Therapeutic Community Program
Careful exploration of difficult life experiences – the work of everyone at Riggs – is most rewarding when patients also share their strengths with each other and with the staff in a serious partnership of mutual problem solving and social learning. Everyone—patients and staff alike—has something to offer and something to gain by participating. The Therapeutic Community Program includes an interconnected series of groups aimed at enhancing patient authority, fostering interpersonal learning, and creating an environment that supports treatment. We engage in a process of “examined living,” characterized by learning through public reflection (by staff and patients) on the meaning of behaviors, choices, and interactions.
In the Therapeutic Community Program, patients can experiment with new ways of being in relationships using some of the insights that arise in psychotherapy. There are nearly 50 group meetings held each week, some open to all, some within the different residential programs, and some designed to address specific difficulties. These groups offer many opportunities to deepen understanding of how different ways of communicating affect the quality of relationships. Staff members offer consultation to small groups that focus on interpersonal learning and group dynamics. Other groups support sobriety or teach coping skills.
There are art shows, reading groups, open mic nights, basketball games, and many other activities. Each patient chooses to participate in different groups and activities. The focus of many of the group offerings are negotiated in an ongoing way with the patients, helping to ensure that the offerings are relevant to current patients’ needs and interests. If there is a group that doesn’t yet exist, patients can join together to create it. It is a rare person who cannot find a place where they have something to learn and something to contribute in this community. Through this process of group interaction, a great deal of personal, social, ethical, and organizational learning can take place.
The system of patient government at Riggs is a vital aspect of the open setting, inviting patients to use their strengths and leadership capacities as citizens to help create a community that is supportive of learning, development, and positive engagement. Patient government provides central support for the goal of developing the full voice of the patients as individuals and citizens. As active members of the community, patients can learn about the profound responsibility of making personal decisions, taking responsibility for those decisions, and finding fulfillment through engagement.
Our system of patient self-governance supports patients’ efforts to improve the quality of life in the Riggs community. The structures of patient government allow everyone in the community to participate in creating and enhancing the treatment environment. Elected patient representatives work with staff on a variety of committees that help the community run more smoothly. Patients lead community meetings, address social problems, welcome and orient new community members, and organize recreational activities.
The Work Program
The Austen Riggs Work Program provides an opportunity for patients to apply for and carry out work at the Center in either paid or volunteer positions. It assists patients in returning to life in their communities in healthy and productive ways by providing this opportunity for growth in collaboration with staff and by enhancing personal competence.
The Work Program recognizes the many benefits of paid and unpaid work roles including
- skill development;
- development of self-esteem;
- development of one’s identity;
- the experience of making a difference;
- fulfilling the need to be creative, productive, and competent;
- developing collaborative and productive relationships;
- receiving recognition and respect; and
- developing the capacities and abilities of industry and perseverance.
Work positions include
- teacher’s aide in our on-site Austen Riggs Nursery School;
- library assistant in the Austen Fox Riggs Library;
- plant care assistant in the greenhouse;
- ceramics assistant in the ceramics studio; and
- a wide range of other roles.
The Work Program Committee, made up of staff and elected patient representatives, oversees the program. The purpose of the committee is to develop jobs for patients at the Center and provide support to the patients and staff who participate in the program. The goal of the Work Program is to provide patients with opportunities for “real life” job experiences – from applying for a job, interviewing, and being hired or not, to being paid, being supervised and evaluated, and working in a variety of capacities.