• Riggs Medical Director Dr. Plakun on the Four Freedoms in Mental Health Care

    Austen Riggs Center Medical Director/CEO Dr. Eric Plakun writes about the Four Freedoms of Mental Health Care

  • Jed Yalof, PsyD, is the staff neuropsychologist at the Austen Riggs Center.

    What is neuropsychology and neuropsychological assessment, and how can this service be of assistance to patients? Neuropsychology seeks to understand how brain-behavior relationships influence thoughts, feelings, and everyday psychosocial adjustment.

  • The Austen Riggs Center has a therapeutic community in an open treatment setting.

    Entering the open setting here at Riggs produces a kind of culture shock—this holds for patients, for their families, and for new staff. As a psychiatric hospital, Riggs is unique, and it is the open setting that makes it unique: no locked wards, no security guards, no pass system. Patients have cars, hold jobs, come and go to college, sit (or work) in the coffee shop down the street.

  • Recreational marijuana is now sold legally in Massachusetts. What does that mean for Austen Riggs?

    Recreational marijuana is now sold legally in Massachusetts. What does that mean for Austen Riggs?

    Massachusetts voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2012 and approved the sale of cannabis for recreational use in 2016. This has led to the recent opening of the state’s first dispensaries—one of them less than 10 miles from Stockbridge and at least two others in Berkshire County with still more planned. Given that half of the patients who come to Riggs for treatment have a diagnosed substance use disorder, the relatively easy access to legal cannabis could add to the challenges they face. 

  • Laura M. Morrell, LICSW, is a clinical social worker at the Austen Riggs Center.

    Clinical social work is an integral part of the interdisciplinary psychodynamic treatment approach at the Austen Riggs Center. 

    Hear Laura M. O’Neill, LICSW, speak about the multifaceted role of the clinical social worker at Riggs. 

  • Dr. Jeff Foote and Dr. Michael Groat speak about the ways in which psychodynamic principles can be used in different types of treatment settings.

    During a visit to the Austen Riggs Center earlier this year, Dr. Jeff Foote, co-founder of the Center for Motivation and Change (CMC), and Dr. Michael Groat, president and CEO of CooperRiis, spoke with us about the ways in which psychodynamic principles can be used in different types of treatment settings among other topics. 

  • Psychotherapy

    We focus on the whole person, including the trauma. “We try to learn from a person’s relationships—past and present. We try to understand the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that come up in relationships, some of which otherwise might sabotage treatment,” she says.  People with complex trauma histories often become reactive to relationships in ways they don’t understand. We try to help them understand and organize themselves so they can stay in treatment and approach their trauma in a safe way. 

  • Dr. Christina Biedermann, staff psychologist at Austen Riggs Center

    “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the body’s physical and emotional response to extreme stress,” explains Dr. Christina Biedermann, staff psychologist at Austen Riggs Center.  That stress is triggered by a life-threatening event, either a single incident, such as a car accident, or chronic trauma, such as military combat, abuse or chaotic relationships. 

  • Developing fulfilling relationships is not only a goal for many people who come to Riggs, it is also an integral part of the treatment program itself.

    This year, at the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Annual Meeting, I heard a new catchphrase: "practicing at the top of your license." While I had heard this phrase a few times before, it seemed to be everywhere this year. The context in which this phrase tended to be uttered was when psychiatrists were describing the position that their employers took, when those psychiatrists wanted to provide some form of psychosocial treatment in addition to (or as an alternative to) the model of "15-minute med checks." The implication seemed to be, "you are medically trained, while others are not, so your energies should be devoted exclusively to providing medicine."

  • The Austen Riggs Center treatment approach is based on four-times weekly individual psychotherapy.

    The Coalition for Psychotherapy Parity, formed at the request of Harriet Wolfe, MD, president of the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA), and comprised of leading researchers, clinicians, and advocates for psychotherapy, recently released “Clinical Necessity Guidelines for Psychotherapy, Insurance Medical Necessity and Utilization Review Protocols, and Mental Health Parity.” 



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