Dr. Daniel P. Schwartz, who served as the Medical Director of the Austen Riggs Center from 1978 to 1991, died on October 31, 2023, at the age of 98.
During his tenure as medical director, he built upon the strengths of Riggs' psychoanalytically based long-term treatment program at a time when managed care began to dramatically shorten the length of stay at hospitals and biological psychiatry came to dominate the field. At this time, Riggs’ approach was one of psychoanalytic pluralism based on openness to new developments in the field, including the integration of medication into the treatment of patients where indicated.
Below, several Riggs colleagues offer their reflections.
“Dan was a wonderful clinician, teacher, supervisor, and colleague. As it turns out, he and I had the same first day at Riggs, when I began my Fellowship and he his tenure as medical director. Dan’s interest in and commitment to work with challenging patients and his interest in defining limits in an open setting were important parts of his clinical thinking. As medical director, Dan also selected an entire generation of staff who became the future leaders of Riggs. He will be missed.”
“Dan Schwartz, MD, was my clinical supervisor for over four years. He was keenly interested in psychoanalysis, and in the developmental process of both the patient and the analyst. A careful teacher, Dan was able to use humor, love, and at times stern guidance to help clinicians develop their skills and navigate challenging institutional dynamics. He read the psychoanalytic literature and kept up with new developments in the field, passionate about understanding the workings of the mind and how breakdowns and recovery occur. His love of clinical work was evident in his supervision where he inspired curiosity, debate, and at times vigorous disagreement that he did not shy away from.”
“After a period of turmoil at Riggs, as the Center tried to integrate ways of working under Robert Knight and then Otto Will, Dan arrived as a stabilizing and sensible clinical presence. Unlike those medical directors, both well over six feet tall, Dan was considerably shorter, and that seemed fine with him. He was not interested in being a charismatic leader or a leader in the field. Rather, he was interested in the field itself - in its theoretical differences and how they showed up in clinical work. He wanted to examine those differences, including the ones Riggs was struggling with, and to work toward their most useful reconciliation. His greatest gift was to be truly, deeply interested in what younger generations of Riggs staff were working on, which led to a wonderful resurgence of presenting, teaching and writing. He was steadfastly supportive of his staff; for example, Dan allowed me a ‘sabbatical’ from my community program role to edit a book and also offered to support my analytic training. And he was quietly a visionary, most importantly in his working with Board Chair Mary Carswell to create the Erikson Scholar program. Even after his tenure as medical director, Dan was a reliable presence at Friday Evening Guest lectures and other events. As usual, he brought with him his characteristic blend of curiosity, kindness and generosity, for which we were, and always will be, grateful.”
“When Dan was Medical Director he gave the staff his recognition and did so generously. ‘You did us proud,’ he would say when a staff member returned from making a presentation elsewhere. Another way to put this is he did not compete with his staff. He will be missed.”
“Dan loved being a therapist. He loved working with patients. Not just his own, (i.e., those he worked with himself), but, when he was the Medical Director, all the patients who were in treatment at the Center. He knew their names, their histories, their treatment issues, and how their treatments were going. Not in great detail, but well enough. He loved being a supervisor for Fellows in training at the Center. He was very invested in the Center’s Fellowship program. And followed each Fellows’ development carefully. He read the literature and wrote papers. But what he loved most was his immersion in clinical work.
He also made critical contributions to broadening and deepening the Center’s provision to families. He was the first to hire social workers to the clinical staff and authorized them to evaluate and meet with families and address their needs, almost always with the patient’s therapist as co-therapist. Similarly, he addressed the need to ensure all patients had state of the art psychopharmacology evaluations and treatment. Finally, he broadened the availability of step-down programs to patients; he negotiated the gift from the Lavan family for the renovation of Lavan House.”