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Patient Outcomes & Results

Founded in 1919, the Austen Riggs Center offers a treatment program whose efficacy has stood the test of time. Our unique approach, blending a traditional foundation and newer elements, has elicited countless patient success stories.

Woman tending to a garden on a sunny day
Graph showing symptoms of Austen Riggs patients, with most experiencing depression, obsessive compulsivity, but showing lesser symptoms upon being discharged
Graph showing symptoms of Austen Riggs patients, with most experiencing depression, obsessive compulsivity, but showing lesser symptoms upon being discharged

Brief Symptom Inventory

The BSI is a self-report symptom inventory designed to provide multidimensional symptom measurement and is administered shortly after Admission and at Discharge. On average, patients reported statistically significant improvement in depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, and overall severity of symptoms.

BSI Symptom Inventory, January 2011-May 2020; N=308

Pie charts showing 66 percent of Austen Riggs patients have been to another psychiatric hospital or residential treatment center
Pie charts showing 66 percent of Austen Riggs patients have been to another psychiatric hospital or residential treatment center

Turning to Riggs After Others

Approximately two thirds (66%) of our patients come to Riggs after experiencing disappointing treatment outcomes at other psychiatric hospitals or residential treatment centers.

Patient satisfaction surveys, March 2011-February 2020; N=336

Bar chart showing how discharged patients rate their Austen Riggs experience compared to other treatment programs, with 69 percent feeling much better
Bar chart showing how discharged patients rate their Austen Riggs experience compared to other treatment programs, with 69 percent feeling much better

How Riggs Compares

Of the 66% of our discharged patients who had been to another psychiatric hospital or residential treatment center, an overwhelming majority (88%) called Riggs treatment "better."

Patient satisfaction surveys, March 2011-February 2020; N=336

Bar chart rating overall treatment outcome of Austen Riggs patients, with 54.8 percent showing improved
Bar chart rating overall treatment outcome of Austen Riggs patients, with 54.8 percent showing improved

Our Treatment Teams' Views of Outcome

Roughly three quarters (74%) of our discharged patients were rated "improved" by their interdisciplinary treatment team.

Interdisciplinary Treatment Team surveys, January 2002-March 2021; N=1395

Rating Elements of Treatment

The individual elements of our integrated, interdisciplinary treatment approach achieved high levels of satisfaction ("somewhat satisfied" or "very satisfied") among discharged patients.

*Rated "Somewhat Satisfied" or "Very Satisfied" Patient satisfaction surveys, January 2017-February 2020; N=84

Rating Treatment Satisfaction

Discharged patients also reported high levels of satisfaction ("somewhat satisfied" or "very satisfied") with central aspects of our unique treatment approach.

*Rated "Somewhat Satisfied" or "Very Satisfied" Patient satisfaction surveys, January 2017-February 2020; N-84

Rating Our Facilities

Various aspects of the residential experience in our voluntary, open setting also achieved high levels of satisfaction ("somewhat satisfied" or "very satisfied") from discharged patients.

*Rated "Somewhat Satisfied" or "Very Satisfied" Patient satisfaction surveys, January 2017-February 2020; N=84

Life After Riggs

The most significant measure of the efficacy of our treatment approach is the ability of each discharged patient to live a more satisfying life. Half of our former patients live independently and nearly 75% are working and/or in school.

Patient satisfaction surveys, March 2011-February 2020; N-336

The Science Behind What We Do
The holistic, integrative approach at Riggs is widely viewed as clinically helpful, even essential, when treating people with complex psychiatric disorders. While most research focuses narrowly on separate techniques, there is ample evidence for the efficacy of our treatment.
What evidence is there to support the usefulness of psychodynamic/psychoanalytic treatment?
There are around 300 published, peer-reviewed studies demonstrating that psychodynamic therapy works for people with a range of specific disorders and people with complex and co-occurring disorders. When compared to other forms of therapy, many of which focus on symptoms more than on meaning, psychodynamic therapy has been found to be equally effective. Among people struggling with several co-occurring disorders, those receiving longer-term psychodynamic therapy had better outcomes than 90% of those receiving other treatments.
Grounded in this empirical base, psychodynamic psychotherapy is a standard part of contemporary psychiatric practice (Oldham 2005). Standard practice guidelines issued by professional organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association (APA) include psychodynamic psychotherapy among other evidence-based treatment options (APA Practice Guidelines).
Psychodynamic Treatment Compared to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a well-known form of therapy developed by the late Aaron T. Beck, who trained and developed many of his core ideas at Riggs, CBT is a robustly researched and effective form of psychotherapy. Comparisons of CBT with psychodynamic therapy have found both CBT and psychodynamic therapy to be equally effective (Cooper et al. 2003); (Driessen et al. 2013); (Leichsenring, Klein, and Salzer 2014); (Levy et al. 2006).
Is there specific evidence to support using psychodynamic treatment in a residential setting like Riggs?
While most of the studies described in this section utilize subjects from outpatient settings, there are also outcome studies of psychoanalytic hospital-based treatment that have found lasting benefits in both general symptom improvement and interpersonal functioning (Bateman and Fonagy 1999); (Bateman and Fonagy 2001); (Vermote et al. 2009); (Vermote et al. 2010).
Evidence Supporting Psychodynamic Treatment in a Residential Setting
Studies by Chisea and Fonagy (2003); (2004) that were carried out in a setting similar to the Austen Riggs Center demonstrate that approximately six months of psychoanalytically informed residential treatment, followed by planned step-down programs, led to significant long-term clinical improvements. Austen Riggs has conducted outcome research on cohorts of patients since the 1980s, using the methodology available in each era. One of these, the Austen Riggs Center Follow-Along Study, a 15-year, longitudinal, naturalistic study,, tracked the treatment of nearly 200 seriously patients with complex psychiatric conditions, many of whom activelty struggled with suicide and had often made attempts (Perry et al. 2009). This study showed that 75% of these patients no longer suffered from suicide as an issue in their lives at a seven-year follow up. In this study and in earlier ones, about 70% of Riggs patients have good outcomes, though many of them have failed to benefit adequately from previous treatment.
Is there evidence to support the emphasis on the treatment relationship at Riggs?
A major contributing factor to any successful treatment is the sustained relationship between the patient and therapist. There is a great deal of scientific evidence to support this claim.
Evidence Supporting the Value of the Treatment Relationship
Originally referring to the positive feelings a patient develops for a therapist, the term “therapeutic alliance” later came to mean the conscious and active collaboration between the patient and therapist. The relationship between the alliance and therapy outcome has been the focus of a great deal of empirical research that consistently demonstrates the importance of the therapeutic relationship to treatment outcome. (The therapist’s personal qualities such as dependability, benevolence, responsiveness, and experience help patients have confidence and trust in their therapist, and his/her ability to both understand and help them cope with the issues that brought them to therapy.
Is there scientific evidence to support the underlying principles that guide psychodynamic psychotherapy used at Riggs?
Psychodynamic therapy is designed to assist an individual to develop a comprehensive understanding of him/herself in context. Underlying this understanding is a basic belief that people have the potential to make important and fundamental changes in their lives when meaning can be linked to experiences.
For many individuals, psychodynamic therapy supports the development of internal resources and abilities that can lead to deeper, satisfying, and more autonomous lives. The goal of psychodynamic psychotherapy extends beyond symptom remission into enhancing a patient’s ability to more fully access their internal resources.
This translates to
  • Being able to take life’s challenges in stride;
  • Having more freedom to express oneself;
  • Tolerating a broader range of feelings;
  • Engaging in satisfying relationships; and
  • Understanding the world in more individualized and complex ways.

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