SMART Recovery is a secular alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous that features an emphasis on self-empowerment. While both recovery programs seek to provide social support and fellowship to individuals in substance recovery, there are distinct differences between the philosophies that guide them. Having options is essential in recovery as it allows people to seek out the best fit for them. The more a program resonates with the individual, the more engaged they are in participating in active recovery efforts.
What is the SMART Program?
SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training) Recovery is an international non-profit organization that was established in 1992. The science-based SMART Recovery model emphasizes self-empowerment and mental wellness. The program is based on four principles designed to enable success in recovery:
- Building and maintaining motivation
- Coping with urges
- Managing thoughts, feelings and behaviors
- Living a balanced life
The SMART Recovery program teaches techniques that help participants achieve self-directed change. It encourages members to believe that they can recover from addiction, in contrast to the A.A. tenet that addiction is a lifelong disease. SMART Recovery resonates with people who believe they are in control of their lives, and who take responsibility for their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.
SMART Recovery’s tools and techniques are designed to help its members gain independence from substance use behaviors and include:
- Stages of change
- Change plan worksheet
- Cost/benefit analysis
- Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy for urge control and emotional upsets
- DISARM (Destructive Images and Self-talk Awareness and Refusal Method)
- Hierarchy of Values
- Role playing
- Unconditional Self-Acceptance (USA)
Core elements of the SMART Recovery principles include self-acceptance, forgiveness, tolerance, self-help, and resilience.
What to Expect at SMART Recovery Meetings
The SMART Recovery program offers free nationwide meetings, with multiple meeting sites in metropolitan areas. Their website provides a handy meeting locator link to help direct individuals to a local meeting. During the pandemic, some meetings have migrated online depending on the region, so this information is updated regularly on their website.
SMART Recovery meetings emphasize mutual support among the participants. The meetings are organized and follow the set of four core principles stated above to help guide members in making positive changes in their behaviors and choices. The program emphasizes the need to focus on the present and on making healthy choices for the future, but does not dwell on past behaviors. Meetings help participants learn to reduce emotional disturbances, such as low self-esteem, guilt, anger, and worry, while increasing self-acceptance.
In addition, SMART Recovery has an active online community where individuals can seek support on their popular forum. In addition, SMART Recovery offers a smartphone app partner, “Checkup & Choices,” providing self-led and confidential support. The SMART Recovery website offers a variety of additional support resources, including inspiring videos, a podcast, and a blog.
Regardless of whether someone selects SMART Recovery or A.A.’s 12-step is not important, as the choice comes down to personal preference. What is important is finding a recovery community that fits. A social support network needs only to provide a comfortable and non-judgmental environment that helps reinforce the individual’s commitment to sobriety.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.