When you embark on the road to recovery, it is an extremely personal experience that will differ vastly from someone else on the same journey. A variety of options are available to get your detracted life back on the rails in a treatment setting, but there is another option as well called the SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training). This method offers those seeking the path to sobriety an ability to “discover the power of choice” when deciding the best possible route for themselves to overcome addiction. The primary objective of SMART is to help those achieve their goal of overcome addiction and becoming independent.

The SMART Recovery program is comprised of a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1994. The main objective was to empower individuals by providing the tools needed to abstain from addictive behaviors.

The program teaches those who participate in it how to improve their lives by changing the behaviors that led them to addiction in the first place. They aim to curb self-defeating thinking, actions, and emotions by using evidence-based principles to achieve this goal.

SMART Recovery has become recognized as a source for substance abuse and addiction recovery. Some of these institutions include the American Academy of Family Physicians, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as well as the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. To attain these powerful endorsements speaks volumes on what SMART Recovery has to offer in the world of addiction recovery. They offer an international space online where individuals can meet online in 28 different meetings. This is a testament to their principles.

Are you considering SMART Recovery method with the hopes of improving your life dramatically? Our guide will offer some advice and wisdom to see if this program could be beneficial for you or a loved one.

What is Smart Recovery’s Mission and Approach to Overcoming Addiction?

SMART Recovery has one mission – “to provide those who seek their services with a “no-fee, self-empowering, science-based, face-to-face, and online support groups from abstaining from any substance or activity addiction.”

Their website describes its approach as:

  • Teaching self-empowerment and self-reliance
  • Teaches tools and techniques for self-directed change
  • Encourages individuals to recover and live satisfying lives
  • Provides educational meetings and includes open discussions that others can join
  • Evolves as scientific knowledge of addiction recovery
  • Advocates the proper use of prescribed medications and psychological treatments

What Evidence-based Practices Does Smart Use?

Evidence-based addiction treatment methods are essential to finding the root of addiction.

These are treatment methods that include specific therapies geared toward treating behaviors accompanying substance abuse and addiction.

These approaches include Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Rational Emotional Behavior (REBT). These therapies all boast a proven track record.

Does Smart Recovery Help People Recover From Drug and Alcohol Addiction?

SMART has something called the 4-point program that goes over a variety of addictive behaviors that individuals cannot overcome on their own. Their 4-point program covers:

  • Drug addiction
  • Alcohol addiction
  • Substance abuse
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Illicit and prescription drug abuse
  • Gambling addiction

SMART’s website says, “We assume that there are degrees of addictive behavior, and that all individuals to some degree experience it.”

The short answer to this question is that yes, they offer recovery for those who have various addictions. Addiction treatment is not a one-size-fits-all format, so they offer many therapies and recognition to the various addiction types.

How Does Smart Recovery Help People in Recovery?

The objective of SMART Recovery is to encourage individuals to completely abstain from their destructive behaviors. They refrain from using terms such as “alcoholic,” “addict,” and other labels that otherwise give a negative connotation about a person seeking recovery from substance abuse.

These words can completely take away from a person’s motivation to get sober. SMART also sponsors individuals with face-to-face meetings globally that also include daily meetings that take place online. They also provide a message board with a 24-hour chat room available seven days a week to spread their message to anyone who would like to learn about SMART Recovery. If you’re interested in finding out more, feel free to visit their site.

What is Smart Recovery’s 4-point Program?

The 4-Point Program acts as a foundation that individuals can follow to help heal their addictive behaviors. There are a different set of tools and techniques listed for different points in the program. These go as:

Point 1 – Building and Maintaining Motivation

Motivation is essential when working toward sobriety. Without motivation, nothing will push you. There needs to be a sense of urgency, or otherwise, you will begin taking steps backward. The goal is to abstain from addictive substances, and keeping that goal in front of you will be the difference between moving forward or backward.

Point 2 – Coping With Urges

It doesn’t matter who you are ‒ you are going to experience cravings and urges to use throughout all stages of sobriety. Even after long periods of cessation from your substance, you likely will deal with these cravings. It could be a scent that reminds you of those times or a song that comes on, but learning how to cope with these urges is the key to building healthy habits. You must set boundaries. Putting techniques in place to remain sober will help exponentially.

Point 3 – Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors

During the days of using addictive substances, some thoughts and feelings led to use. These negative patterns of thinking are what fuel addiction. Misery loves company, and SMART helps users improve their mindset to only bare positive thoughts. Once you can successfully gain control over your thought process and emotions, you will be able to achieve health and responsible life patterns. These behaviors will help steer you away from a relapse. Time heals all wounds.

Point 4 – Living a Balanced Life

Once you can live a life free of drugs and alcohol and begin to enjoy the little things, you are headed in the right direction. You must have realistic expectations of what sobriety is going to be. If you do not, you will not be able to cope with the changes in your life. You must exhibit healthy habits from the foods you eat, to exercise, and constantly staying in touch with your mental and emotional self.

Do I Have to Follow Each Point in Order?

These points are made as a reference, so in short, no, these do not have to follow one another for success. The recommendation, however, is that you spend time learning each step to garner a deep and vested understanding. If you jump to another step too soon, this can negate some of what you learned in a previous step. Once you begin feeling comfortable in a certain area, you can move on to the next step. Remember, one day at a time.

How do People Participate in Smart Recovery’s 4-point Program?

There are meetings lead by facilitators at SMART where the participants can share their stories of success and shortcomings. This takes place all while receiving support from others. It’s a non-judgmental space where you can confide in one another about your progress or ask for advice. They focus solely on the present and the future because that is all we can control.

SMART offers free digital tools and techniques that teach them about the program can be downloaded directly from their website. The tools are designed to be practiced as the individual goes through the 4-point program.

A helpful tool they offer is something called a “change plan.” What this does is make the individuals look forward and begin to change behaviors through a series of small steps, a decision-making worksheet, and SMART interactive tools that give the person an in-depth look at their addiction. One of these plans helps assess what addiction is personally costing them. Can addiction really be worth what it’s costing you?

The ABC or ABCDE Methods

As mentioned earlier, a variety of therapies are used in the SMART Recovery system. The rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) can help recovering users to think through their relapse triggers.


To do so, you will need to better understand what is a trigger itself? Is it a song in which drugs are mentioned? You must identify the trigger.


What do you think about the event or the experience? However, you interpret this could be a rational or irrational response.


This is either a behavioral or emotional response not pertaining to A or B.

There’s also the ABCDE method. Follow the outline above for the ABC portion and then add “D” and “E,” which are explained below.


This step believes in actively disputing the harmful beliefs through examining, questioning, and challenging them. After doing so, you must enter the disputation phase and ask these questions:

  1. Does this belief align with reality?
  2. Does this belief support the achievement of reasonable/constructive interests and goals?
  3. Does this belief help foster positive/healthy relationships?
  4. Does this belief contradict parasitic thinking?
  5. Does this belief seem reasonable and logical given the context in which it occurred?
  6. Is this belief generally detrimental or generally helpful?

The purpose of these questions is to facilitate the process and separate realistic from dysfunctional thinking. By doing this, you are creating self-awareness and learning how to cope with these feelings.


By becoming aware of the effects that result from becoming aware of faulty thinking, you will be able to create an alternative line of thinking. This is when your actual beliefs will become more reasonable.

Is Smart Recovery a 12-step Program?

The answer is no. Alcoholics anonymous and narcotics anonymous differ greatly from SMART Recovery. There are two ways that programs vastly differ.

The most glaring of the facts is the approach. SMART Recovery is based entirely on evidence-based practices that focus on the latest addiction sciences, whereas 12-step programs rely heavily on faith. It is considered much more flexible as science is continually evolving.

12-step programs treat each individual the same, and SMART Recovery steps away from that. The approach is that all unique needs must be accounted for to achieve long-lasting sobriety.

Another difference between the two programs is that 12-steps are heavily reliant on labels for those who follow the program. SMART Recovery does not believe in labels, nor does it refer to addiction as a disease.

The program also does not believe that addiction is an ongoing process, but it can be graduated after completion of the SMART Recovery program by using the tools that are learned.

While there are differences, it is wise to mention that a program that works for one may not work for another. For some, a 12-step program may be the right path, and for another SMART Recovery may be the most beneficial. No one is discouraged from finding a program that is suitable for their specific and unique needs. SMART is about helping those find that unique path to recovery so they can understand and commit to it.

I’m Interested in Joining Smart Recovery. When Should I Start?

No matter which stage you are in during recovery, you have the option of joining SMART Recovery. There are different options available to you and different stages of the program. They are called the stages of change, and these are:


“It isn’t that we cannot see the solution; it’s that we cannot see the problem.” People in this phase usually show up to therapy because others have pressured them to do so. They place responsibility for their problems on factors in which they believe they have no control over. These can include genetic makeup, addiction, family, society, destiny, the police, etc. They feel that their situation is absolutely hopeless


Contemplators understand they have a problem and begin to think about how they can solve it. They struggle to understand the underlying basis of the problem and wonder about solutions. Contemplators are said to have indefinite plans to take action in the next few months


Those in this stage have the intention of taking action and are making the final adjustments before changing their behaviors. At this point, they still need convincing


This is where individuals begin to change their behaviors and surroundings and begin preparing for the move. This stage requires a great amount of commitment as well as time and energy


Change will never truly blossom with action alone, but without a strong commitment to maintenance, the likelihood of relapse is high

Fortunately, SMART offers individuals participating in their program-specific tools and strategies. This will allow them to work through each stage to better practice the right way.

Even if you are receiving rehabilitative services for substance abuse that is not a problem. You are still eligible to receive benefits from SMART Recovery. There are situations that people still used SMART Recovery after successful completion of traditional treatments such as medical detox or a residential setting. This method has been highly regarded in maintaining their sobriety.

Is Smart Recovery Effective in Treating Addiction?

While addiction is an extremely difficult condition to contain, it is, in fact, treatable. There is no single cure to addiction, but becoming aware of the signs can be a vital piece of the puzzle in its treatment. Addiction recovery is not usually a one-time effort, and those who enter treatment do so several times. It is just a part of the recovery process for some.

What makes SMART Recovery so great is that anyone is welcome to give it a try. It’s important to reiterate a statement made earlier: while it may work for some, it is not going to work for others. It may be the exact solution to stop addictive behaviors in your life. SMART is an advocate of sobriety, no matter what journey you decide to be best for you. If you are interested in SMART Recovery, you can visit their website to find the location most convenient for you.

There is no easy path to healing from substance abuse or dependence. Addiction is a long, drawn-out process that requires your undivided attention and commitment. You must keep your focus on daily commitments for your highest chance at maintaining sobriety. There is still a possibility when things are at their best that a relapse could still occur. Sobriety is something that should be managed one day at a time. Some view addiction as a chronic brain disease that alters the shape and functions of the brain.

Relapse should never be considered as a failure. The only information you should take from relapse is that something needs to be altered and create new relapse prevention strategies. This may also mean another form of treatment may be necessary for it to be effective.

Relapse rates for addiction are similar to other chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Relapse comes at a staggering rate of 40 to 60 percent, according to NIDA.

There is an important bit of information that must be mentioned that creates some confusion. There is a difference between the terms “lapse” and “relapse.” A lapse is a slip that lasts a short period that does not always lead to a relapse. However, it has the potential to if it is not addressed quickly.

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