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

Rebecca has worked with a lot of individuals who have current maladaptive coping strategies (e.g. nonsuicidal self-injurious behavior, substance use, etc.), and she has worked with client in harm reduction strategies that are the first step towards self-care.

— Rebecca Neubauer, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Los Angeles, CA

Harm Reduction work involves instilling hope, focusing on safety, and not waiting for someone to go through the pain and lasting damage of hitting “rock bottom.” For over two years, I ran a Harm Reduction residential program for veterans, and now I supervise a Drop-In counseling center for veterans with a Harm Reduction focus. I have attended the national Harm Reduction conference and learned from some of the leaders of this progressive approach to helping people who use substances.

— Jacob Donnelly, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Berkeley, CA

Harm reduction begins with the basic assumption that it is possible to have healthy relationships with the behaviors and substances you choose to engage with in your life. Harm reduction does not demand abstinence, but sometimes taking a break can help you get a new perspective. If you are concerned that you have an unhealthy relationship with a substance, habit, or even a person, let's take an honest look together to find ways to reduce harm and increase your sense of satisfaction in life.

— Lucius Wheeler, Licensed Professional Counselor Intern in Portland, OR

I understand that for some people with some disorders it may not be easy to stop problematic behaviors completely. I help people make changes where they can and when they can in an attempt to live more satisfying lives in a safe way. I work with people who are struggling with self-harm, eating disorder symptoms, drug and alcohol abuse and help them find ways to manage symptoms and behaviors as best they can in the moment.

— Joy Zelikovsky, Psychologist in ,

2.5 years in addiction counseling with focus on harm reduction

— Jennifer Rosselli, Counselor in waltham, MA

I am not here to ask you to give up anything you need. I strive to honor what care, coping, and surviving look like for you at any given time. I want to support you in exploring any goals you have around behavior change and help you make changes that are a good fit for you. And I approach this work with gentleness, compassion, and flexibility.

— Colette Gordon, Counselor in Portland, OR

I developed a harm reduction outpatient treatment program for the State of Minnesota. This program worked with clients on gaining tools to significantly reduce their chemical use, improve quality of life, and decrease impact of the chemical use on the community. Many of the clients determined their goal was complete abstinence as they gained confidence in the ability to access coping tools in high risk situations. They also worked on reduction of mental health symptoms.

— Julia Murtha, Drug & Alcohol Counselor in Minneapolis, MN

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

Many clients who struggle with substances are not interested or able to pursue total sobriety. These folks have every right to treatment and a nonjudgemental partner to help them explore the role of alcohol and drugs in their lives, and to create manageable, self-directed goals. I specialize in helping folks moderate their alcohol use when they recognize it is having negative effects on their lives. I also encourage clients to find support and community outside the therapy room, offering suggestions and referrals when helpful. This may mean attending support groups that do not promote abstinence as the only acceptable goal; joining an online community of others who are also moderating; using a moderation workbook; or attending harm reduction therapy groups.

— Maysie Tift, LMFT, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in San Rafael, CA

I studied over 10 different models of recovery, including Women For Sobriety, Rational Recovery, Seven Weeks To Sobriety, and Solution Focused Problem Drinking, to name a few. My belief is that many addiction and mental health issues are trauma based. I love Harm Reduction the most because it is a first step into what's underneath.

— Diane Adams, Clinical Social Worker in Alberton, MT

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

I help you work towards YOUR goals, not a goal set for you. We can explore what you want your life to look like in relation to substances and set a plan to get there.

— Stephanie Taylor, Mental Health Counselor in Belton, TX