What is SMART Recovery?

There are many paths to a successful recovery from substance misuse. While 12-step and other spirituality-based programs often get the most press, there are other options available, either instead of or in concert with, those programs. One of the more widespread and well-respected alternatives is the SMART Recovery program.

Rational thought rather than powerlessness

For those unfamiliar with the 12-step model, the first “step” involves an admission of powerlessness, primarily over substances but ultimately over many aspects of life. This conception of powerless seems counterintuitive and irrational – if the person with a substance misuse disorder is powerless, how will any action on their part improve their circumstances? SMART recovery instead offers the idea that self-reliance and rationality can be honed and developed to assist individuals in better understanding their own behaviors and motivations, and then making better, healthier choices in the future.  The SMART recovery model comes from cognitive-behavioral therapeutic strategies that have had their efficacy studied and confirmed.

Four points for as long as you need them, not 12 steps for the rest of your life

In lieu of the 12-step AA/NA program, SMART recovery offers four points, teaching people to

“1) Enhance and maintain motivation to abstain

2) Cope with urges

3) Manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors

4) Balance momentary and enduring satisfactions.”

These points are achieved through the application of logical exercises, tools and techniques. Another significant difference between SMART recovery and other programs is that practitioners are not expected to attend meeting for the rest of their lives. The program teaches the self-reliance and strategies to help members, without the onus of long-term ongoing attendance or sponsorship relationships.

More interaction, fewer labels

SMART recovery meetings are facilitated by trained leaders or hosts, who encourage conversational participation from all attendees.  The SMART recovery program also discourages the use of polarizing labels like “alcoholic” and “addict,” using instead non-stigmatizing language. There is no requisite spirituality element, but members of all faiths are welcomed. Many people in recovery have found help and long-term abstinence through the SMART Recovery program.

To learn more about SMART Recovery and find meetings in your area, visit their website.

The Ammon Scholarship Foundation helps people in recovery to attain their educational goals, reach their professional objectives, and change their lives for the better. Our blog is also available to provide useful information for anyone involved in the recovery field, including family members and professionals.