Hope and Inspiration in the Philippines

Andrew Tatarsky Brings Compassionate Pragmatism and Integrative Harm Reduction Psychotherapy to Manila and the Philippine Compassionate Pragmatism Movement is Born


This month, I led a large forum and three day training in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, on Compassionate Pragmatism and Integrative Harm Reduction Psychotherapy (IHRP) for problematic substance users and their families. The activities were enthusiastically embraced by a diverse cross section of people representing many different stakeholders in Philippine society. A common sentiment emerged during the four days to create a broad coalition that will work to integrate these ideas and practices throughout the country.


The training participants at the end of our three day journey together.


The forum was held on August 6, 2018 with close to 200 participants from 81 government and non-governmental agencies. There was a thoughtful and energetic exploration of how this philosophy and practice meet the needs of drug users, their families and communities with acceptance, compassion, respect, collaboration and science.

Read media coverage of the event on Rappler.

The day opened with introductory comments by Ma Inez Feria of NoBox Transitions Foundation, Inc., the event organizer. I followed with a discussion of Compassionate Pragmatism, the philosophy embodied by harm reduction practices which were defined and discussed. This led to an exploration of the evolving paradigm shift from understanding addiction as a simple disease, moral deficiency or criminal problem to viewing it as a psychobiosocial process and the therapeutic implications of this shift. Dr. Benjamin Reyes, a permanent member of the Dangerous Drugs Board gave his reactions to my talk and fully endorsed my perspective as what should be adopted throughout the Philippines. The day ended with a lively conversation with the participants.



HAPPENING NOW:Conversations With Dr. Andrew TatarskyExtending Our Reach Through Compassionate Pragmatism

Posted by NoBox Transitions Foundation, Inc. on Sunday, August 5, 2018

Session one of the forum

During the second session of the day, I discussed harm reduction as the practical expression of Compassionate Pragmatism, its guiding philosophy. I introduced my model for integrating harm reduction into clinical practice, Integrative Harm Reduction Psychotherapy (IHRP), and discussed the seven therapeutic tasks of IHRP along with how these tasks can be adapted by anyone having contact with people who struggle with drug and alcohol use so that each interaction can be a potential therapeutic, healing moment. My talk was followed by psychologist, Dr. Anna Tuazon, who related the ideas to her work with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. There was then a spirited discussion with participants following our presentations.


HAPPENING NOW: (part 2)Conversations With Dr Andrew TatarskyExtending Our Reach Through Compassionate Pragmatism

Posted by NoBox Transitions Foundation, Inc. on Monday, August 6, 2018

Session two of the forum

What emerged during the forum was a strong collective desire to create a coalition of people committed to compassionate pragmatism and harm reduction in government and civil society who can work together to support the implementation of this philosophy and practice throughout the Philippines.


Training participants practicing IHRP empathic harm reduction listening, Embracing Ambivalence and Ideal Use Planning for positive change.


Immediately following the forum, 48 participants from government and a wide range of treatment and educational settings participated in a three-day training on IHRP to explore the addiction paradigm shift toward a psychobiosocial model and the therapeutic process in depth. Participants left with practical skills to bring back to their respective settings. Their enthusiastic response bodes well for the future of the treatment of drug users and their families in the Philippines.


Participants of both the forum and the training left with an excitement and commitment to work together to develop creative ways to integrate this framework throughout the country. Over these four days, the Philippine Compassionate Pragmatism Movement was born. I am grateful to Ma. Inez Feria, the team at NoBox Transitions Foundation, Inc. and all of the participants for contributing to these events. There is much to be hopeful about in the process that’s currently evolving in the Philippines!



Andrew Tatarsky has developed Integrative Harm Reduction Psychotherapy (IHRP) for treating the full spectrum of risky and addictive behavior. IHRP brings psychoanalysis, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and mindfulness together in a harm reduction frame. The therapy has been described in his book, Harm Reduction Psychotherapy: A New Treatment for Drug and Alcohol Problems, and a series of papers. The book has been translated into Polish and Spanish. Andrew holds a doctorate in clinical psychology from the City University of New York and is a graduate of New York University’s Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. He is Founder and Director of the Center for Optimal Living, a treatment and professional training center based on IHRP; founding member and twice Past President, Division on Addiction of New York State Psychological Association, and Member of the Medical and Clinical Advisory Boards of the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. Andrew trains nationally and internationally.

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