Our collective effort to join something larger than ourselves, to translate painful experience into language, to learn together about aspects of human experience that are otherwise unbearable, gives all of us at Riggs something to stand for. In a world where people are too easily turned into things, being willing to take a stand can make all of the difference.”
Edward R. Shapiro, M.D.
December is a time for reunions with family and friends. It is a time to focus on relationships built with people past and present and a time for reflection as the new year approaches. In 2013, Austen Riggs held the Alumni Reunion - a special event held every three years that gives people a chance to come together, reconnect, share their experiences with one another and talk about where their current travels have taken them in life.
Dr. Edward Shapiro, former Medical Director/CEO of the Austen Riggs Center delivered a moving talk during the reunion weekend. He spoke about the central aspects of the treatment at Austen Riggs and how relationships and the open setting are crucial to the knowledge developed at Riggs for staff and patients. The negotiation between patients taking up their authority and finding their voice within a community and staff learning to sharpen their capacities to listen develops a deeper clarity in our work with one another and has large implications in the world outside of Riggs.
Dr. Shapiro states, "The field of mental health increasingly says that psychiatric disturbance stems from and should be treated through biology. While this may be accurate for some, it leaves out the way that psychological troubles also begin and end between and among people. The biological formulation runs the risk of obliterating the ways that people working together in different roles in a treatment community can help make painful experience recognizable and bearable and provide the necessary prospective so that people can get on with their lives.”
Watch Dr. Shapiro talk about the learning he took from Austen Riggs and the rewards taken from difficult work with one another.