On Thursday, Shannon Hays of Family Service Association of Bucks County spoke to our class about her work in Bucks County and as a therapist in private practice, as well as her own recovery journey.

Hays also spoke about how she has found Buddhist principles to be helpful in recovery. She spoke specifically about how she applies Dialectical Behavioral Therapy in her own practice. This kind of therapy combines coping skills and mindfulness. I thought this topic was interesting because I’ve heard people from our community engagement project talk about the importance of spirituality in recovery, but this is the first time I’ve heard a speaker address this as a strategic recovery approach.

Hays also talked about her work with populations that may face unique struggles in trying to enter recovery, such as women and formerly incarcerated persons.

Many of Hays’ points about the struggles women in particular face in terms of addiction and recovery were things I hadn’t thought about before. She of course mentioned that many women have sexual trauma that is linked to their addiction, which I was already aware of. But Hays expanded upon this point, explaining that women often rely on their femininity or sexuality to get access to drugs. She also said this strategy can leave them feeling uncomfortable with their own femininity, especially once they try to enter recovery.

Hays also spoke about the struggles formerly incarcerated persons face. She said some correctional facilities are creating treatment blocks and expanding addiction and mental health treatment programs, which allows people to benefit from these programs while in prison; but when they are released these programs and structured communities aren’t available to them anymore, making sustained recovery difficult. Hays also added that inefficient drug court systems can make recidivism more likely because people may not have the resources to come in for testing at the drop of a hat.

Hays additionally spoke about her own experience with re-entry and how she was able to only spend 18 days in jail because she had access to a lawyer. She acknowledged others are serving longer sentences for similar offenses because they lack the privilege of a good legal defense.

Overall, Hays covered a lot of topics, and her talk introduced me to a lot of new problems and solutions within the addiction and recovery conversation.