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Alcohol & Health
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Updated on July 31, 2023
5 min read

SMART Recovery

What is SMART Recovery?

SMART Recovery is a secular non-profit organization that supports people with addiction. SMART stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. 

Like AA, the goal of SMART Recovery is to support people in their recovery. They do this by promoting healthy life choices, self-reliance, and self-empowerment.

SMART Recovery helps individuals, family members, and friends learn how to move forward after rehab. They teach tools and techniques to help people maintain sobriety.

The programs are available in many cities worldwide. It is also offered in treatment centers and correctional facilities.


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What is The Focus of SMART Recovery?

The SMART Recovery model is based on current scientific knowledge of addiction. It teaches people how to move forward after addiction treatment by encouraging self-empowerment. 

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

  • Encouraging responsibility, discipline, and motivation for one's recovery
  • How to replace self-destructive thoughts with rational, healthy beliefs
  • How to set achievable goals throughout the recovery
  • Coping skills 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

The SMART 4-Point Program

The 4-Point Program is the foundation of SMART Recovery. It’s used to help people gain independence from addiction.

The four points are:

1. Building and Maintaining Motivation

When a person decides to enter detox and recovery, they do so with a motivation for change. This step aims to focus on ways to motivate oneself to maintain sobriety.

2. Coping with Urges

SMART Recovery understands that urges and triggers are a natural part of recovery. This step is to help people recognize urges and learn healthy coping mechanisms.

This includes:

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

3. Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors

How you feel about addiction, and yourself, plays a significant role in your recovery. This step 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.

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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How is SMART Recovery Different?

SMART Recovery is a secular, not-for-profit organization for people struggling with addiction. This sets SMART Recovery apart from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a faith-based program.

The program is focused on self-empowerment and self-reliance. They also avoid certain labels such as “alcoholic” or addict.” 

Their meetings encourage participants to talk with each other rather than to each other. Overall, this program focuses on recovery and making self-directed positive changes.


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How Does SMART Recovery Help You 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 meetings are free and open to the public (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)

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

Additional Tools

Additionally, the SMART Recovery website offers various worksheets and homework assignments designed to help throughout every stage of recovery.

Aside from face-to-face and daily online meetings, SMART Recovery uses other tools and techniques. These include:

Hierarchy of Values

The hierarchy of values helps people determine what things are important to them. Reconnecting to what is important helps them visualize what they want their future to look like. 

Knowing what to focus on can give people the motivation needed to recover. These values are deeply personal, and there are no right or wrong answers.

Stages of Change and Change Plan Worksheets

This technique involves understanding the five stages of change and how to make these changes. The five stages include: 

  1. Pre-contemplation stage: The denial stage of problem behavior.  
  2. Contemplation stage: Hesitation to change their behavior but understanding the need to.
  3. Preparation stage: Planning for how to address and change problem behavior.
  4. Action stage: Significant steps to change problem behavior.
  5. Maintenance stage: Maintaining changes made during the action stage.

SMART Recovery ABCs 

The ABCs of recovery is an exercise from Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT). It is a simple and effective cognitive therapy focused on evaluating yourself and your problems.

This exercise helps people analyze specific situations and modify negative thinking and behavioral patterns.

Destructive Images and Self-Talk Awareness and Refusal Method (DISARM)

DISARM is a tool that helps you become aware of destructive or harmful self-talk. 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. The SRAS can be a helpful tool for you to track your progress and how you’ve improved throughout your recovery.

Unconditional Self-Acceptance (USA) 

This tool is focused on helping you understand your self-worth and value. It helps you understand that you are not your addiction or behavior.

Unconditional self-acceptance is a great way to accept your flaws and your actions. Accepting yourself can help you focus on recovery and how you want to see yourself in the future. 

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.

There are also rehab facilities that use the SMART Recovery program. These places include non-profit organizations and luxury rehab facilities.

These facilities use SMART Recovery as their main support group program. It is also used as an alternative to AA’s 12-step program.


SMART Recovery is a secular, not-for-profit organization that supports recovery after treatment. The program has a heavy emphasis on self-empowerment and improvement.

The program is based on current scientific knowledge of addiction and teaches people how to move forward. SMART Recovery uses a 4-point strategy to help you understand your behavior and cravings.

The program uses a variety of tools to help with your recovery. They also have meetings that are held both in-person and online.

Updated on July 31, 2023
6 sources cited
Updated on July 31, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  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, 2013.   
  5. The Stages of Change.” SMART Recovery.
  6. About Us.” SMART Recovery.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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