A psychotherapeutic approach that accepts that individuals may engage in harmful behaviors and/or behaviors that inherently have the risk of harm; and that seeks to collaboratively work with those individuals to define those harmful behaviors and what and how those behaviors can be changed to incur less harm without requiring the discontinuation of or abstinence from the behavior.
Most often harm reduction psychotherapy is an approach applied to working with issues of substance abuse. It focuses on substance abuse as a biopsychosocial phenomenon, meaning there are biological, psychological and societal reasons why an individual uses substances and there may also be positive and negative affects of that substance use for the individual in each of these areas. Consequently, it is necessary to address an individual’s entire experience to address their substance use.
“Harm reduction places respect for the client’s strengths and capacity to change as the starting point for developing egalitarian relationships in which clients are encouraged to collaborate in setting up the treatment and choosing goals and strategies that they find useful.”
—Andrew Tatarsky, author of Harm Reduction Psychotherapy