Updated: May 24
As a counsellor, I consider myself a harm-reductionist. What is Harm-Reduction though?
Harm reduction has been viewed as a paradigm shift, especially when working with individuals who have substance use issues. Substance use problems are often connected with deeper societal issues such as poverty, discrimination, mental health, and many more. Although one of the most important components of a relational transaction between a social worker and a service user is to provide them with a sense that they are the ones who are in control of their life, it is important for social workers to explain that there are certain aspects of their lives that are controlled by laws and policies that could be potentially adding to their existing oppressions.
The harm reduction approach is one of the few approaches that provide substances users with the sense that they are valued, as the whole point of this approach is to reduce the potential of any harm. Additionally, what makes this approach unique is the fact that it is not only an approach that can be used in counselling. It is a model that can be incorporated in any drug-related policy, law, and program, and intervention while providing a more humanistic approach, and less of a focus on the criminal and further oppression of the substance user. Perhaps, next time you see your counsellor, ask them about their approach when working with individuals who are dealing with addictions.