Book review by A.Tom Horvath, Ph.D.
Although harm reduction is commonly used in other countries, this approach to coping with problematic addictive behavior is unfortunately uncommon in the US. The authors are two US harm reduction leaders. They founded the Center for Harm Reduction Therapy in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2000. This book is intended for persons considering change. The authors have also written a book for professionals, the acclaimed Practicing Harm Reduction Therapy, now in a 2nd edition.
To provide an overview of this impressive work I will extensively quote it. In response to the question “What is Harm Reduction?” they provide the following three paragraphs (p. 197)
“Harm reduction is a way to help people change their substance use without demanding immediate and lifelong abstinence. It uses many creative strategies to keep people alive and safe while they figure out how to develop a healthier relationship with drugs. For some people, that means abstinence; for others that means moderate or safer use.”
“Harm reduction takes a health perspective rather than a moral or legal perspective, on drug use. Drug use is not bad. It is normal human behavior, and most people don’t get into trouble with it. Drug misuse is a habit that has gotten out of hand, or it is a signal of other co-occurring problems.”
“Harm reduction attends to every aspect of health—physical, mental and emotional, social and economic. It is nonjudgmental, compassionate, and pragmatic—it starts where the person is, stays with the person through the entire process of change, and never ever kicks anyone out.”