Empowering the disempowered: Harm reduction with racial/ethnic minority clients

  • Blume A
  • Lovato L
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Harm-reduction principles, such as empowerment of clients and goals for moderation, align well with the cultural worldviews of many clients of color. Empirically supported harm-reduction strategies often work well with ethnic minority clients. However, clients of color require special clinical considerations. A case study illustrates the use of the community participatory model, which combines harm reduction, cultural sensitivity, and community support. Treatment services can be provided under one roof to eliminate barriers to seeking and receiving services. Harm-reduction therapists can carefully assess and diagnose clients of color to minimize the potential shortcomings and cultural biases in assessment tools. Therapy will include the family and incorporate traditional practices as desired by clients. Use of these methods will empower and support clients of color as they seek their treatment goals. Harm reduction with clients of color in many ways is similar to that used among ethnic majority clients. For example, many empirically supported harm-reduction strategies to modify risky substance use will be effective with clients of color. However, clients of color also present with unique needs and different cultural perspectives than those seen among majority culture clients. With both similarities and differences in mind, this article will not review the common behavior modification and other harm-reduction strategies, but it will, instead, focus on improving harm-reduction therapy by tailoring it to the unique needs and cultural perspectives of clients of color. Ethnic minority communities have a natural affinity toward many of the principles espoused by harm reductionists. In many ethnic minority communities, time is

Author-supplied keywords

  • Cultural competence
  • Harm reduction
  • Minority clients
  • Substance abuse

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  • Arthur W. Blume

  • Laura V. Lovato

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