SMART Recovery has been an asset in the addiction recovery community for many years now, however, it’s just recently picked up steam in terms of being accepted as a valid resource for peer support and is viewed as a rival to 12-step by many. The positive thing that I’ve found over my years of facilitating SMART meetings is that it is inclusionary as opposed to exclusionary which, I believe, is an extremely important piece in the alcohol and drug recovery puzzle.
SMART began in 1994 from humble beginnings as an alternative to a spiritual program (e.g. 12-step) and focused on a scientific approach to recovery. SMART started to spread throughout the United States and the UK in the late 1990’s and began gaining momentum in the early 2000’s. SMART offered individuals with process addictions a place where they could fit in and that did not focus only on substances of abuse but rather a focus on any behavior that the individual felt was causing an imbalance in their lives.
Today there are over 2000 meetings worldwide and quickly growing. Individuals are able to express themselves and their struggles in community meetings, therapeutic environments, prisons, and online meetings around the world.
The four-point system of the SMART program focuses on:
1: Building and Maintaining Motivation
2: Coping with Urges
3: Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors
4: Living a Balanced Life.
Each of these four points also has materials which coincide with the point to assist the individual in gaining a better understanding of how to live a more balanced lifestyle. These tools help the individual to understand how to live a more balanced lifestyle.
Program tools include the Cost/Benefit Analysis, the Change Plan Worksheet, Hierarchy of Values, ABCs of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (for both urge coping and emotional upsets); DISARM (Destructive Imagery and Self-talk Awareness and Refusal Method); Brainstorming; and Role-playing/Rehearsing. All of these tools assist the individual in putting their addictive behaviors in perspective to reduce or discontinue the behavior.
SMART is an abstinence-based program. Meetings have a somewhat open format. Crosstalk and sharing of personal experiences is encouraged as well as discussion of the tools that individuals have found helpful to them on an ongoing basis, and also allow them to help fellow individuals seeking assistance.
Finally, the tagline for SMART has a deeper meaning to many of its participants, ‘The Power of Choice”, this allows individuals to take charge of their recovery and logically decide of the detriments involved with the behavior or substance that they wish to discontinue.
The SMART Recovery program can be a great addition to anybody’s addiction recovery plan. It can be used in conjunction with a 12-step approach or on its own. Many individuals who struggle with the spiritual aspects of 12-step, such as the idea of a higher power, may find SMART to be a good fit for their recovery plan and gaining life balance. Gaining an overall perspective on how an individual’s behaviors are conducive to gaining the life they want to have is key when it comes to SMART Recovery.
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Author: Jamie Lynn Martinez, LPC – Footprints to Recovery – Primary Therapist