Updated: Jun 13
Published: August 4, 2017
Author: Jacqueline Sanzari, LMHC, CRC
As a clinician, I encounter issues with substance abuse all the time. Never having been a substance user, I always believed the best approach in therapy was to try to eliminate the behavior, straight from the start. During my graduate years, I had learned about a technique called Harm Reduction. I never used it because the idea behind it is to promote using substances in a healthier way, with the hopes of decreasing and eliminating over time. Interesting angle for a clinician to take, right?
Well at the MHA conference this year, I heard from many peers, who are in recovery, and they shared that the Harm Reduction strategy was what saved their lives. These remarkable individuals actually go into notorious drug houses in their local neighborhoods and hand out clean needles, First Aid kits and a slew of
other “safe” paraphernalia. The Harm
Reduction strategy meets individuals where they are at in their recovery and promotes an environment of genuineness and honesty. Since the conference, I am happy to say that I have started utilizing the technique with one of my patients, and we are making progress! This specific patient had shared that he felt the approach made him feel more relaxed and strengthened our therapeutic alliance.
The peer stories and strategies regarding substance abuse stuck out to me the most at the MHA conference, because they are the most applicable in the work that I do as a clinician. That is not to say that the topics of sexuality and creative recovery are not just as important. Speakers like Michelle Williams shared how creating music helped bring her out of her deepest of depressions. Does she still have low days? Absolutely. But singing around the world and sharing her story helps keep her afloat. Creative recovery is a strategy that I
wholeheartedly believe can make a significant impact on an individual’s mental health, regardless of age or diagnosis.
While sexuality was also a theme of the conference, substance abuse and creative strategies for coping were paramount topics. Take away message on sexuality and mental health? As clinicians, it is imperative to consider an individual’s sexual orientation, gender, and their perception of identified roles and how they may or may not impact their mental health and recovery process.
Still interested in what went on at the MHA conference this year? Visit their conference website and explore all of it’s wonderful content.