Updated on April 3, 2024
6 min read

SMART Recovery and the 4-Point Program

Overcoming alcohol substance use disorder (SUD) can be accomplished through different strategies. Some of them involve medication-assisted treatment, while others focus on more social and behavioral techniques.

SMART Recovery runs one of the many successful programs available that treat alcohol addiction through its 4-Point program. It was formed by the global abstinence-oriented organization to bring people together to help resolve their problem with addiction.

This blog article covers the basics of SMART programs and what to expect when joining one.

What Does SMART Recovery Stand for?

SMART, which stands for Self-Management And Recovery Training, is a peer community aiming to treat alcohol addictions through scientific knowledge. It’s a volunteer-led organization and welcomes people with various addictions, such as alcohol, gambling, drugs, overeating, spending, and sex.

SMART participants aim to “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.”

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How Does SMART Recovery Work?

SMART Recovery utilizes the 4-Point Program to help people recover from substance use problems. It encompasses the following phases:

  • Building and maintaining the motivation to change
  • Coping with the urge to use
  • Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors effectively
  • Living a balanced, positive, and healthy life

These phases help people understand that their addictions are an effort to meet their natural goals but only through short-term relief. These actions are ultimately interfering with true recovery.

SMART counters the idea that a person with an addiction is powerless once they have taken the first drink. In fact, SMART Recovery avoids labels like “alcoholic” and “addict.” It acknowledges that addictions are coping mechanisms leading to severe consequences.

The program also teaches methods for dealing with negative emotions. Participants learn to cope with anger, anxiety, guilt, low self-esteem, and other emotions by engaging in more productive activities.

ABCs of SMART Recovery

SMART’S ABCs help individuals analyze a situation, adjusting their perspectives when they cannot change the situation.

The SMART Recovery 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 SMART approach equips individuals with alternative perspectives and response methods to challenging situations. It gives you control over your feelings and allows you to move forward from what unhealthy routines initially seemed impossible to change.

Understanding that it’s possible to change the response toward triggers empowers people with SUDs to see that they have control over their addictive behavior.


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Benefits of SMART Recovery

According to SMART Recovery, individuals joining the program enjoy the following benefits:

  • Independence from addictive behavior
  • Motivation to stay sober
  • Tools for coping with urges
  • Manageable thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  • More balanced life

Participants engage in scientifically based approaches that keep up with current developments as our knowledge about addiction evolves. They can also stay involved in the program and help others with similar issues.

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Rehab Together

Are There SMART Recovery Programs Online?

SMART Recovery also offers online meetings for people who can’t join on-site arrangements. The SMART Recovery Online (SROL) program is accessible from anywhere and includes a message board, 24/7 live chat, a resource library, and daily meetings. Online meetings take place daily, lasting approximately 90 minutes, and are facilitated by trained volunteers.

The online program is available all day, seven days a week. Participants must register before using the chat room, discussion board, or online meetings.

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

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) Worksheet
  • YouTube video links
  • Podcasts
  • Blog posts

The online message board also features Discussions and Tools, Resources sections, and a Classic Posts section, allowing participants to access archived posts deemed helpful by users. There are also message boards dedicated to specific disorders and specific situations.

Who Can Attend SMART Recovery Meetings?

Support groups, like SMART Recovery meetings, help recovering individuals overcome urges and maintain sobriety. This enables participants to take full responsibility for their recovery and success.

SMART Recovery meetings are open to anyone, including friends and family members of those suffering from alcohol abuse. For SMART Recovery programs, facilitators suggest attending at least five meetings to determine whether this method suits your treatment.

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How to Find the Right SMART Group for Your Needs

Everyone’s recovery journey is different. Techniques that work for one might not work for another. If you are struggling with an addiction and you want to get help through the SMART Recovery program, try the following:

Assess Your Needs

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? Answering these questions helps determine which programs and facilities can best service you.

Besides your body’s needs, it’s also essential to consider the state of your mental health. Some programs offer one-on-one therapy sessions with licensed professionals to address co-occurring problems.

Research Your Options

When choosing treatment, research accreditation, licensing, and certifications. Ensure that the groups you’re seeking are equipped to address your specific needs.

Choose evidence-based groups and determine whether you require additional services, such as mental health services or medical detox.

If you’re unsure where to start, click on these other treatment options below to learn more about what they offer:

Ask Questions

Don’t hesitate to contact the facility and request to speak with a representative. Some valuable questions to ask include:

  • Does your facility accept my insurance?
  • Are there programs for families?
  • Do you offer outpatient services?
  • How often do you provide therapy?

Put in the Work

Rehab is not a vacation. Its effectiveness depends on your ability to create change, engage in the appointed rehab exercises, and apply the techniques daily.

Remember that treatment programs can only get you so far. You need to commit to a healthy routine to stay sober.


SMART Recovery programs treat alcohol addictions through scientific knowledge. Through their 4-Point Program, they teach participants to recognize the roots and effects of their harmful, addictive behavior in their lives.

The SMART approach equips individuals with response methods to challenging situations while in recovery. This gives them control over their triggers and helps them overcome their addiction.

If you believe SMART Recovery programs are right for you, remember to consult your healthcare provider before joining meetings. Getting a professional opinion regarding your recovery journey can help you make the right choices toward sobriety.

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Updated on April 3, 2024
6 sources cited
Updated on April 3, 2024
  1. “About SMART Recovery | 4-Point Program® | Addiction Recovery.” SMART Recovery.
  2. “Treatment and Recovery.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020.
  3. Beck 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, National Library of Medicine, 2017.
  4. Tracy, K., and Wallace, S.P. “Benefits of peer support groups in the treatment of addiction.” Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, National Library of Medicine, 2016.
  5. Donovan et al. “12-step interventions and mutual support programs for substance use disorders: an overview.” Social Work In Public Health, National Library of Medicine, 2013.
  6. Inanlou et al. “Addiction Recovery: A Systematized Review.” Iranian Journal of Psychiatry, National Library of Medicine, 2020.

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