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Updated on August 25, 2022
7 min read

What is SMART Recovery?

SMART Recovery, which is the acronym for Self-Management And Recovery Training, is a peer community that offers support to people with addiction.

It’s a global abstinence-oriented organization that brings people together to help one another resolve their problem with addiction.

According to SMART Recovery, participants help one another “find and develop the power within themselves to change and lead fulfilling and balanced lives guided by our science-based and sensible 4-Point Program.” The program is free and teaches participants techniques to help them transition their lives from being self-destructive to happy and fulfilling.

Unlike other programs, SMART Recovery avoids labels like “alcoholic” and “addict.” The goal of the program is to provide a scientifically validated method that empowers people and helps them change their life for the better.

The program acknowledges that addictions are a coping mechanism, but that they are ultimately harmful and do more harm than good.

SMART Recovery teaches short-term and long-term coping skills participants can use to move forward in their lives and avoid turning to an addiction to cope. Teachings focus on the present and what to do when faced with situations that lead to self-destructive choices.

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How Does Smart Recovery Work?

The SMART Recovery utilizes the 4-Point Program:

  • Building and maintaining the motivation to change
  • Coping with urges to use
  • Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in an effective way without addictive behaviors
  • Living a balanced, positive, and healthy life

SMART Recovery helps participants understand their addictive behaviors are an effort to meet their natural goals, but these behaviors offer only short-term relief. There is also a focus on personal beliefs about addiction that often interfere with recovery. 

Unlike other recovery programs, SMART does not teach the belief that a person with an addiction is powerless once they have taken the first drink.

According to SMART Recovery, science doesn’t support helpless, negative beliefs about addiction.

The program also teaches methods for dealing with negative emotions.

Instead of turning to a substance, participants learn how to cope with anger, anxiety, guilt, low self-esteem, and other emotions that might trigger a binge and encourages participants to engage in activities that replace their addictive behaviors.

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Benefits of SMART Recovery

The SMART Recovery program might not be right for everyone, but many participants have achieved sobriety through their use of the program.

According to SMART Recovery, participants enjoy the following benefits:

  • Gain independence from addictive behavior
  • Maintain motivation to stay sober
  • Gain the tools needed to cope with urges
  • Learn to manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  • Find ways to live a balanced life

Participants get access to a scientifically based approach that evolves as our knowledge about addiction evolves. They’re also able to stay involved in the program and help others with similar issues.

SMART Recovery Online

SMART Recovery offers a program online that makes it easy for people to find the support they want from the comfort of their own home.

The SMART Recovery Online (SROL) program enables participants to interact with one another in their effort to recover from addictive behaviors. The online program includes a message board, 24/7 live chat, a resource library, and daily meetings.

Access to the online program is available 365 days a year around-the-clock at Participants must register before using the chat room, message board, or online meetings.

SMART Recovery’s online message board features Discussions and Tools and Resources sections, as well as a Classic Posts section that allows participants to access archived posts deemed helpful by users. Users of the online program will also find message boards dedicated to specific disorders and specific situations.

Online meetings take place every day at different times. Meetings are approximately 90 minutes and are facilitated by trained volunteers. Additionally, participants have access to round-the-clock chat rooms that are social, but that also offer support for specific issues.

SMART Recovery’s resource library, The SMART Recovery Online Toolbox, features several items that are useful for new and experienced participants, including:

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) Worksheet
  • YouTube video links
  • SMART Recovery Podcasts
  • SMART Recovery blog

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SMART Recovery Meetings

SMART recovery meetings take place all over the world and online. They are open to anyone.

The SMART program is beneficial to those in recovery and their family members and friends, too. There is no cost to attend SMART Recovery meetings, but many groups accept donations to cover the material fees and offer volunteer opportunities.

Facilitators suggest attending at least five meetings before deciding whether or not SMART Recovery is suitable for you. This gives you enough time to learn about SMART Recovery and determine whether it fits your recovery plan.

While SMART Recovery meetings can deliver the fundamental resources for long-term sobriety, it is up to each person to practice and apply what they learn in meetings.

Support groups like SMART Recovery provide help and guidance for overcoming urges and maintaining sobriety. This enables participants to take full responsibility for their recovery and success.

ABCs of SMART Recovery

One of the tools used in SMART Recovery is called “the ABCs.” It helps participants analyze a situation and change their way of thinking about it when they cannot change the situation.

For example, someone feeling angry at the actions of another person is encouraged to find a new way of thinking about the situation.

The ABCs include the following:

A: Activating situation (something that occurs that bothers you)

B: Irrational belief about that situation (believing something should be a certain way based on your perception)

C: Consequence of having that belief (feeling negative because of the belief)

D: Dispute the irrational belief by posing it as a question (why shouldn’t the reality be the case?)

E: Effective new method of thinking that substitutes rational for irrational (something is a certain way and why shouldn’t it be, so choose not to be upset about it)

This step-by-step method allows you to change your perception of a situation and choose to respond more effectively. It gives you control over how you feel and allows you to move forward from what at first seemed unpleasant.

Understanding that you can change your way of thinking about and responding to any stimulus is empowering and allows people with substance use disorders (SUD) to see they have control over their addictive behavior.

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How to Find the Right Group for Your Needs

How do you know if SMART Recovery is right for you? Is there a key to finding the right group to suit your needs?

Everyone is different. A recovery method or support group that works for one person might not work for another. If you are struggling with an addiction and you want to get help, try the following:

Assess Your Needs

First, it’s important to self-reflect and determine your needs.

Do you need to detox? What substance are you abusing? How much time do you have to commit to recovery?

Your answers help you get the right kind of treatment at the right time. It’s also important to consider the state of your mental health. Different recovery programs address different mental health needs.

Research Your Options

Taking responsibility for your situation and researching your options is an invaluable step in recovery. Even if a loved one helps you and provides information, you must know whether a program is right for you.

Ask Questions

Reputable treatment programs offer consultations that allow you to learn more about what they offer. It’s important to take advantage of this opportunity.

Expect to Put in the Work

Rehab is not a vacation. To be effective, you need encouragement to create changes and make sobriety your number one priority. You only get results when you are willing to put in the effort.

Don’t Rush into a Program

There are many treatment options available. You are better off finding the right one for you, even if it takes a few days or weeks.

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Updated on August 25, 2022
6 sources cited
Updated on August 25, 2022
  1. “About SMART Recovery | 4-Point Program® | Addiction Recovery.” SMART Recovery
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Treatment and Recovery.” Drugabuse.Gov, 2018
  3. Beck, Alison K et al. “Systematic review of SMART Recovery: Outcomes, process variables, and implications for research.” Psychology of addictive behaviors : journal of the Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors vol. 31,1 : 1-20
  4. Tracy, Kathlene, and Samantha P Wallace. “Benefits of peer support groups in the treatment of addiction.” Substance abuse and rehabilitation vol. 7 143-154. 29 Sep. 2016
  5. Donovan, Dennis M et al. “12-step interventions and mutual support programs for substance use disorders: an overview.” Social work in public health vol. 28,3-4 : 313-32
  6. Inanlou, Mehrnoosh et al. “Addiction Recovery: A Systematized Review.” Iranian journal of psychiatry vol. 15,2 : 172-181.

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