Austen Riggs Center Philosophy
Patients have individual, psychodynamic psychotherapy sessions four times a week with a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist along with support and counseling from an interdisciplinary team that follows each patient from admission to discharge. The team includes a therapist, psychopharmacologist, substance abuse counselor, social worker, nursing care coordinator, a therapeutic community staff member, and others. Patients are admitted to an intensive evaluation and treatment period that is generally completed in six weeks. Most patients stay on in our continuum of inpatient, residential, and day-treatment services.
Areas of Specialization
Research shows that the odds of successful, sustained recovery from addiction are far higher when family members and loved ones are involved in treatment. Drug and alcohol addiction often have genetic roots, whether related to substance abuse, mental illness or both. Family dynamics also play a role and, often, family members are the first to realize a loved one has developed an addiction. Also, it’s important for family members to understand and embrace the lifestyle changes that are required to sustain recovery.
Residential treatment programs provide housing (food and meals) in addition to treatment for substance abuse. Some facilities offer only short-term residential treatment, some offer only long-term treatment and others offer both, ranging from a few days to many months, based on patient needs.
Meet the Staff
Andrew J. Gerber, MD, PhD
Medical Director & CEO
Andrew J. Gerber, MD, PhD, is medical director and CEO of the Austen Riggs Center and an associate clinical professor in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. He is an associate clinical professor at the Child Study Center, Yale University. He is an adjunct associate professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences in the College of Natural Sciences at University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is the former co-director of the Sackler Parent-Infant Program at Columbia University, former director of the MRI Research Program at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and former director of research at the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. While in New York, he also had a private psychoanalytic practice.
Margaret Parish, PhD
Director of Patient Care
Margaret Parish, PhD is the Director of Patient Care. A clinical psychologist, she provides and supervises psychotherapy, psychological assessment, and group consultation. She studies and writes about the interface between psychoanalysis and social systems, including in therapeutic communities, and has conducted seminars in psychopathology and social psychology. She is Past-President of the Board of the Center for the Study of Groups and Social Systems, Boston’s A. K. Rice affiliate, and has served on staff in a number of group relations conferences. Her previous roles at Riggs include being a treatment team leader, the manager of the community center, and a consultant to outside organizations through the Erikson Institute Consultation Service.
Rehabs.com 360 Guide
ABOUT AUSTEN RIGGS CENTER
The Austen Riggs Center (Riggs) is a not-for-profit psychiatric hospital, teaching facility, and therapeutic community founded in 1913. From a grand mansion on a tree-lined street in western Massachusetts, the center offers residential treatment and step-down, transitional-living care for adults struggling with a wide range of mental health disorders. Riggs can treat substance use disorder and eating disorders, as secondary to a primary mental-health disorder, so long as clients are medically stable and have achieved a certain period of abstinence upon arrival.
Riggs specializes in treating treatment-resistant individuals and those with multiple diagnoses.
TREATMENT & ASSESSMENT
All treatment follows three core principles: relationships are central to human life; symptoms are meaningful and can be understood; clients have authority in their lives and treatment. The length of stay can vary from six weeks to more than a year.
All new clients are admitted to a six-week "Initial Evaluation and Treatment Phase" at The Inn, the primary residential facility. During this stage, clients participate in four individual therapy sessions a week as well as group counseling. Families are expected to cooperate with evaluations, and may receive prolonged treatment when necessary. This thorough observation phase culminates in a meeting where treatment staff present a report that includes recommendations for further treatment.
Some clients remain at the Inn for further residential treatment, while others proceed to step-down care at off-site residences, some of them as close as one block from The Inn. There, residents focus on developing independent-living skills, sometimes by working, volunteering, or taking school courses, while continuing to participate in individual and group therapy or even a day treatment program. The intensity of treatment tapers over the course of step-down care until clients are only participating in an aftercare program.
For those clients who struggle with problematic substance use, the Austen Riggs Center offers specialized counseling and linkage to community-based self-help programs.
The Austen Riggs Center prides itself on its multidisciplinary team, which includes psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, nurses, therapists, social workers, and substance use counselors.
ACCOMMODATIONS & AMENITIES
The Inn resembles a historic New England Inn, and offers 24-hour nursing and space for up to 40 residents at a time. Most of those residents sleep in private bedrooms, though some rooms are shared between two. Meals are served buffet-style, and there's a gym, a library, and several common areas on-site.
The Austen Riggs Center also provides an extensive roster of extracurricular activities, including workshops led by professional artists and artisans; a theatre program; and a greenhouse. A wellness curriculum offers nutritional counseling, guided meditation, health education and goal-setting support, fitness training, and classes including yoga and Qigong.
Rehabs.com has not yet received any reviews from this facility’s alumni, affiliated friends or family members, or staff, however, secondary sites did yield some coverage, and it was mixed. At the time of this writing, the Austen Riggs Center had a 4.5-star average rating based on 15 reviews left on a self-managed Facebook page, a 2.5-star average rating based on four reviews on Google, and two one-star ratings on YellowPages.com.  
Notably, three of the seven negative reviews (among 21 reviews in total) cited inadequate or lax attention paid to substance abuse. Two reviewers wrote that they or their loved ones struggled with drug problems after their stay; "Their approach does not stop the addicted patient from acting out, at all," R.C. wrote on Google in the third review. The facility responded to say: "With our open setting, our program is not appropriate for those with active substance use or eating disorders, and we normally refer to dedicated substance use or eating disorder treatment programs in those situations."
Otherwise, the reviewers spoke of the facility in glowing terms, often thanking the facility's staff in particular, and stressing that the center's approach empowered them but required full commitment to the process. "It has been 6 years since my stay with Austen Riggs. They saved my life... Thank you Austen Riggs, I have a life today and it is a good one," T.D.C. wrote in a representative review on Google.
The initial six-week consultation phase costs $55,000–$60,000, of which a prepayment of $45,000 is required on the day of admission, regardless of the individual's insurance coverage. Following this, the average cost of treatment is $800/day, though rates vary according to the type of treatment provided.
Reductions of up to 30 percent of the cost of treatment are available, and are determined on the basis of the client's income, family size, and other factors. Riggs also accepts insurance, on an out-of-network basis only; neither Medicare nor Medicaid is accepted.
In August 2016, the Berkshire Eagle reported that the Austin Riggs Center had been voted the US's ninth best psychiatric hospital, in US News & World Report's 2016-17 list of the nation's best hospitals.
Published on December 2017
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