SMART Recovery

Self-Management for Addiction Recovery Training (SMART) Recovery

There are many roads to recovery. For example, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and the 12-Step treatment programs. Though both programs are effective, this is a similar recovery program that may be better suited for you. It’s called Self-Management for Addiction Recovery Training (SMART). While it is not nearly as large of a program as AA, there are more than 1,000 groups in the United States.

How Does SMART Recovery Work Exactly?

SMART was founded in 1994 by Joe Gerstein and other experienced psychologists. The nonprofit organization works to remove the spiritual aspect of 12-Step treatment programs and the overall aspect of being in recovery for the rest of your life. Instead, SMART Recovery places the focus on evidence-backed steps. It utilizes the most recent medical research on substance abuse and addiction to help individuals overcome behaviors of compulsion by altering their thoughts and putting those actions into practice.

SMART Recovery Meetings

SMART Recovery meetings are completely free and are mainly focused on abstinence. They focus on assisting members with the development of tools that will change the patterns that have already been developed in their lives that have led to their addictions. Using these tools, the SMART Recovery program aims to assist individuals in leading meaningful, satisfying lives.

Alternatively, the SMART Recovery program doesn’t singularly focus on drugs and alcohol. The program meetings are also for individuals who struggle with certain addictive behaviors. For example, addictions to shopping, gambling, exercise, eating and more. As this program gains popularity throughout the U.S., it has also gained web-based support communities. These are particularly beneficial to those who need support when in-person meetings aren’t available. Additionally, there are support programs for family members.

The Terms: “Abuse” and “Addiction”

While the SMART Recovery program may use certain terms like “abuse” and “addiction,” it is not required for individuals to refer to themselves as substance abusers or addicts at meetings. In fact, research has shown that individuals in the early stages of their recovery may prefer to avoid using these types of terms. AA and 12-Step programs, however, require that individuals refer to themselves as “addicts,” and the reason for this is because this certain “step” is a way to accept responsibility for their problem. Unfortunately, this keeps some individuals from entering into the program that could actually help them.

Recovery Does End

Additionally, the SMART Recovery program focuses on the fact that there IS an end date to your recovery.  While it is true that individuals struggling with a drug or substance abuse battle may need a long time to overcome their compulsive behaviors surrounding addiction and relapses, it is possible for it all to come to an end. SMART Recovery focuses on that. Within the program, you will learn that you can eventually reach a stage of full recovery rather than remaining in a stage of recovery for the rest of your life. The SMART Recovery program believes that you can and will reach a point where SMART meetings aren’t useful for you any longer. The goal is for you will have overcome your addiction through self-exploration and mindful effort. When this time comes, congratulations!!

The SMART Recovery program utilizes a specific toolset based on Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

These tools include the following:

  • Understanding and focusing on the different levels of change
  • Making use of the plans of change worksheets
  • Performing a decision-making breakdown of substance use vs. abstinence
  • Upholding a hierarchy of values
  •  Reviewing your ABC(DE)s:
    • Activating event (when something occurs)
    • Beliefs, attitudes, thoughts that are triggered by A (the event)
    • Consequences of B: behaviors and thoughts that are used to cope with B
    • Disputes: evaluating arguments against initial behaviors/thoughts, developing logical techniques of handling B
    • Effects of D: brand-new behaviors and emotions based on a better understanding of yourself
  • Making use of DISARM (Destructive Irrational Self-Talk Awareness & Refusal Method) tactics
  • Brainstorming
  • Role-playing to establish and embed brand-new behaviors
  • Practicing Unconditional Self-Acceptance (USA)
  • Locating Vital Absorbing Creating Interests (VACI)

At a SMART meeting, you can expect to focus on at least one of the aforementioned tools, and they will be applied to the problems the group has experienced within the previous week. The group will then create a plan that focuses on better overall habits as well as sensible ways of thinking for the upcoming week.

While it is true that the SMART Recovery program is not nearly as popular as AA and the 12-Step program, it is a support group that is recognized by numerous medical organizations, including the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and the Center for Health Care Evaluation.

Who Can Benefit from the Smart Recovery Program?
...and who won’t?

Because of the nature of SMART Recovery meetings, its websites specifically states this studies do not address the direct effectiveness of the meetings. However, some studies indirectly show that this type of supportive therapy can be beneficial for individuals needing to conquer an addiction.

Looking at scientific psychological research, there are two types of individuals as follows:

  1. Individuals with an internal locus of control
  2. Individuals with an external locus of control.

What is Locus of Control?

Locus of control refers to who is in charge of a person’s future. This may something external (the focus of most 12-Step programs that are based on religion) or it may be something internal, such as themselves (the focus of the Smart Recovery program).

Individuals that Get the Most out of the SMART Recovery Program

These types of individuals include the following:

  • Individuals who are not interested in spirituality, religion, or other similar philosophies to be involved in their recovery process.
  • Individuals who are interested in working with facts and evidence, especially with a group, will benefit from the participation aspect in the SMART Recovery program, though every person will find some level of benefit from both the in-person and online support options.

SMART Recovery understands that each person has a different history and varied preferences when it comes to their treatment, and this may allow individuals to gain more benefit from certain aspects of the program (such as meetings over online support or vice versa).

  • Individuals who don’t want to put a label on themselves and prefer to focus on the future change based on true understanding of themselves are most likely to prefer the SMART Recovery program over alternatives.

As mentioned previously, the “addict” label is required in AA and 12-Step programs. This often keeps people from wanting to join. Labeling of that type is not required or even warranted at SMART meetings. Instead, these meetings center on what each person encountered in the week prior and what can be changed to be healthier in the upcoming week. There is absolutely no judgment—even when relapse is involved. The only focus is to get healthy.

  • Individuals that require medications and therapies.

The Smart Recovery program permits prescription medications (sometimes monitored), including maintenance therapies such as psychiatric medications and buprenorphine.

Individuals that May Not Gain as Much from the SMART Recovery Program

Those individuals may include the following:

  • Individuals who prefer spiritual or religious guidance throughout their recovery
  • Individuals who have an external locus of control
  • Individuals who have very specific goals for their future or need to be responsible for others apart from themselves
  • Individuals who may be unable to emotionally handle interruptions of personal narratives or direct criticism in the discussion that is encouraged during Smart Recovery meetings, while 12-Step and AA meetings allow individuals to talk only when they feel the urge to.

Do You Need Help?

The SMART Recovery program is relatively new, but it is gaining an increasing foothold in the U.S as a new form of supportive group treatment that offers a variety of different therapy methods and goals - all for the goal of including more people that need help to enter into a program and stay on track during their recovery.

If you are struggling with addiction, contact us at Shadow Mountain Recovery so we get you on the road to a healthier you.

Don’t wait another day to get the help you or a loved one needs. Call us now.

Addiction Treatment(800) 203-8249