Understanding Smart Recovery
Alcohol Volume

Understanding Smart Recovery

The SMART recovery program is no news as most individuals who struggle with addiction see it as their go-to remedy. Spelt out fully as The Self-Management and Recovery Training, this methodology helps maintain abstinence. It is a four-point recovery system that empowers individuals to overcome unhealthy thoughts and behavioural patterns that triggers alcoholism and substance abuse. Founded in 1994 and originally known as Rational Recovery, this program is an alternative to Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and many more addiction recovery groups that support the 12-step principles.

1992, it became the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Self-Help Network (ADAHSN), and two years later, it transformed into what everyone knows it to be today – SMART Recovery. It is worth noting that this program has underlying principles that are similar to AA (confidentiality, mutual support, and accessibility) but also envelopes scientific knowledge. One of the differences between Smart Recovery and Alcohol Anonymous is that the former deals with taking full responsibility during addiction recovery, while the latter centres on relying on a higher power. Hence, it is glaring that the program takes a scientific approach, rather than a spiritual one. Some specialists may recommend both recovery approaches.

What Makes it a Four-Point Program?

SMART Recovery differs distinctively from AA as it uses a 4-step approach, rather than the 12-step model. Additionally, the steps are not orderly arranged or followed, unlike its counterpart. Here are the four aspects or four-point programs it covers:

  • Motivation to abstain from addictive behaviour
  • Learning how to cope with cravings and urges
  • Managing feelings, thoughts, and behaviours as a way to solve addiction problems
  • Creating a balance when dealing with satisfactions and pleasures

Addictions SMART Recovery Covers

It is worth noting that patients can undergo SMART Recovery as a standalone treatment program to address different addictions or incorporate other support groups, like NA and AA, to commence addiction recovery. Having stated this, SMART Recovery addresses the following: drug addiction, alcoholism, and behavioural disorders.

What Makes it Different from the 12-Point Program?

Even though both programs cater to addiction recovery, people who undergo SMART Recovery hold open meetings where patients with different types of addiction come to share their recovery experiences and support one another. On the other hand, the 12-point support groups are restricted to the type of addiction faced.

For example, alcoholics seeking recovery under AA can’t hold meetings with those recovering from substance abuse. Another thing worth noting with the 4-point program is that participants do not refer to one another as addicts or other related terms, such as alcoholics. Such references are considered impediments to the recovery process.

Surprisingly, not many individuals subscribe to 12-point support groups. These individuals are of the school of thought that they are responsible for their recovery process and abstinence, rather than a higher power. While groups like AA and NA stay committed to a life-long program, filled with meetings, SMART Recovery participants commit to the program based on the duration of purpose it serves. Here is a breakdown of a typical SMART Recovery meeting, which can span a timeframe of 60 minutes to 90 minutes:

  • Participants welcome one another
  • There are personal updates
  • Plan the agenda
  • Discuss the aspect of coping and analyse events
  • Time for donations
  • Conduct review and create assignments
  • Socialize

It is worth noting that with SMART Recovery, patients don’t discuss their past addiction lives. There is no allocation of sponsors or mandate for a life-long commitment. However, participants may be present for at least five meetings, before deciding to maintain their presence or leave. Interestingly, there are about 1,500 meetings held worldwide weekly. During such appointments, patients discuss important subjects that aid recovery. They have fun as well. SMART Recovery is not only beneficial to patients battling addiction, but it also helps other individuals that are close to such persons.

Is SMART Recovery Effective?

Undoubtedly, SMART Recovery has helped millions of addicts worldwide recover from alcohol and substance abuse. However, according to a 2018 study which weighed participants on this program with those from the 12-point support groups (considering demographics and income normality), the latter outperformed the former in the areas of alcoholism and total abstinence. But as a treatment goal, both parties fared well with little or no difference. People with multiple addictions can benefit from SMART Recovery.

There are no restrictions on the type of SMART Recovery participants. Anyone can be a part of the group, including friends and family members of the recovering patient. Such individuals’ presences provide a support system to aid addiction recovery.

Upsides and Downsides to SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery has its merits and demerits, which some people will find okay enough to commence treatment under this program.

Advantages of SMART Recovery

  1. It incorporates a tested and reliable psychological approach, known as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
  2. Anyone can participate in the meeting. There are no restrictions.
  3. It covers a vast range of addictions, ranging from alcohol addictions to sex addictions.
  4. Participants don’t have to believe in a higher power to commence addiction recovery.

Disadvantages of SMART Recovery

  1. This program may be devoid of professional accountability. What makes this so? Often, volunteers are in charge of the meetings.
  2. It is not as publicized as the 12-point support groups, like NA and AA.
  3. Since participants accept responsibility for recovery, they have to be willing, determined and committed to making it work. Unfortunately, not everyone has such capacities.

Bottom Line

SMART Recovery is an ideal program for anyone seeking to break free from addiction while building self-control and other values. Under this treatment option, they can learn to master themselves and become more self-reliant. This program also helps them to set feasible goals and work towards attaining them without leaving their lives in the hands of fate.

With SMART Recovery, patients can avail themselves of both medication and psychological counselling to speed up the addiction recovery process. Meeting attendance is not compulsory, but encouraged. Interestingly, individuals who can’t be there physically can take advantage of the online option. With this program, anyone can overcome alcohol use disorder (AUD), sex addiction, behavioural addiction, drug addiction, and other addictions as well.


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