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

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 wherever possible. I use this type of therapy for people who struggle with alcohol use, thc use, other substances, or other behaviors that could be done in a safer, less risky way. Abstinence works for some people but not for others. I won't put you into a one- size-fits all box.

— Amber Holt, Clinical Social Worker in Gig Harbor, WA

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
 

Abstinence based therapy is a pathway to recovery, but it's not the only way. Together, we'll clarify what your recovery goals are, and work to identify triggers and supports, skills and resources to help reduce the amount of harm that substances have caused in your career, relationships and sense of self.

— Kelly O'Donnell, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor in Charlotte, NC

I have worked in substance use field since 2016, mostly with the adolescent population. I work through a harm reduction point of view as one it can be dangerous to suddenly quit "harder substances" but also because it makes it less likely for relapse to occur. This treatment has also worked for those individuals who self-harm, by finding healthier ways to cope while reducing the negative coping skills being currently engaged.

— Juzmin Molina, Licensed Mental Health Counselor
 

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

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
 

As a clinician with experience working with addiction, homelessness, sex work, and abuse, I take a strong harm reduction approach. I understand that change does not happen overnight, and have extensive knowledge of harm reduction-based coping strategies.

— Natalie Winicov, Clinical Social Worker

I believe that behaviors that feel out of control are related to feelings that are often unidentified and then turned into actions. I believe that the affect of shame is highly related to many out-of-control behaviors. Shame can be conscious and/or unconscious. I help my clients to develop an awareness of their shame, as well as other feelings, in order for them to use the feeling states in the service of directing their actions consciously and purposefully.

— Michael Crocker, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in New York, NY
 

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

This is specific for working with addiction and is not based on an abstinence model. HRT is tailored to the individual's relationship with alcohol and other drugs and incorporates other important problems: emotional disorders, family problems, social alienation, etc. It's a collaborative approach to explore the client's own barriers to change and to choose among a range of options such as abstinence, moderation, or other short-term goals.

— Ciara Jenkins, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Yulee, FL
 

Although this is most frequently used in substance use treatment, it can also apply in other arenas. If there is harm to self or others, in what ways can we reduce the harm being enacted? What problems can we remove by making our actions less harmful to ourselves or others? Harm reduction can apply to whether or not we allow other people to "rent space in our heads" or to whether we accept hurtful statements from others. Reducing harm, hurt, and suffering is an incredible gift.

— T.Lee Shostack, Clinical Social Worker

I have been practicing harm reduction since 2005, when I started volunteering to hand out bleach kits to youth experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness outside of my hometown: Detroit, MI. Since then, I have worked with sex workers, folks living with various addictions, people in recovery, individuals who self-harm, clients facing chronic suicidality, and others often navigating risk, to do so as safely as possible, and with dignity.

— Lance Hicks, Clinical Social Worker