What is SMART Recovery

woman writing about SMART Recovery in her notebook

What is SMART Recovery

What may work for some, will not work for others – finding a system that works for you is crucial to treating your substance use disorder. Some people seeking treatment often say they find the 12-Step program challenging because of the religious or spiritual aspect of the program. They struggle to connect and engage when discussions of a Higher Power start cropping up. While this is not an uncommon challenge, many are unaware there are alternatives to 12-Step meetings outside of treatment centers and aftercare programs. One of those alternatives is SMART Recovery.

What is SMART Recovery

Self-Management and Recovery Training, more commonly known as SMART Recovery, is rooted in scientific knowledge and therefore evolves as more information becomes available. It also focuses on self-reliance rather than powerlessness, which means there are no sponsors. It encourages membership lasting months or years, but a lifetime like 12-Step meetings. Despite some clear differences, there is one common denominator between SMART Recovery and the 12-Steps – helping people find independence from their addiction.

The SMART Recovery equivalent to AA’s Big Book is the 4-Point Program, which consists of tools and techniques designed to achieve a balanced life in recovery.

Point 1: Building and Maintaining Motivation

Through motivational interviewing, one can determine which “Stage of Change” they are in before embarking on their recovery process. If someone has no intention of changing their behavior, then they are in the pre-contemplation stage – they do not see it as a problem and think those who point think it is a problem are over exaggerating. On the other hand, if someone is engaged in treatment and maintaining sobriety, they are in the action stage – they are sticking to the plan and determined to make it work. Taking things a step further, they are enduring changes or maintenance that comes with learning new behaviors to replace old patterns.

Point 2: Coping with Urges

SMART Recovery utilizes Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) to encourage people and provide hope that change is possible, but only if one puts in the necessary work. It is important to acknowledge urges to use the drug of choice and recognize the irrational beliefs one may have about using, then providing an alternative thought or behavior is effective in coping with those urges.

Point 3: Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors

To manage thoughts and feelings, one uses a Cost/Benefit Analysis to ask four specific questions about their addiction in hopes the answers will allow one to learn and grow. These questions must be answered as an ongoing project:

  • What do I enjoy about my addiction?
  • What do I hate about my addiction?
  • What do I think I will like about giving up my addiction?
  • What do I think I won’t like about giving up my addiction?

Point 4: Living a Balanced Life

More than just a recovery skill, healthily managing one’s life to achieve balance is generally the key to success. Understanding one’s values and being aware of the areas where there is too much or too little time spent can shift one’s perspective. People seeking recovery must be honest with themselves and focus first on the areas crying out for help. Recovery is rooted in creating a plan for how changes are going to be made, then asking for support making those changes.

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For more information on SMART Recovery, https://www.smartrecovery.org/

Find SMART Recovery meetings in your area, https://www.smartrecoverytest.org/local/