As with 12 Step Groups, the SMART Recovery program can be an excellent resource for many people working to overcome addictions. The SMART Recovery program shares with AA the core principles of accessibility, confidentiality, and mutual support that connect you to a global network of help as often and as needed. However, the SMART Recovery program is not that widely used or known.
The SMART Recovery program is more rigorous than 12-step groups and may offer participants more security in its facilitated and standardized approach to overcoming addiction
4-point process of SMART Recovery
- Building and maintaining the motivation to change
- Dealing with use needs
- Effectively manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors without being addictive
- Live a balanced, positive, and healthy life
The sessions follow a standard structure that includes both instruction and participant contributions. The SMART Recovery program is different from 12 step groups, but many people choose to join both groups.
Overview of the SMART Recovery program
The SMART Recovery Program is a community-based self-help program that can be an alternative to or complementary to 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Cocaine Anonymous (CA).
Although not as widespread or known as 12-step groups, there is a large network of over 500 face-to-face meetings (available in many countries) as well as online meetings.
Online meetings can be a boon for people with addictions who need ongoing support: no matter where you go, you can often find a meeting if you want to attend one.
SMART Recovery meetings are made easier, and the meetings themselves follow a standardized format.
Six stages of change
Psychological model of alcoholism
Led by moderators
Run by volunteers
Another advantage is that SMART Recovery is based on psychological, evidence-based approaches. Some members also appreciate the fact that SMART Recovery does not impose any spiritual practice requirements on participants.
While the SMART Recovery approach has some potential advantages, there are some disadvantages to consider. For example, some research suggests that people who chose SMART Recovery are significantly less likely to be sober than people who chose AA...
For SMART Recovery, the group leaders don’t have to be sober right now. It is possible that this could have an impact on group members’ recovery success, as leaders are not necessarily successful at recovery.
Further research, focusing on participants’ outcomes, can help determine the effectiveness of SMART Recovery and how it compares to other treatment modalities...
Typically, SMART Recovery does not adhere to an alcoholism disease model. Instead, a psychological approach is taken that views addiction as the result of bad thinking or bad habits.
This differs from AA as well as the general scientific consensus that alcoholism is a disease that is genetic and biological in origin. Because of the psychological approach, this often results in discounting of drugs for treatment.
Nor does this psychological approach help people who feel guilty about continuing to drink. Understanding that alcoholism is a disease can help people not to feel overwhelmed by a feeling of inadequacy when they are unable to stop drinking.
A word from Verywell
If you think you have a problem with alcohol, talk to your doctor about your treatment options. SMART Recovery is one approach that people may find helpful, but there are other options that you should consider. Your doctor may also prescribe medications to safely treat withdrawal symptoms, reduce food cravings, and prevent alcohol consumption, such as Revia, Vivitrol (naltrexone), and Campral (acamprosate).
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use or addiction problems, contact the National Drug Abuse and Mental Health Authority (SAMHSA) helpline at 1-800-662-4357 Information about support and treatment facilities in your area.
You can find more mental health resources in our National Helpline Database.