Harm reduction is a public health policy and social justice movement that is aimed at reducing the negative outcomes associated with substance use and advocating for the rights of people who use drugs. Although it was formed around substance use/misuse, harm reduction ideals can be applied to most behaviors that are potentially risky. Some common examples of harm reduction interventions are needle exchanges and methadone maintenance
HARM REDUCTION PSYCHOTHERAPY
Often people are told to go to one place to get help for substance use/misuse and another place to address mental health concerns. This can fragment treatment, limit recovery, and perpetuates the social stigma around substance users. Harm Reduction Psychotherapy combines the principles of harm reduction with those of psychotherapy; which allows concern around substance use and additional concerns (ex: depression, anxiety, or trauma) to be treated simultaneously.
By removing abstinence as the assumed goal of substance misuse treatment, it requires the therapist to start treatment and goal setting based on the individual clients needs. This means that the relationship between the therapist and client is paramount to treatment and is often where the treatment begins.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH HARM REDUCTION
I like to say that as a social worker I grew up in harm reduction because my entire career has been entrenched in the movement. My first social work job was as an outreach counselor with a harm reduction organization. Over the years I have worked in many settings and have always advocated for harm reduction. More recently, I worked as a therapist at a needle exchange where I was able to hone my skills as a harm reduction psychotherapist. Throughout the years I have seen and experienced the mistreatment of individuals who use substances, and this has fueled my desire to focus my private practice in this area.
HARM REDUCTION RESOURCES
If you, or someone you know is curious about increasing their understanding of their relationship with substances I would love to provide support.