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Family Work

Active family participation can often play a crucial role in patients taking charge of their own lives. Regardless of their level of involvement, the work of treatment can be challenging for family members as well as for patients. At Riggs, a clinical social worker is available to support patients and their families, working to facilitate honest and direct communication, to understand their shared history, to improve current relationships, and to prepare for future challenges.

Typically, family members meet with a clinical social worker on the day of admission. During this first meeting, the clinical social worker provides information and listens to family members’ hopes and concerns.

During the six-week initial evaluation and treatment period, clinical social workers talk with different members of the family to gather a detailed multigenerational family history in order to understand the current situation in an historical context. They also work with patients to explore different ways they might include their families in their work at Riggs.

Clinical social workers provide ongoing support to family members to address questions they may have and to help them with their own emotional reactions to their family member’s work at Riggs. In this way, the clinical social worker may serve as a consultant to the family, offering support in making sense of the treatment process and family dynamics. At times, these discussions illuminate how concerns about the patient may be connected to issues in the broader family system.

Members of the social work team provide information (over the phone and in family meetings) regarding length of stay, short- and long-term planning, resource management, and ways to support their family member throughout the course of treatment. They can offer assistance in identifying resources to manage their own stress and anxiety that may arise in response to the patient’s progress and changes during the treatment process.

We also offer ongoing family work as needed. In these sessions, including the patient, family members, the clinical social worker, and the patient’s psychotherapist, the family system is the focus of exploration. This can be helpful in identifying patterns, sometimes handed down through generations, which can contribute to difficulties in individual members. Through this work, families develop new ways of communicating as they better understand one another and the family as a whole.    

Download the Family Member Acknowledgment for Participation in Video Conferencing form here.

                      Family members are often involved in important ways in the treatment at the Austen Riggs Center. Learn what to expect.


Hear our Clinicians Talk About Family Work at Austen Riggs

Family Treatment at Austen Riggs

Learn more about family work at the Austen Riggs Center.Margaret Kotarba, LICSW, explains the role of the social worker and the value of the family's involvement in the treatment.


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Beginning Treatment: Assessing Family Dynamics

Assessing family dynamics at the Austen Riggs Center.Director of Clinical Social Work, Cathleen Morey talks about assessing the family dynamics.


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Video Blog: Clinical Social Work at the Austen Riggs Center

Clinical social work is an integral part of the interdisciplinary psychodynamic treatment approach 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. 


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Blog Posts About Family Work at Austen Riggs

Clinical Social Work at the Austen Riggs Center: Part 2 - The Role of Riggs Social Workers with Families

The Role of Social Workers with FamiliesFamily work is an important part of the treatment at Riggs for many patients and their families. A licensed, clinical social worker who is part of each patient’s treatment team serves in the role of family liaison and family co-therapist.


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