Trust and Harm Reduction Work: Healing with Relationships

With Zoi Andalcio, LMHC

What does it mean to practice with an intentional harm reduction orientation? You might have heard about harm reduction popularly referred to as a new federal drug policy priority, as a treatment best practice, as a public health intervention, and so on. Harm reduction’s origin history is often forgotten and the elements of mutual aid and operating clandestinely outside a power structure are ignored. However, that forgotten history helps us to understand harm reduction at its core it centers healing in relationships. Harm reduction is a relational practice that is not owned by health practitioners or institutions but rather borrowed from ordinary people who use substances and those who love them. Ordinary people who understand that using substances does not take away their right to have autonomy or to get help. Implicit in harm reduction is trust. Trust is not only about the client having trust in the helper but also about the helper demonstrating trust in the client who is seeking help. Trust is not built from agreeing with each other or one person having power over the other but rather the opposite. It means allowing space for clients to reclaim power regardless of choices they may make. It means that the humanity and autonomy of each client are always held in high regard. For example, the helper does not get an advantage over the client in the decision-making process unless the client trusts the helper to take the lead. In this hour’s virtual presentation, Zoi Andalcio guides the audience through a way that trust can be built while helping the client who is ambivalent or not about substance use using a harm-reduction orientation within a psychosocial integration model. He draws from his many years of experience as a community-based helper and help paint a picture of empowerment for both the helper and the client.

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