Harm Reduction Therapy In Chicago, IL

Pragmatic Help without Judgement


When life hands you too much to deal with, it’s common to self-soothe with substances. It can feel like there are no other options, and many people find it easier to cope with stress, upsetting emotions, pain and physical ailments, or other issues with something that helps them feel less or feel better. Our nonjudgmental therapists use harm reduction methods to support you in your goals, whether that’s risk reduction, other coping mechanisms, gradual behavior change, or something else.

Goals Of Harm Reduction Therapy


Situational depression is a normal and common response to challenging life circumstances. It’s a temporary or contingent form of depression characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair that are directly related to the triggering event or situation. Some common situations that can trigger situational depression include the loss of a loved one, a breakup or divorce, job loss, financial difficulties, a serious illness or injury, a major life transition, or experiencing a traumatic event.

Symptoms of situational depression may include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or emptiness
  • Less interest or pleasure in previously enjoyed activities
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Sleep issues, such as insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches or muscle pain
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Treatment for situational depression primarily focuses on addressing the underlying cause or situation that triggered the depressive symptoms. One such treatment is harm reduction therapy, which can help people process their emotions, develop coping strategies, and gain new perspectives on the situation. With support and the passage of time, people often find their mood improving and their ability to cope with the situation gradually returning.


What is harm reduction?

At its core, harm reduction is an evidence-based, client-centered approach that aims to meet people where they are at with their substance of choice. Harm reduction acknowledges that each person is different and thus each approach should reflect that difference and be tailored to each individual. In other words, harm reduction recognizes that each person has a different starting point for exploring their substance use. Overall, harm reduction encourages a person to explore the connection between their substance use and their well-being. Any reduction in harm is seen as a positive change.

How is harm reduction used in therapy?

People who use substances should be treated with dignity and respect and have the opportunity to select the best treatment that will allow them to make more informed decisions about their needs and what will be the most effective for them while also reducing harm. Harm reduction requires a collaborative effort by both the person and their therapist.

Is abstinence/sobriety the goal?

Abstinence is not required, nor is it forced on individuals. Harm reduction consists of a spectrum of goals to work toward because there is more than one path to recovery.

The spectrum of harm reduction includes:

  •  Substance use management (SUM)
    • SUM acknowledges that some individuals are not ready to stop using. Instead, SUM explores safer use, controlled use, planned use and reduced use. Ultimately, SUM focuses on reducing the negative consequences of substance use. For example, using clean needles, preventing an overdose or limiting the amount of alcohol consumed in one evening.
  • Targeted abstinence
    • Some folks use multiple substances (meth and alcohol, cocaine and alcohol) but would like to explore their relationship with one substance at a time or abstain from one substance instead of all substances.
  • Total abstinence
    • Many people assume that harm reduction doesn’t include abstinence and encourages illicit substance use. In reality, harm reduction does include total abstinence because harm reduction does not presume a specific outcome.


Harm reduction therapy has been shown to be effective for folks struggling with substance use or addictive behaviors. Some areas where harm reduction therapy can be most helpful include:

  • Reducing harm: Yep, we know this one’s obvious. But some of the specific ways this therapy can help are reducing the risk of overdose and the spread of infectious diseases and improving overall health, well-being and functioning.
  • Gradual behavior change: Unlike traditional abstinence-focused approaches, harm reduction therapy recognizes that change is a gradual process. Not everyone is ready, able or willing to completely stop their substance use or addictive behaviors. Harm reduction therapy promotes sustainable and meaningful behavior change through realistic goals and incremental changes.
  • Enhanced quality of life: Harm reduction therapy aims to improve a person’s overall quality of life, even if complete abstinence is not the immediate goal. By reducing the harm associated with substance use or addictive behaviors, folks can experience improvements in their physical health, mental well-being, relationships and overall functioning. This can lead to increased stability, an improved sense of belonging, and a better sense of control over one’s life.
  • Holistic approach: Harm reduction therapists focus on the whole person and their experiences. We recognize that substance use or addictive behaviors are often intertwined with various social, economic and environmental factors. Therefore, the therapeutic approach extends beyond addressing the substance use itself and encompasses other areas of a person’s life, such as mental health, housing, employment and social support. This comprehensive approach contributes to the effectiveness of harm reduction therapy.

If you want to learn more about harm reduction therapy, please reach out to us. We’ll treat you with the respect you deserve and help you find ways to reduce harm while making your own choices about your life.

Harm Reduction REsources

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MSW, MEd, Pre-Licensed Therapist | They/Them/Theirs
LCSW, CADC, Clinical Director | he/him/they/them
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