Harm Reduction & the Therapeutic Alliance: Responding to recurrence of use

hand on shoulder

Relationships impact outcomes. As such, we know that open and honest communication can lead to increased safety for those engaged in high risk behavior. In this session, we’ll explore the bond between provider and participant as one of the primary vehicles for positive change. Centering our approach in authenticity, collaboration, and compassion, attendees will explore strategies for building and maintaining a therapeutic alliance with individuals managing substance use disorders, serious mental illness, and other behavioral health challenges. Presenters will contrast themes of “accountability” and “enabling” with the importance of rapport, empathy, and unconditional positive regard. We will review practical applications of harm reduction skills in clinical interactions and touch on the intersections of harm reduction and abstinence-based recovery models. Presenters will discuss strategies to help individuals explore their relationship to risk behaviors in a manner that emphasizes safety, connection, and bodily autonomy, while decreasing stigma and shame.


12:45-1:00 PM | Virtual training room opens
1:00-1:15 PM | Welcome, introductions, & check-in activity
1:15-1:25 PM | The therapeutic alliance
1:25-1:45 PM | Accountability, enabling, & consequence
1:45-2:00 PM | Countering stigma & shame
2:00-2:10 PM | Break
2:10-2:25 PM | Harm reduction & abstinence-based recovery: Two sides of the same coin
2:25-3:00 PM | Clinical strategies
3:00-3:15 PM | Final thoughts, Q&A

Learning Objectives:

  1. Define “accountability without termination” and explain the role of natural consequences in harm reduction practice
  2. Compare and contrast harm reduction and abstinence-based recovery approaches
  3. Name three clinical tools for exploring risk behaviors with participants

Target Audience: Social workers, case managers, peer specialists, recovery specialists, therapists, counselors, clinical supervisors, and other helping professionals working directly with individuals managing substance use disorders, serious mental illness, and other behavioral health challenges. 
Social Work Practice Level: This course covers intermediate-level material. 
Course Delivery Format: Live Webinar 
Interactivity: This course will offer real-time polling and 15 minutes of Q&A time. 
Social Work Continuing Education Credit: 2 CE Credits* 
Fees: $25 general registration; additional $5 for registration with social work CE credit.

Registration includes access to the live event and recording, PDF of slides, and relevant training tip sheets/resources.

Course Completion Requirements: Attendees must attend the entirety of the virtual session with system video and audio enabled to participate, and respond to all poll questions and activities. Certificates will be distributed to participants via email within two weeks of the course’s conclusion. Attendees must complete a course evaluation within 48 hours via Google Forms to receive a certificate. Course evaluation links will be distributed during the session and via email immediately following the training. Individuals must attend the live webinar in order to receive a certificate of completion.

System Requirements: Webinar participants must have to access to a computer, tablet, or smart phone with high speed Internet, microphone, speakers, and a (free) Zoom video conferencing account.

Session Facilitators: 

Khalil Martin, MSW, LCSW (he/him), received his Master’s degree in clinical social work from The University of Pennsylvania in 2020 and joined the Pathways to Housing PA team in 2021 where he served in a clinical leadership role on an ACT team for individuals with Opioid Use Disorder before joining Housing First University as a Training Specialist in January 2023. Prior to this, Khalil served as a therapist at Thomas Jefferson University's Narcotic Addiction Rehabilitation Program serving community members pursuing recovery via various forms of MAT. Additionally, Khalil has worked as a Behavioral Health Therapist at runaway & homeless youth shelters throughout the tri-state area, as well as with Project HOME, where he assisted in the opening of the Gloria Casarez Residence– the first permanent supportive housing for LGBTQ+ young adults in Pennsylvania. Khalil is now a practicing therapist at a Philadelphia group practice specializing in gender and sexuality, and is currently teaching Social Work and Families at Eastern University.

Ryan Villagran, MSW, LSW (they/them), joined Housing First University in June 2021 as a Training Specialist. Ryan holds a Master of Social Work from Temple University with a concentration in Communities & Policy. Their clinical background includes delivering psychiatric rehabilitation services in the mental health recovery model at a Community Integrated Recovery Center. Ryan also developed and coordinated a training program in a university setting for social workers serving transitional-aged youth and later taught a Human Behavior in the Social Environment course for graduate social work students. Ryan believes in the power of our collective imagination to dream of a better future centered around those on the margins.

ACE approval statement: Housing First University: a program of Pathways to Housing PA, provider #1759, is approved as an ACE provider to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Regulatory boards are the final authority on courses accepted for continuing education credit. ACE provider approval period: 01/12/2022 - 01/12/2025. Social workers completing this course receive 2 clinical continuing education credits.

*Housing First University, a program of Pathways to Housing PA, can provide continuing education credits to licensed social workers in 48 of the 50 U.S. states and 10 Canadian provinces. Due to current regulations, CE credits cannot be offered to social workers in the states of New Jersey or New York. If you are not a Licensed Social Worker, please check with your board of accreditation to ensure this training meets your licensing needs.

To request an accessibility accommodation, please email: training@pthpa.org

For questions or comments, please contact: 
Ryan Villagran, LSW 
Continuing Education Director 
Housing First University, a program of Pathways to Housing PA
rvillagran@pthpa.org (215) 390-1500, ext. 1430