The Riggs Blog

The Riggs Blog is a mix of news about clinical work, research and educational activities from the Austen Riggs Center, as well as a source for information beyond our walls that we find interesting and thought-provoking. Senior clinical experts, researchers, and editors review all clinical content on this blog before it is published.

  • Celebrating 100 years of lives reclaimed at the Austen Riggs Center

    July 21, 2020 marks the official end of the Austen Riggs Center’s centennial year, a landmark that we are proud of and humbled by–we could not have achieved it or celebrated it without the help, support, and work of so many dedicated individuals.  

  • Aspects of relying on Zoom in a residential treatment center. 

    When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we had to adapt quickly. Both the virus and our adaptations to it shook the foundations of the Riggs community. The virus turns every person into a potential hazard to every other person; anyone could be a silent unwitting conduit. So many people already harbor anxiety about being harmed by others or about accidentally harming them–this harm is now perilously close to becoming real. The virus becomes a symbol for the dangers of other people.  

  • Is there Evidence that Psychoanalytic Treatment Works?

    Austen Riggs Center Medical Director/CEO Eric M. Plakun, MD, talks about what psychotherapy can expect after the COVID-19 pandemic.  

  • You are invited to participate in a research study on experiences of loneliness and boredom in response to social distancing related to the novel COVID-19 virus pandemic, entitled “Loneliness and Social Distancing.”

    Austen Riggs Center Research Psychologist Katie Lewis, PhD, provides an update on her Loneliness and Social Distancing Research Study. 


  • The risk factors for suicide–isolation, unemployment, substance abuse, the presence of guns in the house, and so on–are all up during COVID-19.

    The theme of this fourth and final 4x4@4:00 “Talking It Through” session was disruption/re-thinking. The number of disruptions mentioned was striking, and many of them require us to re-think things we have “taken for granted.”

  • Photo credit: Michael S. Willamson/The Washington Post

    The Austen Riggs Center is pleased to announce the recipient of the 2020 Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media: Hannah Dreier, for her Washington Post piece “Trust and Consequences” 

  • Hold on to your hats.


    A major theme of this third session of the 4x4@4:00 “Talking It Through” series was “Hold on to your hats!” In response to the COVID-19 crisis, mental health professionals have gone through a number of phases in rapid succession: initial panic and confusion, surprisingly quick adaptation, learning how to organize the work, then a feeling of “Enough now,” then anxious anticipation of how the re-opening will go. There are so many unknowns on the horizon that it leads, on the one hand, to a longing for certainty, even though nobody has that, and on the other, to an even greater need to be adaptive. “Flexibility” was the watchword, and “roller coaster” was the metaphor.  

  • Austen Riggs provides intensive psychodynamic psychotherapy.

    The killing of George Floyd by members of the Minneapolis Police Department is the latest in a long history of attacks on African Americans. It is an American tragedy that racism, hate, and violence toward people of color are so deeply embedded in our culture and in our country’s history. This must stop. And the systems and institutions that allow for these acts of violence to continue must be dismantled or fundamentally changed. This is no small task, but we each have a role to play.

  • In March, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency for the Commonwealth in response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic. The order was for all non-essential businesses to close, for residents to limit unnecessary travel, and recommendations were given about social distancing. Designated as an essential behavioral healthcare facility, the Austen Riggs Center is adhering to the state guidelines. Riggs stopped taking new admissions, began using video conferencing for some group and individual meetings, restricted visitors from coming on campus, and instructed patients that they could no longer travel back and forth from the outside community to the Riggs campus. 

  • A prominent theme in the second 4x4@4:00 “Talking It Through” conversation–noted by Colleen Holmes, President/CEO of 18 Degrees–was fragility.” Anxiety and depression associated with the pandemic meet the fragility of families already suffering chronic stress, the fragility of marginal youth tenuously tethered to sources of help, and the fragility of children trying to hold on to hard-won developmental achievements. In many cases, this fragility was already there–a pre-existing condition–but now it is exposed for all to see.