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What is Harm Reduction Counseling?

Harm reduction counseling works to reduce the side effects that result from substance abuse. Read on to learn more about this treatment method.

What is Harm Reduction?

Harm reduction counseling, also known simply as harm reduction, is a program designed to help reduce the likelihood of negative side effects emerging from substance use. This can include alcohol as well as drug use.1

Unlike traditional treatments for substance use disorder, harm reduction is not aimed at eliminating the disorder altogether. Instead, harm reduction was designed with accessibility involved. In 2015, a study in the United States showed that almost twenty million people over the age of twelve needed an intervention for their substance use disorder but did not receive it. While there are many reasons that an individual may not seek professional help for their substance use disorder, a general lack of accessibility, whether as a result of location or poverty, does play a role.2

Harm Reduction

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Goal of Harm Reduction Therapy

The goal of this form of treatment is to meet individuals wherever they are in their recovery journey and reduce their risk of life-altering or life-threatening conditions that may arise with substance use disorders.

Abstinence vs. Harm Reduction

It is important to understand that harm reduction is not the same as abstinence. Harm reduction encourages abstinence and recognizes it as a positive change. However, it also considers the difficulties of treating substance use disorders in general.3


Abstinence involves completely refraining from the use of the source of the addiction, as well as similar substances. For instance, someone with an opioid use disorder would abstain from using opioids but may also refrain from using other similar substances that could be addictive. Abstinence will lead to detoxification, which causes withdrawal symptoms.

Harm Reduction

Harm reduction, however, looks to make the continued use of a substance safer. While the ultimate goal is abstinence, harm reduction is aimed at preventing negative effects, such as the spread of disease, while creating a safer environment for those with substance use disorders. For those lacking the resources to utilize an abstinence-based treatment program, the resources by harm reduction can help reduce the dangers related to substance abuse.

How Effective is Harm Reduction?

Studies have shown that harm reduction has been effective at reducing the mortality related to substance use disorder. However, they have also demonstrated that harm reduction is beneficial in reducing the risks of other effects, such as disease or overdose.4

Principles of Harm Reduction and Programs

Preventing negative side effects for those with substance use disorders is only one aspect of harm reduction. There are also several other principles of harm reduction, all of which are focused on creating a safer environment to discuss and seek treatment for substance use disorders. Some of the principles of harm reduction include:
  • Respecting drug users’ rights
  • Stigma avoidance
  • A commitment to evidence
  • A commitment to social justice
There are several different types of harm reduction programs. Many of the differences in these programs can be found in learning more about the focus of each group. Although the overall objective is to foster safety, some harm reduction programs are better suited to treating addiction to one substance over another.

Harm Reduction Programs for Alcoholism

Typically, when one thinks about harm reduction, they think about illicit drug use. However, harm reduction can be beneficial for alcoholism as well. The origins of harm reduction can be found in preventing the spread of disease among those with substance use disorders, such as by sharing needles or other unhygienic practices. However, it was modified to aid in the treatment of alcoholism as well by targeting the negative side effects of drinking, such as binge drinking.

Harm Reduction Programs for Drug Use

Harm reduction is most common when referred to as a program for drug use. Some of the substances that harm reduction counseling can help with include:
  • Opioids
  • Stimulants
  • Ecstasy
  • Tobacco

Goals and Benefits of Harm Reduction

The goals and benefits of harm reduction can be traced directly back to its founding principle of creating safer guidelines for everyone, including those suffering from a substance use disorder. As a type of treatment option, harm reduction can include many benefits, such as:
  • Overdose death prevention
  • Drug-related issues prevention
  • Drug policy harms’ reduction
  • Community safety
  • Contamination prevention
Harm Reduction

Harm Reduction Counseling Services at Ripple Ranch Recovery

It can be both daunting and difficult to navigate substance use disorders, no matter whether you choose an abstinence-based program or a harm reduction program. However, at Ripple Ranch Recovery, our professional staff of certified healthcare providers is prepared to meet you every step of the way, from your very first day of treatment to your days beyond.

Our Harm Reduction Programs

At Ripple Ranch Recovery, you’ll find a variety of resources surrounding harm reduction counseling. Our staff is licensed and certified in several different areas, allowing us to accommodate and meet the individual needs of each of our patients.

Other Addiction Treatment Programs

Ripple Ranch Recovery specializes in offering evidence-based holistic treatments that take advantage of the bounty of nature our campus offers. With over 20 acres, each of our addiction treatment programs are designed in such a way to restore balance in yourself by utilizing environmental, spiritual, and scientific techniques.

You’ll also find that all of our addiction treatment programs are designed to provide as much comfort as possible during your time with us. We utilize a small patient-to-therapist ratio that allows your needs to be met as an individual – not just another patient. This allows us to guide you in your recovery while also focusing on providing a place for healing, reflection, and growth in all of our patients.

Get Help Today

Substance use disorders can be difficult, for both you and your loved ones. If you or someone close to you is struggling with a substance use disorder, reach out today to learn more about our harm reduction counseling and our other addiction treatment programs.