Patient Authority

  • Family relationships, even going back several generations, are almost always a crucial aspect of treatment in the open setting at Austen Riggs.

    Freedom from Dehumanizing Treatment is one of the Four Freedoms that is a foundation of mental health. Dehumanizing treatment is different from stigma, which is another of the Four Freedoms of Mental Health, as it refers to treatment itself as opposed to more general beliefs, attitudes, and actions related to stigma in the larger world. 

    Dehumanizing treatment includes: unnecessary restriction, seclusion, or restraint of those struggling with mental disorders; treating mentally ill individuals as merely a diagnosis rather than full people; or treatment that regards patients as mouths to swallow pills instead of people with stories that are meaningful. Underfunding mental health treatment generally is the result of stigma, but this results in dehumanizing treatment. 

  • The Austen Riggs Center has a therapeutic community in an open treatment setting.

    Entering the open setting here at Riggs produces a kind of culture shock—this holds for patients, for their families, and for new staff. As a psychiatric hospital, Riggs is unique, and it is the open setting that makes it unique: no locked wards, no security guards, no pass system. Patients have cars, hold jobs, come and go to college, sit (or work) in the coffee shop down the street.

  • Conference

    The Therapeutic Community Program at the Austen Riggs Center provides an opportunity for patients to share their strengths with one another and with the staff in a partnership of mutual problem solving and learning. This exploration of strengths has, in different ways, always been a key component of the treatment philosophy from Riggs’ founding in 1919 to its present form today. 

  • Director of Admissions Dr. Samar Habl talks about the admissions process and who should consider treatment at the Austen Riggs Center.

    Samar Habl, MD, director of admissions at the Austen Riggs Center, talks about who should consider treatment at Riggs, what the admissions process entails, and the importance of negotiating a partnership during the admissions consultation.

  • Associate Medical Director and Director of Biopsychosocial Advocacy, Dr. Eric M. Plakun offers tools to navigate appealing denials of mental health care.

    Many people have had the unhappy experience of being denied insurance coverage for mental health treatment they, their family, and doctor agree is medically necessary. Appealing denials can be complicated, frustrating, confusing, and difficult to navigate.

  • Riggs Fellowship: A Systems Approach in a Therapeutic Community

    Heather Forouhar Graff, MD, talks about some of the things she appreciates most about being a psychiatry Fellow at the Austen Riggs Center. 

  • David Mintz, MD, Team Leader/Staff Psychiatrist at the Austen Riggs Center.

    Austen Riggs Center staff psychiatrist David Mintz, MD, talks about the Psychodynamic Psychopharmacology strategic initiative taking form at Riggs. 

  • Medical Director/CEO Andrew J. Gerber, MD, PhD, talks about what the open setting at the Austen Riggs Center stands for and what it has to offer in today’s mental health landscape.

  • The Austen Riggs Center is an open psychiatric treatment setting located in Stockbridge, MA.

    Former Medical Director/CEO Andrew J. Gerber, MD, PhD, talks about the integrated elements of treatment that make the Austen Riggs Center unique.

  • What does it mean for one person to identify as having a mental illness while another person rejects the term?

    What is “mental illness”? As today’s way of describing a particular cluster of human experience at the edges of the bell curve, “mental illness” is just a term. It marks a kind of suffering, but says nothing about the nature of the experience or the person experiencing it. As such, it will always mean more than any one person intends, while simultaneously missing the mark. 



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