Developing New, Helpful Thought Patterns

Patricia Connors, program director for CHD’s Two Rivers Recovery Center for Women in Greenfield, has a favorite saying: “If you give what you gave, you’ll get what you got.”

This is a variation of the adage about doing the same thing over and over again and somehow expecting different results, which is a common maxim among addiction support groups. When you’re in recovery from substance use, “if you don’t make changes, you’re not going to get any rewards,” said Connors.

Indeed, when a person in recovery doesn’t learn or use new coping skills, anxiety or stress can lead them to revert to their old coping mechanism: substance use. Since its founding 10 years ago, Two Rivers has helped women develop new ways of thinking about themselves, developing new, hopeful, and helpful thought patterns. This sober residential community provides clinical and supportive services and has 25 beds, with five of those beds for pregnant women or mothers with a child up to a year old.

Two Rivers—so named because it’s situated at the confluence of the Deerfield and Connecticut Rivers—offers individualized case management, and such evidence-based therapy groups as Relapse Prevention, Seeking Safety, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Healthy Relationships, Nutrition, Mindfulness, and Nurturing Families. Two Rivers also refers residents to services offered at CHD’s Outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic in Greenfield, and it works closely with the Recover Project in Greenfield, a program of the Western Massachusetts Training Consortium that offers peer-to-peer recovery support and recreation.

Franklin County, which suffered a significant economic decline since its manufacturing heyday, was hit particularly hard by the opioid crisis of the past two decades, prompting the launch of The Recover Project 2003, and establishment of the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the Northern Quabbin Region 10 years later. Two Rivers, when it opened in 2014, filled a need for women who face unique barriers in seeking treatment, especially new mothers who might hesitate to enter a program unless they can bring their children. “Franklin County has a high number of opioid users, and I think the community responded in a very concerted effort to bring services into this area,” said Connors, who began working at Two Rivers in 2015. Later, she became program director at CHD’s Aster House residential treatment program in South Hadley, and recently came full circle by returning to Two Rivers.

“I’ve been working in human services my whole adult life, and I just love it,” said Connors, “especially here—working with so many different women, all with their unique personalities and perspectives. They keep every day fresh and interesting. Their personalities really come through when they become invested in who they really are again.”

Connors is heartened when she sees residents being able to reunify with their children, “or when their parents come pick them up with a day pass and tell me, ‘Thanks to you, I have my daughter back.’” She recalls one resident in particular who graduated from Two Rivers and went on to get her hairdresser’s license and open her own business. “There have been a few staff who come through our program, including two recovery specialists working here right now,” she said.

Connors herself has lived experience. “You don’t need to be in recovery to work in recovery,” she said. “I didn’t always do recovery work, and for a long time I worked with different populations, but in this field I can tap into my own experiences because I have been in recovery for most of my adult life.”

Some residents have had repeat stays at Two Rivers—developments that aren’t seen as permanent setbacks, because it is widely accepted today that a relapse is sometimes part of the recovery journey, and doesn’t have to mean a full return to addiction. “We work with these women who relapse, and really dig down through behavior chain analysis, find out what they could have done differently,” said Connors. “I think some of them don’t have practice telling themselves, ‘I can move through this crisis.’ But they can. They have the tools, and if they don’t have all the tools, we’ll identify that, and use the situation to really make some motivation for change.”