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SMART Recovery

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What is SMART Recovery?

SMART Recovery stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. Like AA, the goal of SMART Recovery is to support people in their recovery. It teaches people how to move forward after addiction treatment. This is accomplished through encouraging self-empowerment.

The program is based on current scientific knowledge of addiction. It's committed to evolving as researchers learn more about addiction recovery.

Some of the main topics covered in the SMART recovery include:

  • Encouraging responsibility, discipline, and motivation for one's recovery
  • How to replace self-destruction thoughts with rational, healthy beliefs
  • How to set achievable goals throughout recovery
  • Coping skills in order to resist the urge to drink
  • How to accept that impulses and triggers are a natural part of recovery
  • Making SMART Recovery lessons and tools a part of everyday life situations
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How is SMART Recovery Different?

While the most known program is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), this faith-based program doesn’t work for everyone. SMART Recovery is a secular, not-for-profit organization for those struggling with addiction.

SMART Recovery is different, with a foundation based on self-empowerment and self-reliance. Meetings encourage participants to talk with each other, rather than to each other. They do not allow certain labels, such as “alcoholic” or “addict.”

Instead, this program focuses on recovery and how to make self-directed positive changes.

Rational Recovery is another secular addiction recovery program that focuses on abstinence through self-autonomy.

The SMART 4-Point Program

The 4-Point Program is the foundation of SMART Recovery, with the goal of helping people gain independence from addiction.

The four points are:

Point 1: Building and Maintaining Motivation

When a person makes the decision to enter detox and recovery, they do so with a motivation for change. The goal of this step is to focus on ways to motivate oneself to maintain sobriety.

Point 2: Coping with Urges

SMART Recovery understands that urges and triggers are a natural part of recovery.

The goal of the program is to help people recognize urges and learn healthy coping mechanisms.

This includes:

  • Setting boundaries
  • Eliminating harmful relationships
  • Learning how to avoid or handle potential triggers

Point 3: Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors

How you feel about addiction and yourself plays a major role in your recovery.

SMART Recovery focuses on helping people identify negative beliefs and shifting to a more positive outlook. It also works with members to better deal with negative emotions and increase self-acceptance.

Point 4: Living a Balanced Life

Long-term sobriety requires life changes.

While this includes abstinence from alcohol, it also means:

  • Following a healthy diet
  • Participating in regular exercise
  • Getting the appropriate amount of sleep
  • Working to maintain a positive attitude
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SMART Recovery Tools to Gain Independence from Alcohol

SMART Recovery offers many different recovery techniques and tools to help people through the recovery process. These tools help them work through the four points of the program.

SMART Recovery Meetings

SMART Recovery face-to-face meetings are open to the public and free. (A hat is passed around for donations). There are also online SMART meetings.

They usually run for 90 minutes and follow this outline:

  • Welcome and Introduction (5 minutes)
  • Check-in (10-20 minutes)
  • Agenda Setting (3 minutes)
  • Working Time (40-50 minutes)
  • Pass the Hat (3 minutes)
  • Check-out and Closing (15 minutes)

Additional Tools

In addition to face-to-face and daily online meetings, some of these tools and techniques include:

  • Hierarchy of Values: This tool helps people determine what things are important to them. Reconnecting to what is important helps people visualize what they want their future to look like and find the motivation to reach those goals.
  • Stages of Change and Change Plan Worksheets: This technique involves understanding the five stages of change and how to make the changes. The five stages include the precontemplation stage, contemplation stage, preparation stage, action stage, and maintenance stage.
  • SMART Recovery ABC’s: This exercise helps people analyze specific situations and how to modify negative thinking and behavioral patterns.
  • Destructive Images and Self-Talk Awareness and Refusal Method (DISARM): This program helps people recognize negative self-talk and how to change that way of thinking.
  • SMART Recovery Activities Scale (SRAS): An assessment tool designed to help people see how far they have come in their recovery process.
  • Unconditional Self-Acceptance (USA) 

In addition, the SMART Recovery website offers a variety of different worksheets and homework assignments designed to help throughout every stage of recovery.

The program focuses on the present day. Meetings help people understand self-destructive behavior, how to positively address it, and move forward.

Insurance Can Help Pay for Addiction Treatment

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How Do I Join SMART Recovery?

You can sign up for SMART Recovery by attending a meeting. Meetings are held at a variety of times, both in-person and online.

Updated on March 4, 2022
6 sources cited
  1. About SMART Recovery: 4-Point Program®: Addiction Recovery.SMART Recovery.
  2. DISARM the Addiction Salesman in Your Head.SMART Recovery.
  3. Discover the SMART Recovery Toolbox.SMART Recovery.
  4. The SMART Recovery® Activities Scale (SRAS).Addiction and Mental Health, 5 Jan. 2013.   
  5. The Stages of Change.SMART Recovery.
  6. About Us.” SMART Recovery.

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