What is SMART Recovery

What is SMART Recovery?

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

What is SMART Recovery?

And why you should know about it.

SMART Recovery or Self-Management and Recovery Training is an abstinence-oriented organization for individuals with addictive problems. SMART focuses less on the label of “addict” or “alcoholic” and more on evidence-based concepts for recovery. Since SMART is evidence-based, it evolves with science, incorporating new evidence to treat substance use disorder as it is discovered. SMART focuses on learning coping skills for life, the present moment, root cause for self-destructive behaviors and how to achieve positive lifestyle changes. SMART Recovery aims to empower the individual to self-reliant recovery and living.

What is the difference between SMART and 12-Step Recovery Programs?

 Alcoholics Anonymous was started in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s by Bill Wilson and Bob Smith as a spiritual program of recovery based on the Oxford Group in England. SMART Recovery has a scientific foundation, not a spiritual one. AA believes that turning your will and your life over to the care of God is the best way to relieve one of their seemingly hopeless case.  SR teaches increasing self-reliance, rather than powerlessness, whereas AA and NA teach utter powerlessness over the disease of SUD. In 12-Step meetings it is normally taboo to offer insight or feedback to another person directly, SMART Recovery focuses on this feedback in a constructive and safe manner, employing it to add perspective and understanding.  SR encourages attendance for months to years, but probably not a lifetime, whereas AA and NA aim for lifetime abstinence. Additionally, there are no sponsors in SMART Recovery. SMART Recovery discourages use of labels such as “alcoholic” or “addict”.[1]

SMART Four-Point Program

  1. Building and maintaining the motivation to change
  2. Coping with urges to use
  3. Managing thoughts, feelings and behaviors in an effective way without addictive behaviors
  4. Living a balanced, positive and healthy life [2]

This program focuses on motivating the individual to look at their behaviors that are currently causing destruction in their lives as well as the emotions and beliefs that may be preventing them from finally remaining sober.

How is SMART Recovery Structured?

SMART recovery is a mutual support group in which individuals support and listen to one another in a setting of peers. Some combine SMART Recovery with other approaches, like Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous, therapy and spiritual practices. With SMART Recovery you can participate in a number of ways, information is available on their website including blogs and publications. Or you can take a more hands-on approach and join online meetings or even attend meetings in-person in your local area where available and permitted. In the meetings, SMART Recovery facilitators teach and explore the Four Point Program for those struggling with SUD.

SMART Recovery believes enabling, encouraging and empowering the individual is the quickest way to self-realization and self-management. Discovering the motivation to change can have an intense effect on many individuals, that many call discovering themselves. Through this process, each individual is taught about what their motivation was for using and how that can be adjusted as their motivation for living.

Many times battling the stigma of SUD can be difficult, and SR doesn’t believe in labels like “addict” or “alcoholic” because those pejorative terms inherently draw a belief that there is something wrong with one suffering from SUD. Many believe that an inability to stop is based on an inability to control oneself and therefore makes them “bad”. Society is largely accustomed to this type of interaction with addiction, but SR aims to adjust that belief and establish new, less deprecating beliefs about ones SUD.

SMART Recovery Addressing More

Of course, emotions and behavior are discussed in SMART Recovery. Addressing the emotions that SUD can bring on such as anxiety, depression, self-loathing, and guilt, is a component of SMART Recovery that builds a secure senses of self, and promotes self-acceptance. Lastly, but most important next to abstinence is behavior modification. SMART Recovery recognizes that changing minds is one thing, but working to change behaviors is imperative to living a sober and happy life.

Not dissimilar to other 12-step and group therapies, SMART Recovery is a peer-based group with facilitators that are trained but not healthcare professionals. First Steps Recovery employs tenants of evidence-based treatment modalities like SMART Recovery for individuals looking to find support outside traditional 12-step programs. Care at First Steps Recovery is always individualized, and focuses on the long-term sobriety of the person suffering from substance use disorder.

From the moment you or a loved one steps in the door, First Steps Recovery focuses on the bio-psycho-social approach for holistically caring for the entire person.

If you or a loved one is suffering from SUD, please contact First Steps Recovery at 844.BIGSTEP and Take the First Step with us.




[1] https://www.smartrecovery.org/about-us/frequently-asked-questions/



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