Harm Reduction Therapy

The term “harm reduction” was introduced in the 1980s, to describe public health approaches to reducing the spread of blood-borne diseases associated with drug use (1), and the paradigm has since proven to be a useful approach for psychotherapy.

Harm reduction therapy as an approach to treating drug or alcohol problems does not assume that abstinence is the only acceptable goal, but focuses rather on the reduction of harmful consequences both to the individual and to society. Harmful consequences are seen as varying on a continuum, and the approach accepts small steps forward in the reduction of these. The approach takes into account the many aspects of drug and alcohol use, including their benefits to the individual, and trust and respect for the client are central, as well as an open-minded and non-judgemental attitude towards substance abuse (2).


1. Denning, P., Little, J. (2011) Practicing Harm Reduction Psychotherapy, Second Edition: An Alternative Approach to Addictions. (p. 20) New York: Guilford Press.

2. Tatarsky, A. (Ed.) (2002) Harm Reduction Psychotherapy: A New Treatment for Drug and Alcohol Problems. (pp. 1-29). Lahnam, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.