What Is SMART Recovery?

SMART Recovery is a global nonprofit organization that was created to assist individuals seeking freedom for substance use disorders and addictive behaviors. It’s also a type of support group that helps people achieve and remain in recovery. The acronym SMART stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training.

Developed as an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous and other similar 12-Step programs that help people in recovery, SMART Recovery has no spiritual or higher power component. The two program types differ in many other ways, which will be discussed a bit later. SMART Recovery has also been integrated into many high-quality rehab addiction programs offerings.

SMART Recovery was conceived in 1991 when co-founder Tom Horvath, Ph.D., and other mental health professionals decided to begin a self-empowering help group network that would provide people with an alternative to the 12-Step approach that they felt focused on powerlessness. The organization morphed into a non-profit and was officially named SMART Recovery in 1994.

SMART Recovery is an addiction recovery program that:

  • Emphasizes self-empowerment
  • Utilizes the latest evidence-based addiction rehab research findings
  • Is available worldwide
  • Members can access mutual support groups across the globe

SMART Recovery has a variety of programs that serve different populations including:

  • Individuals seeking independence from addictive behaviors
  • Families and friends of those suffering from addiction
  • Addiction treatment professionals
  • Young adult outreach
  • Courts and correctional settings
  • Veterans and first responders

When you’re in a rehab program for substance use disorder, you’ll find that SMART Recovery is often offered as a support structure to help you maintain your sobriety and lead a fulfilling, balanced life that’s free from the dependency of addiction.

Addiction Treatment that
Just Works

Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.

How Does SMART Recovery Work?

Discussion meetings in SMART Recovery are free and offer a mutual support system that focuses on spreading the science-based tips and techniques that will help you move away from destructive habits and transform your life.

Trained volunteers run SMART Recovery meetings. They’re known as facilitators. SMART volunteers also serve as board members and committee members.

A four-point system is at the heart of how SMART Recovery works. The four-point approach teaches the program participants to reach their goals by helping them:

1. Build and maintain motivation:

For example, you may be asked to list the advantages and disadvantages of your addictive behaviors and compare that list to the pros and cons of being in recovery. This provides you with the motivation to remain strong in sobriety.

2. Managing urges and cravings:

This technique teaches you to identify your own triggers and irrational thoughts or beliefs that can lead you to act on those triggers. Once you’ve learned your triggers, you can then learn ways to deflect them and overcome your urges and cravings.

3. Coping with emotions, thoughts, behaviors:

You’ll learn how to explore your inner emotions and thoughts that you find lead to your addictive behaviors. Ways to handle the negative thoughts you harbor are focused on.

4. Finding balance in life:

You get to decide what’s most important in life to you, including the goals you’ll like to set for yourself. You can learn to live without the need for substances and instead work toward those important life goals.

Some SMART Recovery groups use the ABC Model, a technique taken from Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy. The ABC Model uses self-help techniques that let you challenge the erroneous thinking patterns and irrational beliefs you have that can lead to addiction.

The ABC exercises are done mentally, often with a worksheet to help you practice and focus on the following thought activities:

Activating Events: Identify the trigger (event, situation, person) that began the negative thought or feeling you have
Belief: Note your beliefs about that activating event
Consequences: What’s your emotional and/or behavioral response? How do you feel and how do you behave afterwards?
Dispute: Go back and challenge those beliefs. Which are dysfunctional and damaging to you?
Effective Thinking: Replace the dysfunction belief with a new, more effective one

Benefits of SMART Recovery

There are many advantages to participating in a SMART Recovery program, whether you’re taking part in a residential or outpatient rehab program, are living independently or in a sober house in recovery or want to be supportive for someone you love that is suffering from an addictive disorder.

Some of the Benefits of SMART Recovery Include:

It’s a flexible program: Local, in-person SMART Recovery meetings are open to the public and are free, though donations are accepted. You can simply show up at a meeting, with no need to pre-register in most cases. You can find a meeting in your area by going online and checking your country’s respective website for SMART Recovery, whether you live in the US, the UK, Canada, Africa and many other countries. The locations, times and types of meetings are numerous and highly flexible to fit most people’s schedules.

Flexibility is also important for people who can’t get out much, work or go to school full-time and have other obligations that might interfere with their ability to make it to in-person meetings. SMART Recovery offers web-based meetings for the times when you can’t get out or when you’re in a new city and are having trouble locating a meeting. In fact, the online community at SMART Recovery includes forums, tools, discussion boards and peer support groups, as well as social forums for talking about things unrelated to addiction.

Support: The kinds of support you’ll encounter at SMART Recovery come from other members and from within yourself. The mutual- and self-help features of SMART include a supportive group of people and personal tools to both help one another and yourself.

Educational tools and resources: SMART Recovery has an extensive collection of literature, on-line tools and other resources readily available.

Duration: When you’re in recovery, you’re going to need support that will be ongoing and for the long term. SMART Recovery provides this kind of enduring support to you.

Behavioral approach: Using evidence-based scientific research, SMART Recovery is able to address the irrational and negative thoughts and beliefs that often contribute to the formation of addictions.

Addiction Treatment that
Just Works

Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.

SMART Recovery vs. 12-Step Programs

There exist quite a few differences and similarities between SMART Recovery and 12-Step Programs

These are the similarities:

  • Both program types place an emphasis on treating the underlying causes of addiction, including those that have cognitive, emotional and social roots.
  • Both programs give you group and long-term support that are necessary for long-lasting addiction recovery.
  • Both program types offer you outstanding educational literature and mentorships.

The differences between SMART Recovery and 12-Step Programs are more numerous:

SMART Recovery: Abstaining from substance use is not a requirement for participation
12-Steps: These programs are sobriety-based

SMART Recovery: Emphasizes self-empowerment, courage, and guidance from within yourself
12-Steps: Focuses on the acceptance and guidance from an external higher power

SMART Recovery: Based on secular principles and scientific research, using a wide range of interventions and tools to change behaviors
12-Steps: Based on religiously based principles, though some12-step models are non-religious, but use of prayer and the word “God” is often in use

SMART Recovery: Characterizes addiction as a chosen behavior that can be changed and overcome
12-Steps: Believes that addiction is a chronic disease that requires ongoing treatment lasting a lifetime

SMART Recovery: It’s thought to be very important to take part in every aspect of the program publically, not anonymously. Individual psychotherapy treatment is advisable, and 12-Step meetings are also recommended if you think a sponsor will be helpful to you.
12-Steps: Finding a personal sponsor to help you maintain sobriety is vital to the 12-step model

SMART Recovery: Meetings are conducted as group meeting discussions
12-Steps: During 12-Step meetings, you speak alone to share your stories and struggles with others, one person at a time

SMART Recovery: Placing a specific label on yourself and your addiction puts an undesirable stigma on yourself and is not allowed.
12-Steps: Acknowledging your addiction and labeling your status as someone with an addiction is important, i.e., “Hi, my name is John and I’m an alcoholic.”

SMART Recovery: Once enough progress is made in SMART Recovery, a person is considered recovered for life.
12-Steps: Recovery and participation in the 12 steps is ongoing and lasts a lifetime.

SMART Recovery at Resurgence Behavioral Health

At Resurgence Behavioral Health, we offer SMART Recovery as an effective, secular alternative to 12-step programs which have a spiritual component and a different approach to recovery support.

SMART Recovery attracts many clients to Resurgence Behavioral Health due to the extensive array of literature, educational tools and resources available through the program.

The four points, the ABC Model of SMART Recovery and the use of effective behavioral theories of psychology have helped countless numbers of our clients remain free of substance use for the long term.

Our clinical team at Resurgence Behavioral Health designs customized treatment plans to address all aspects of your addiction and addictive behaviors. Trust us to help you regain your motivation to break free of substance use and get back your life.

Addiction Treatment that
Just Works

Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.