Recently, Austen Riggs held a blog competition among staff members where we asked them to write about what makes Riggs unique. Over the next few weeks you will read entries from a diverse field of respondents. Congratulations to Lindsay Codwise, Development Assistant, for creating the winning blog entry below.
By Lindsay Codwise
The Austen Riggs Center is truly unique in that it defies the traditional concept of a psychiatric hospital. Whereas the term often evokes a prison-like image of long corridors, barred windows and locked cells, the atmosphere at Riggs more closely resembles that of a three-star hotel (with one of the buildings being aptly named “the Inn”). People here are not viewed so much as patients, but rather as individuals who, despite the issues with which they struggle, still possess their own sense of authority and responsibility. It is based on this understanding that our therapeutic setting is completely open and voluntary - patients may go wherever and whenever they please, without any use of privilege or force in their care. To walk the grounds of Riggs, one may even fail to realize the reality of their surroundings, finding it nearly impossible to make a distinction between patients and other members of our community.
While this blurred line between the hospital scene and the outside world may seem contradictory or even dangerous to society’s (mis)conceptions of psychiatric care, it does not undermine or trivialize the treatment that patients receive at Riggs. In fact, it is an integral part of our continuum. Patients undergo intensive, four-times weekly psychotherapy with dedicated clinicians whose work values and preserves their patient’s sense of self. Medication is evaluated and used on an individual basis; one will be hard-pressed to find any “walking zombies” on the Riggs campus. Treatment is not centered on the quickest or easiest fix, but rather on what works best for each person. At other psychiatric facilities throughout the nation, patients too often lose their identities in a downward spiral of locked doors, countless meds and red tape. Here, they are given the chance to find themselves again.