Guidelines for HAMS Meetings

This is a draft of the HAMS guidelines which will be put before the board for finalization.

We have found that the following guidelines are helpful for HAMS meetings, whether live, in a chat room, or by email:

  1. The tone of discussion in HAMS groups is based on Miler and Rollnick’s Motivational Interviewing–adapted to a peer group setting. We avoid being confrontational and encourage people to share as much or as little information as they choose themselves. We let people choose for themselves how to use the group in a manner most beneficial to them. We encourage people to pursue goals which they choose for themselves, and do not attempt to choose goals for them. HAMS supports every positive change from safer drinking to reduced drinking to quitting altogether.
  2. Generally telling other people what they ought to do is not nearly as effective as sharing how you solved a problem yourself. Therefore, in most cases it is better to use the first person pronoun “I” and share experiences than to use the second person pronoun “you” and give advice. Of course there are exceptions such as when advice is requested.
  3. HAMS members are always expected to treat each other with mutual respect and never call each other bad names. Meanness of any sort will not be tolerated in HAMS groups and may be subject to disciplinary measures. When people fail to keep to their plans they are quite good enough at beating themselves up and require no outside help.
  4. There is no rule against intoxication in HAMS groups; some people would never be able to participate in their first HAMS group if they had to be sober as a condition of coming in. However, members are expected to be well- behaved whether intoxicated or not. In the case of live HAMS meetings we encourage members to see that intoxicated members get home safely and do not drive drunk.
  5. What HAMS members choose to do on their own time is their own business–this includes dating each other or drinking together. If you find it helpful to avoid drinking with other HAMS members then do so.
  6. HAMS members cannot read minds or foretell the future. We respect each individual’s right to choose their own drinking goal and to pick their own tools and strategies to achieve it. We avoid the AA habit of saying “I used to be just like you” because we realize that everyone changes in their own unique ways as they follow their own unique paths through life.
  7. It is up to each individual group how much time they wish to spend on humor and if they wish to discuss issues such as drugs or gambling in addition to alcohol. Some of us find that laughter is the best medicine and opt to mix humor with the serious business of harm reduction.
  8. HAMS welcomes cross-talk, members are free to respond to what others have said. No one is forced to speak against their will, lurkers and observers are welcome. However we strive to make sure that everyone gets a chance to talk and that no one monopolizes the floor to themselves.
  9. We respect the right of each individual to put together the components of their own plan which can include medications, supplements, psychotherapy, or what-have-you. Ultimately the decision to use or not use medications is between the individual and their doctor–we do not condone pro-medication or anti-medication browbeatings.

It does not matter how much or how little a person drinks, their drug of choice, their harm reduction goal, their race, color, creed, sex, gender, sexual preference and spelling ability. We strive to meet every person “where they are at”. If a person gets drunk every day and their goal choice is to quit drinking and driving but not to drink less–we support that. If a person drinks one glass of wine a week and thinks that is too much and wants to quit alcohol entirely–we support that. We support the individual in making any positive change which they choose for themselves. HAMS is here to encourage every success and to recognize every positive change, no matter how small. Small steps make for big changes.


Miller WR, Rollnick S. (2002). Motivational Interviewing, Second Edition: Preparing People for Change. The Guilford Press.

Copyright © 2012, The HAMS Harm Reduction Network



About Kenneth Anderson

Kenneth Anderson is the author of the book How to Change Your Drinking: a Harm Reduction Guide to Alcohol. He is also the founder and CEO of The HAMS Harm Reduction Network.
This entry was posted in Alcohol, alcohol harm reduction, hams harm reduction network, harm reduction and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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