAPA, FACPsych, Associate Medical Director and Director of Admissions

Eric M. Plakun, MD, Associate Medical Director and Director of Admissions talks about the evidence for psychoanalytic treatment.

 
Eric M. Plakun, MD, DLFAPA, FACPsych  and Spencer Biel, PsyD

Many patients lack the capacity to manage intense affects between therapy sessions, and as a result are caught in impasses as treatment becomes organized around fending off the next crisis or recovering from the last. Risk of suicide is often part of this presentation. Among the range of interventions that may help such patients emerge from impasse and treatment resistance is residential treatment, particularly psychodynamic residential treatment. We describe the role of residential treatment for such patients and offer an illustrative case example. 

 
A Patient's Perspective

The purpose of A Patient's Perspective is to portray a patient’s experience of treatment at the Austen Riggs Center. 

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