SMART Recovery is an evidence-based program that provides effective tools, strategies, and support for people struggling with addiction or substance abuse.
It’s run by an international non-profit organization and offers a variety of resources, including face-to-face meetings, online support, and self-help materials.
The primary goals of the program are to address the underlying causes of addiction. SMART Recovery is based on the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy and rational emotive-behavior therapy, which focus on teaching individuals to identify and manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that contribute to their addiction.
SMART Recovery is very different from AA, which focuses on a spiritual approach to getting sober. It helps individuals to develop self-awareness, identify triggers and high-risk situations, set goals, and develop strategies to achieve those goals.
The program also encourages individuals to develop a strong support system and encourages them to reach out for help when needed.
SMART Recovery Statistics
The number of individuals participating in SMART Recovery is steadily increasing as SMART Recovery comes to be seen as a legitimate alternative to AA.
In 2020, the organization reported that it had over 6,000 active members in more than 80 countries. Additionally, it had over 1,500 certified facilitators, with more being added each year.
In terms of effectiveness, they state that over 80% of participants reported that they are satisfied with the program. Additionally, more than 90% of participants report improved self-awareness and better problem-solving skills as a result of participation in the program.
The Four-Point SMART Recovery Program
SMART Recovery is based on a four-point program that focuses on developing healthy coping skills, building motivation, and developing a lifestyle of abstinence. The four points of the program are:
- Building and Maintaining Motivation
- Coping with Urges
- Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors
- Living a Balanced Life
The first point of the program involves setting achievable goals, developing a plan of action to reach those goals, and identifying sources of motivation to help individuals stay on track.
The second point involves learning how to recognize and manage triggers and high-risk situations and developing healthier coping skills to reduce the risk of relapse.
The third point is all about learning how to recognize and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs and developing skills to manage difficult emotions and behaviors.
The fourth point is where you set boundaries, develop a strong support system, and engage in activities that promote physical, mental, and emotional health.
SMART Recovery Tools and Strategies
Some of the tools and strategies include:
- Self-monitoring: Self-monitoring is where you keep a record of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to help you identify triggers and high-risk situations.
- Cognitive Restructuring: Cognitive restructuring is where you challenge negative thoughts and beliefs and replace them with more positive, realistic thoughts.
- Self-care: Self-care involves engaging in activities that promote physical, mental, and emotional health, such as eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and engaging in physical activity.
- Urge Surfing: Urge surfing is where you recognize cravings and learn how to ride them out without engaging in unhealthy behaviors.
- Relaxation Techniques: This is where you learn techniques to help you manage stress and reduce anxiety, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.
- Problem-solving: Problem-solving just means learning how to identify and solve problems in a healthy, constructive way.
- Social Support: Social support involves building a strong support system of family, friends, and peers to help you stay on track.
How to Get Started with SMART Recovery
The first step is to find a local SMART Recovery meeting. SMART Recovery offers a variety of meetings, including online meetings, face-to-face meetings, and telephone meetings.
These meetings provide a safe and confidential environment for you to share your experiences, ask questions, and receive support from your peers.
Once you’ve found a meeting, you can begin the program and work through it at your own pace.
SMART Recovery Resources
The SMART Recovery website offers a variety of self-help materials, as well as information on upcoming meetings and events. Additionally, the organization offers a free online community where individuals can find support and connect with other participants.
Other resources include books, such as “The SMART Recovery Handbook” and “The SMART Recovery Toolbox,” which provide more in-depth information on the program. Additionally, there are a variety of online courses and webinars available to help you on your journey.
Is SMART Recovery Better than AA?
The question of whether SMART Recovery is “better” or “worse” than the most well-known addiction and recovery program — Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 steps — is a difficult one to answer.
Although some studies seem to indicate that SMART Recovery may be less effective than AA, the data is inconclusive.
The difficulty is that measuring a program like AA or SMART Recovery is nearly impossible. They rely on addicts and alcoholics to self-report their sobriety, which they might be inclined to be dishonest about for a variety of reasons.
Another difficulty is that each program attracts different types of individuals. The study linked above suggests that people who choose SMART Recovery over AA might have “weaker abstinence motivation,” which means that people who don’t really want to get sober might choose SMART Recovery and then obviously not stay sober, hurting SMART Recovery’s success rate.
These programs are also generally anonymous, which means that the groups themselves have difficulty tracking their members. In AA, the only real tracking they can do is to compare how many sobriety chips they give out. For example, a group might report that they gave out 100 1-day chips but only two 1-year chips.
But what does that mean? Does it mean only one person in 50 stayed sober? Or does it mean that many of the people who got 1-day chips forgot to pick up their 1-year chip?
Ultimately, what matters is finding the right program for you as an individual. It’s a good idea to find out what each program offers and pick the one that you think you’ll be most likely to successfully participate in. Right now, there is no clearly “better” program.
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