Some Facts…

HARM REDUCTION:
PREPARING PEOPLE FOR CHANGE
FACT SHEET APRIL 2010
NATIONAL HEALTH CARE FOR THE HOMELESS COUNCIL
P. O. Box 60427 | Nashville, TN 37206 | http://www.nhchc.org | 615.226.2292
Health Care and Housing Are Human Rights
What is harm reduction?
Harm reduction is an approach for substance use treatment that involves a set of practical techniques that are openly negotiated with clients around what is most likely to be achieved. The focus is on reducing the negative consequences and risky behaviors of substance use; it neither condones nor condemns any behavior. By incorporating strategies on a continuum from safer drug use, to managed substance use, up to abstinence, harm reduction practice helps clients affect positive changes in their lives.The harm reduction philosophy embraces respect, trust and a nonjudgmental stance as the essential components
of an effective therapeutic relationship. A basic assumption in this approach is that clients want to make positive changes and the skilled clinician uses motivational strategies to help clients move along the change continuum as
far as possible.
Harm Reduction Principles
■ Individual’s decision to use is accepted
■ Individual is treated with dignity
■ Individual is expected to take responsibility for his or her own behavior
■ Individuals have a voice
■ Reducing harm, not consumption
■ No pre-defined outcomes
Why is harm reduction necessary?
Harm reduction is one treatment approach among many that is necessary to provide the client with choice.
Understanding the realities of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, sex-based discrimination, and other social inequalities that affect both people’s vulnerability and capacity to effectively deal with substance use,
the harm reduction approach provides a holistic perspective for creating change. This paradigm recognizes that the client is the change agent who through individual self-direction seeks to minimize unhealthy practices and
improve her overall health.
MYTH FACT
■ Harm reduction is opposed to
abstinence and therefore conflicts with
traditional substance abuse treatment
■ Harm reduction encourages drug use
■ Harm reduction permits harmful
behavior and maintains an “anything
goes” attitude
■ Harm reduction is not at odds with abstinence; instead, it
includes it as one possible goal across a continuum of
possibilities.
■ Harm reduction is neither for nor against drug use. It does not
seek to stop drug use, unless individuals make that their goal.
Harm reduction focuses on supporting people’s efforts to
reduce the harms created by drug use or other risky behaviors.
■ Harm reduction neither condones nor condemns any
behavior. Instead, it evaluates the consequences of behaviors
and tries to reduce the harms that those behaviors pose for
individuals, families and communities.

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