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Meet Colin Peters of Chicago Harm Reduction Therapy Center in Evanston, IL

Today we’d like to introduce you to Colin Peters.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’ve worked in this field for 20 years now. My first job was working part time for Haymarket Center’s O’Hare Outreach Program. I walked the entirety of O’hare Airport most nights looking for individuals and families who appeared to be homeless. It wasn’t something I initially thought of as a career, but I was good at it and found the work more meaningful than anything I’d done before. There’s a lot to be said for approaching people with patience and a willingness to forgo judgment. I think the majority of people I encountered seemed to respond well to this and really gave me encouragement to make a life out of this work. Within a few years and job change to a housing program I was ready to go back to school for a Masters of Social Work degree at the University of Illinois, Chicago. My original masters was in Fine Arts, drawing and painting from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
While I’d never had an affinity for 12 step or any school of thought that was predicated on the helplessness or powerlessness of my clients, I wasn’t formerly introduced to Harm Reduction as a philosophy and practice until my second year internship at Heartland Alliance. When I could talk openly with my clients on safer drug usage or sex work or why their medications were awful rather than the traditional ultimatums of either abstinence or nothing the conversations and trust and relationships grew and deepened. There was something curative and meaningful in this work that was deeply human. It’s something I’ve carried with me. It’s something that has continued to inform my practice from job to job and individual to individual.
In the following years I worked more for Heartland Alliance and then at Mercy Hospital where I eventually came to manage the IOP mental health and chemical dependency programs.
In 2014 I started the Chicago Harm Reduction Therapy Center to address the lack of Harm Reduction and Moderation Management services in the Chicago area. I continue to host the only Moderation Management meeting in this area.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Ha ! No. Not really. At the risk of being glib, I can’t imagine anything worthwhile necessarily happens on a smooth road. Choosing a career that for years generated a very modest income, going back to school in my 40’s with a young son and working full time through school wasn’t easy. To paint a more realistic picture though, I had the help and support of some really great people. Professors, supervisors, fellow clinicians in training and many clients showed great patience and generosity with me. I imagine there’s something to be said for being humble and having a sense that It’s my turn to pay something of those gifts back.

Chicago Harm Reduction Therapy Center – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
My practice, The Chicago Harm Reduction Therapy Center was established in 2014 to be a realistic alternative to the traditional all or nothing, abstinence only approach to recovery. The practice consists of myself and when available, my partner, Erica Ernst. Erica is also a licensed clinical social worker.
For some, abstinence and 12 step work. For a growing number of people, moderation and a deeper understanding of personal choice offers a more empowering and more tenable alternative.
Through empathy and a respectful, collaborative relationship we are here to help our clients achieve the positive changes, happiness and purpose they are looking for. We believe in the power of human connection and humor to heal. We believe in the power of evidence based practices in helping to achieve our client’s goals.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
For me, I think being able to do the work I love is success.
For may clients, there’s no single or one size fits all answer. Being able to keep jobs and significant relationships together, keep promises to loved ones and maintaining a sense that they are true to their core values is success.


  • Insurances taken: Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO, Magellen (EAP), Medicare, Indiana Medicaid
  • Sliding scale. We try to make our services affordable.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
1740 Ridge Ave building in Evanston.
My office.
The chalk board.

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