Harm Reduction Therapy

Harm reduction, or harm minimization, accepts that idea that many people can’t or won’t completely stop using drugs or alcohol. The term “harm reduction” refers to a framework for helping reduce the harmful consequences of use when abstinence is not a realistic option. Although harm reduction was originally and most frequently associated with substance use, it is increasingly being applied to a multitude of other behavioral disorders. A core tenant of harm reduction is a relaxation on the emphasis on abstinence as the only acceptable goal and criteria of success. Instead, smaller incremental changes in the direction of reduced harmfulness of drug use are encouraged and accepted. Think a therapist armed with harm reduction techniques might be right for you? Reach out to one of TherapyDen’s harm reduction experts today.

Meet the specialists

Change doesn't happen instantly. I work with clients who engage in harmful behaviors including self-harm, disordered eating, substance use, gambling, etc but aren't ready to fully stop. These behaviors serve a purpose and meet a need. We will work together to identify these needs and build on new tools and strategies to reduce your reliance on harmful behaviors. Harm reduction helps reduce the damage related to these behaviors using a realistic and non-judgemental approach.

— Julie Smith, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Waterford, CT

People aren't perfect and relapse is not failure. I've learned through my experience with clients who misuse substances that living and working conditions are not always optimal for promoting abstinence. In these cases, harm reduction is very useful but not always offered or tolerated in treatment programs. As a certified advanced alcohol and drug counselor, I embrace and utilize any proven therapies that are beneficial to my clients.

— LATEISHA ELLIOTT, Licensed Professional Counselor in Huntsville, AL

Harm reduction recognizes that a person’s relationship to drugs and alcohol is often complex, and takes a non-judgmental approach to helping people reduce the negative impact of substance use, abuse or dependence in their lives. One essential Harm Reduction principle, that is qualitatively different from the 12-Step model, is that any amount of improvement is a good thing.

— Paul Silverman, Marriage & Family Therapist in San Francisco, CA

Harm reduction means meeting you where you are and supporting you in the goals you have. That could include sobriety, reduction in use or exploring anywhere in between. There are no ultimatums.

— Frances Shelby, Therapist in Austin, TX

Self-Harm Reduction Therapy helps people work through their pain & suffering, instead of staying “stuck” and increasing it. Distress Tolerance is a DBT Skill that I teach clients, so they learn safe ways to survive crisis situations without making them worse. When we can accept reality for what it is, we can free ourselves from our own personal prison, and safely move forward to build a healthier life worth living.

— Cassie Icenogle Konnoly, Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Lacey, WA

I have worked with this approach within LGBTQ+ populations and with people struggling with addiction. I have also presented professionally on this topic.

— Margaret Keig, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Orlando, FL

Harm Reduction is just that, reducing harm in the use of substances. While there is value in abstinence models of treatment and many find success with this model, it doesn't work for everyone. I was trained in Harm Reduction Therapy a few years ago and find it has been helpful in embracing a de-stigmatizing and "curiously compassionate" approach to substance use for individuals and families.

— Nicole Goudreau-Green, Counselor in Pleasantville, NY

Many of my clients often are attempting to manage either previous trauma or another overwhelming issue by using the tools that they have on hand which have worked to contain the symptoms, but often create their own problems. This can include substance use, self injury or another form of addiction. I work in a non shaming way with the client to help them incorporate more safety and expand their options for managing their pain.

— Catherine Keech, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Oakland, CA

At its core, harm reduction is an evidence-based client-centered approach that aims to meet people where they are at with their substance of choice. Harm reduction recognizes that each individual has a different starting point for exploring their substance use. Overall, harm reduction encourages individuals to explore the connection between their substance use and their well-being. Spectrum of Harm Reduction: Substance Use Management (SUM), Targeted Abstinence, Total Abstinence.

— Hannah Schwartz, Licensed Professional Counselor in Chicago, IL