The SMART Recovery program is an alternative to 12-step programs that treat drug and alcohol addiction. SMART Recovery offers various face-to-face meetings in different venues around the world and sponsors daily online meetings. Aside from these options, the SMART Recovery organization also features online message boards and a chat room that is open and available 24/7.
All are excellent platforms to learn more about the SMART Recovery program and to find recovery support after addiction.
What Is SMART Recovery?
SMART Recovery, short for Self-Management and Recovery Training, is a type of addiction recovery program that aims to help people cope and recuperate from all kinds of addiction, from alcohol abuse to gambling and drug abuse. This program is not the same as famous 12-step programs used by organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous and the Narcotics Anonymous.
A goal of SMART Recovery is to aid and support people who are on the path to recovery. It strives to empower them to alter their self-defeating mindsets, feelings, and acts. It helps them proactively work toward improving their quality of life.
In a SMART Recovery program, the approaches used to address addiction include the following:
- Teaching the addicted individual the power of self-reliance and self-improvement.
- Encouraging addicted individuals to overcome their addiction and live fulfilling lives.
- Introducing tools and strategies to encourage self-directed changes.
- Holding educational and open meetings and discussions to encourage sharing.
- Promoting the proper use of prescribed medications and other psychological treatment methods.
- Explaining scientific advances and progress regarding addiction recovery methods.
These tools help recovering addicts gain freedom and power over their addiction and their dangerous behaviors. SMART Recovery persuades participants to apply such tools to reach their goals of living balanced and fulfilling lives.
How Does SMART Recovery Work?
According to a study published in the Journal of Groups in Addiction & Recovery, the SMART Recovery program is an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) that centers on self-empowerment. SMART Recovery offers support resources such as meetings and discussions that provide information on how to stay motivated after getting out of rehab, how to curb one’s cravings for addictive substances, and how to achieve a well-balanced lifestyle.
One encouraging aspect of SMART Recovery meetings is the fact that they view relapses as opportunities to talk about the experiences and to get back up on your feet again. Relapse is not viewed as a failure, so the individual experiencing a relapse may have a easier time returning to abstinence.
SMART Recovery programs use an exercise called the ABCs to show participants how to recognize and overcome their triggers. This particular exercise helps participants analyze circumstances or events that may arise in the future and to modify their mindset and behavioral patterns.
Attending SMART Recovery may also help people address symptoms of substance abuse such as
- Temporary blackouts or short-term memory loss
- Excuses for drinking, such as saying that you are drinking to cope with stress, relax, or feel normal
- Signs of irritability
- Isolation from friends or family members and drinking in secret
- Bloodshot eyes
Even if a person is experiencing mild symptoms of substance abuse, they should take them seriously. Seeking treatment during the early stages of substance abuse offers a better chance for recovering and enjoying a happy, healthy life.
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SMART Recovery Costs and Benefits
A cost-benefit analysis is one of the best, simplest ways of encouraging change. To do this, find a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle of it. On the left side of the page, write down all the benefits and advantages you receive from being addicted.
On the opposite side, write down all the negative effects and disadvantages of your addiction. If you can see that the disadvantages outweigh the benefits, that is a sign telling you that you are ready to change your addictive patterns.
After finishing the advantages and benefits columns, try expanding your list. Add two more columns that read costs of my addictive behavior and benefits of quitting my addictive behavior. Under the costs column, you might include the loss of loved ones and important relationships. Under the benefits column, you may include a simple reason, such as saving more money for other things instead of spending it on drugs or alcohol.
As you continue to move forward in recovery, you may see that the costs of quitting may diminish. Things that were once very important to you may lose their worth. You may encounter other ways to satisfy your cravings.
For instance, maybe you once believed that it would be impossible to relax and to cope with your depression if you did not use drugs or alcohol. As you progress in recovery, you may find other means of relaxing and dealing with negative emotions.
SMART Recovery’s ABC Exercise
These are the parts of SMART Recovery’s ABC exercise:
- A stands for activating experience: Since triggers can start when specific events occur, the first step of the exercise is to teach participants to identify and describe particular events that may have prompted them to drink or use addictive substances.
- B stands for beliefs: Participants are encouraged to identify how they feel and how they think when particular events occur. They are taught how to identify their belief systems and how they relate to their triggers. Since beliefs come in various forms, from rational to wishful to self-defeating, it is important to track participants’ belief systems to learn how to address and change negative beliefs into positive and empowered thoughts.
- C stands for consequences: Participants learn that every thought and every action has a corresponding consequence. They also learn that consequences are the direct results of their thought processes and actions. This means that since people have full control of their thoughts and their actions, they can take control of outcomes or consequences.
- D stands for disputes: In this step, participants learn how to challenge their negative belief systems by incorporating them into a question-and-answer process. By doing so, they can achieve a deeper understanding of why a particular action or event made them feel a particular way.
- E stands for effects: Here, participants learn that if they abandon their illogical thoughts and beliefs and replace them with rational and logical ones, they can experience better results. This exchange may help them form new behavioral patterns that can help them reduce their cravings for addictive substances.
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Comparison to 12-Step Programs
Smart Recovery vs. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
One similarity of SMART Recovery programs and 12-step programs such as AA or NA (Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotic Anonymous) is that they aim to help individuals deal and cope with their addictions and achieve a lifetime of sobriety.
Though the programs have similar end goals, their practices and tools widely differ.
Compared to a 12-step program, the SMART Recovery program is more flexible about its principles and core beliefs, according to the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.
AA encourages individuals to surrender and admit their powerlessness. Meanwhile, in SMART Recovery, self-empowerment is viewed as a tool to lifetime recovery. AA participants are encouraged to surrender to a higher power, while SMART Recovery utilizes a secular approach to addiction recovery.
Also in SMART Recovery, participants are highly encouraged to find approaches that fit their specific circumstances and needs. It takes factors such as age, gender, the extent of addiction, and mental profile into account. The program does not teach participants that they are powerless or ask them to admit their addiction before a group of people.
Yet another difference between the two approaches is that SMART Recovery focuses on addiction as a whole rather than a specific addiction, such as alcoholism. Furthermore, SMART Recovery believes that once people are in recovery, their addictions no longer exist. In AA, addicted individuals are treated as addicted individuals for the rest of their lives.
One serious criticism about AA is that the organization dwells on their members’ pasts. In SMART Recovery, the focus is on the individuals’ irrational thought processes that lead to relapses in the present. SMART Recovery uses the ABCs exercise as a guideline while AA uses reference materials such as the AA Big Book.
Graduating from the SMART Recovery Program
Therapists play important roles in an individual’s aftercare planning program. As individuals graduate from treatment and seek to sustain recovery, their therapists can help them find tools to help them strengthen their coping mechanisms and skills.
For example, therapists may discuss different situations that may trigger drug use. These discussions can help their clients develop healthy responses. Therapists may also work with the families of recovering individuals to improve family dynamics and manage interpersonal relationships. Professionals may also help individuals who are graduating from treatment and help them incorporate their newfound skills to improve their day-to-day lives and their relationships.
Social workers or case managers may also intervene to help graduating clients address basic needs such as housing, food, employment, transportation, and child-rearing and child care. These factors are important to avoid the risk of relapse. Regardless of the individual’s financial standing and economic background, recovery programs may offer much-needed support services.
Is SMART Recovery for You?
A good way to know if the SMART Recovery program is the right treatment option for you is to receive assessment and evaluation from professionals at a trusted addiction facility. By following proper intake and assessment procedures, physicians and specialists at the rehab center may determine your physical and mental conditions and draft the appropriate treatment plan to maximize your chance of recovery.
After assessment and intake, you may undergo detox. After detox, you will start a chosen treatment program. If the principles and the goal of the SMART Recovery program appeal to you, talk with an addiction specialist about this option.
The SMART Recovery treatment program may be ideal for individuals who believe that they may treat their addictions by practicing self-empowerment and changing their belief systems. If you think that this program will work for you, suggest this option during the intake process.
Why Choose Mountain Springs Recovery for your SMART Recovery Program?
If you or a loved one is struggling with any kind of addiction, try to find professional help at the soonest time possible. Though there are many addiction treatment facilities, it is important to choose the right treatment facility that may help you achieve your goal of lifetime sobriety.
At Mountain Springs Recovery, we can help you develop the right treatment plan in a safe, nonjudgmental, and supportive environment to aid in your addiction recovery.
Our process starts with intake and assessment by skilled and seasoned physicians and medical staff members. These professionals can help you create an individualized treatment plan to help you recover. During the detox phase, our well-trained staff can offer additional guidance and assistance.
During treatment, we offer different treatment options. If you choose to follow the SMART Recovery program, you will be guided and assisted by licensed therapists and counselors. You may attend sessions surrounded by empathetic and supportive people who can assist and cheer you on your recovery journey.
At Mountain Springs Recovery, we will make sure that you will receive the help that you need. Call us today and we will help you start your addiction recovery journey.
Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.
Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.
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