Clinical Social Work Journal

, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 65–76 | Cite as

Starting Where the Client Is: Harm Reduction Guidelines for Clinical Social Work Practice

  • Sheila P. VakhariaEmail author
  • Jeannie Little
Original Paper


Harm reduction has gradually entered social work discourse and is now seen as a promising approach for treating individuals with drug and alcohol problems. However, beyond statements and data supporting the utility of a harm reduction approach, few guidelines for clinical practice have been detailed in the social work literature. This lack of concrete detail regarding how harm reduction is actually practiced limits the potential implementation of the model into day-to-day clinical work. This article reiterates that harm reduction is a viable approach to clinical social work practice with individuals who have drug- and alcohol-related problems and for whom traditional approaches may be inappropriate. It focuses on harm reduction therapy as an emerging treatment model that can be implemented by clinical social workers and mental-health and substance use treatment providers. The article identifies and elaborates several basic tenets that can be incorporated into clinical social work. It is hoped that social workers who learn how harm reduction is implemented in clinical practice will be more apt to incorporate its principles into their work.


Harm reduction Clinical social work Harm reduction therapy Addiction Addiction treatment Drug and alcohol treatment 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Social Work DepartmentLong Island University – BrooklynBrooklynUSA
  2. 2.The Center for Harm Reduction TherapySan FranciscoUSA

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