Austen Riggs Reviews
"When I came to Riggs, after 40 psychiatric hospitalizations, I was dying; I was like a piece of furniture. I found the intensive psychotherapy at Riggs painful, difficult, and extraordinary. The therapeutic community gave me the opportunity to see the devastating aspects of my behavior reflected in my peers. I found my best self at Riggs." Polly Schlitz, writer, actress, and former patient
"It has been over 25 years since I was at Riggs. Although being in a hospital is not an easy experience, I have fond memories of Riggs. I felt safe there and was so grateful to the staff at the Lavender Door and to the nurses who gave me so much of their time, caring and support. Riggs feels like my childhood home. It is where I was raised with love and compassion and where my life began." Michele, former patient
"I consider coming to Austen Riggs was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life so far." Mark, former patient
“I went to Riggs thinking that it was the end of my journey, that this was my last hope to regain a normal life, to not run away from treatment. I didn’t run away, but I realized much much later that it was the beginning of my journey... Riggs laid a foundation for what I needed to deal with in therapy, as well as positive experiences and varied coping skills for what I could and would turn to and build on. I have found that a little openness on my part can go a long way in building relationships.” RE, former patient
“I wish there were more facilities like Riggs around the country. The open environment and the treatment are like none other. They provided me with a sense of freedom that I certainly didn’t have anywhere else. Being able to leave the grounds and explore the Berkshires was wonderful and contributed to my sense of wellbeing. And I look at my experience here with only the fondest of memories. You get out of Riggs of what you put into it. That’s the bottom line. I worked extremely hard and was determined to get better and I did.” Jen, former patient
“I look at Riggs as the place that broke my fall. One thing Riggs helped me develop was the ability to find my own voice. I had stuffed everything away for so long. In giving me the space to discover my competency, I found my voice. I started by expressing my anger about almost everything. But this expression opened many doors for me. From there, I broke the downward spiral.” CJ, former patient
“Coming to Riggs when I did was the best thing I could have done for myself. After being a patient on a locked unit, I had a much greater appreciation for the open setting, and for the community I was now a part of. I really never had the experience of feeling part of a community. I had friends, housemates, but I never felt I belonged to a community that had a sense of common purpose... What I learned as a community member at Riggs is that when things are going badly, don’t retreat and isolate – turn to the people around you. That is what buffered me from depressive episodes at Riggs, and having a community of people around me is still important to me today.” Daniel, former patient
"Austen Riggs saved my life or, more accurately, gave me my life. When I went to Riggs, at age 18, I felt recognized for the first time ever in my life. And while I might wish the hospital had hinted to me that I would require assistance over the next five decades learning how to integrate the discoveries I made while I was there, I am enormously grateful that I was given those discoveries on which to build." Philip Carlson, former patient
“One thing that really strikes me is that I think Riggs was valuable to me because as a result, I wasn't on heavy medications (and actually got off what I was on while I was there). And when you look at the data about people who are on medications dying 10-25 years early (who have "serious mental illness") that's actually really valuable. I know the math isn't so clear, but give up 1 year to have 10-25 years is pretty good return on investment.” S, former patient
A Patient's Perspective
The purpose of A Patient's Perspective is to portray a patient’s experience of treatment at the Austen Riggs Center. The work done at Riggs is best illustrated and explained with examples. However, examples must be provided in ways that protect patient confidentiality. Our solution to communicate an authentic patient experience was to create a composite of vignettes, stitched together in one voice.
This amalgam of patient stories reflects real and individual experiences culled from interviews with many of our clinicians who work with patients struggling to make or find meaning in their lives. This composite might seem too tidy for some and it is not meant to suggest that life is easy for individuals who complete treatment at Riggs. Nor is this composite meant to be a substitute for aggregate data across the experience of many patients, which can be found on the outcomes section of our website. We hope you read this story to learn about the complexity of treatment at Riggs, the power and value of discovering one’s own voice and take the story as illustrative of a typical Riggs experience.