SMART Recovery or Self-Management and Recovery Training is a not for profit, free self-help group designed to help individuals recover from any addiction. SMART Recovery directly contrasts 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous in that it promotes personal decisions and freedom, allowing each member to choose their own path and their own motivations to get clean and stay drug or alcohol free. While 12-step is the most popular group therapy option in the United States, SMART is an increasingly popular and viable option that focuses on science-based results, rather than spirituality.
More importantly, because SMART focuses on individual choices and developing personal motivation, it is more suitable for individuals who are not strictly Christian, or who prefer to find their own motivation rather than relying on a higher power.
Does SMART Recovery Work?
SMART Recovery is relatively new, but it has been shown to be effective. The method combines scientific methods from multiple programs including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET), and Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) with group therapy to provide a comprehensive, motivation based group treatment.
In one study, it was shown that patients who follow SMART are more likely to be able to improve their health, employment status, and mental health, while reducing drug and alcohol use than for 12-step. However, SMART has been shown to be less effective at treating marijuana addiction. In another study, SMART Recovery was shown to significantly decrease alcohol use in substance dependent individuals.
How Does SMART Recovery Work?
SMART Recovery is an evidence based program that primarily combines elements of CBT, MET, and REBT with group therapy and self-help, to allow individuals to find motivation to become drug and alcohol free. The treatment is organized into:
The 4-Point Program – SMART Recovery uses a 4-Point Program to encourage recovery, with tools and help at every point of the program. The points are:
- Building motivation
- Coping with urges/cravings
- Managing emotions and behavior
- Creating a balanced life
The program is designed to teach self-empowerment and self-reliance, allowing you to move past addiction on your own. By encouraging you to find motivation to recovery from addiction, and by teaching science-based techniques for self-directed change, SMART Recovery works to give you tools to change yourself, rather than changing you. SMART Recovery also supports the use of psychological treatment and prescription psychiatric and addiction medication.
The SMART Toolbox – SMART Recovery focusing on offering evidence-based tools to help participants work through triggers and cravings, and to help them get therapy. These include a variety of cognitive behavior therapy worksheets, questions, plans, activities and other resources.
ABC – The ABC is a SMART Toolbox resource designed to help participants analyze events or triggers. Activating Event, Consequence, Beliefs enables you to review your actions and their triggers, to decide why you did them. The worksheet also includes D and E, which include Dispute (Dispute your beliefs) and Effective New Belief and Emotional Consequence designed to help you replace old (negative) beliefs with new (positive) ones.
Stages of Change – SMART Recovery uses a series of stages of change, mapping the progress from addiction to recovery. The program offers participants tools and support based on their stage.
- Precontemplation – The participant does not yet realize they have a problem
- Contemplation – The participant actively realizes they have a problem and are considering how it affects them
- Determination/Preparation – The participant choses to change
- Action – The participant tries to change their behavior, considering new tools or support
- Maintenance – The participant changes their behavior and they attempt to maintain it
- Exit – The participant has sustained their change long enough that they can choose to exit the program.
- Relapse – Optionally, the participant relapses at any stage, and uses it as a learning experience, and a natural part of the recovery process.
Meetings – SMART Recovery Meetings are designed to be educational, supportive, and to include open discussions. Like AA or 12-Step meetings, SMART Recovery meetings are designed to foster genuine conversation around specific issues and instances,
What Happens at a SMART Recovery Meeting?
SMART Recovery meetings typically last from 60-90 minutes, and are hosted by a trained volunteer facilitator. Meetings always start with a group welcome and a quick overview of what will happen. Then, the group begins check-ins, where participants can discuss their successes, challenges, and their life goals. After check-ins, the group and the facilitator decide on a group discussion, begin to work on tools, and review tools for new participants. Finally, the group ends with open discussion, allowing every member to contribute. In every case, new participants can choose to remain silent and listen in on the first few meetings.
SMART Recovery vs 12-Step
SMART Recovery differs from 12-Step in almost every way, except that both groups have meetings and reading material. Where 12-step uses a 12-step process to guide you through recovery, SMART Recovery allows you to move through the stages of change at your own pace as you find your motivation. The primary difference is that 12-Step is based on spiritual guidance and SMART Recovery is based on scientific guidance. They both have similar efficacy in preventing drug and alcohol use, and 12-Step scores higher for preventing marijuana use. However, SMART Recovery shows improvements in personal and mental health as well as economic and career status compared to 12-Step.
Choosing the Best Recovery Group for Your Needs
SMART Recovery is a science-based recovery program designed to help you through addiction and into recovery using science based methods. It is vastly different from 12-step, and it works in partnership with many non-12-step programs, allowing you to use it as complementary group or as a primary group. However, it is always a good idea to visit a few meetings from different groups to decide which one works the best for you.
While SMART and other group therapies can help you to follow up on recovery, a treatment program is often essential to helping one get through the early stages of addiction and through physical withdrawal, so that a safe recovery is possible.
If you or someone you love is experiencing a problem with addiction to drugs or alcohol, don’t wait until it’s too late. Please Contact Beginnings Treatment Centers now to speak with one of our experienced and professional intake advisors. There is no obligation or cost for the initial consultation, and quick action might save your life or the life of your loved one.