SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training) is a popular alternative to 12-Step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. SMART also helps people overcome co-occurring disorders like anxiety and depression.
What Is SMART?
Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) is a support program for people with addictions and behavioral disorders. It teaches people how to control their addictive behavior by focusing on underlying thoughts and feelings. Participants in SMART learn skills to manage their cravings and urges for the long term.
How Does SMART Work?
In contrast to the 12-Step programs that require participants to admit powerlessness over their habit, SMART considers itself to be self-empowering program. Volunteers are trained to help participants examine specific behaviors to find problems that need the most attention.
Participants are taught self-reliance by following a 4-Point program to control their addictive behavior. SMART uses techniques from Cognitive Behavioral and Motivational Enhancement therapies to teach these skills.
The 4-Point Program
The SMART Recovery Handbook details each point in the 4-point program. It also provides tips and exercises to maintain a sober life. The four points of the program are:
- Building and maintaining motivation. – Having the proper willingness to stay sober is an important part of reaching long-lasting recovery. Participants make a list of priorities and weigh the costs and benefits of using versus being sober.
- Coping with urges. – The second point examines what triggers a craving. Participants learn how to suppress cravings through methods such as distraction techniques. They also identify and overcome irrational beliefs about urges to use.
- Managing thoughts, feelings and behaviors. – This point teaches how to prevent relapse by examining thoughts, feelings and behaviors that lead to drug use. Participants learn self-acceptance and how to manage difficult feelings like depression.
- Living a balanced life. – Deciding to be sober is a drastic lifestyle change. In point four, participants take an inventory of what’s important to them. They are also taught realistic goal setting and planning for the future.
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Similarities and Differences to 12-Step Programs
SMART has some similarities to traditional 12-Step programs. Each consists of recovering alcohol and drug users working through a series of assignments to beat their addiction. For privacy reasons, the identity of each participant in both programs stays within the meetings.
A difference between 12-Step programs and SMART is how each defines addiction.
SMART does not label participants as addicts or as having a disease because these labels are considered discouraging and unproductive. Another difference is that recovery is not a lifelong process in SMART. Participants can graduate from recovery and begin a new, healthy life.
Is SMART for You?
SMART was developed to help anyone suffering from any type of addiction. It is also beneficial for people with addictive behaviors, such as compulsive gambling or eating disorders. People with co-occurring mental disorders, such as depression, can also benefit.
If you or a loved one have tried 12-Step programs and found them unhelpful, SMART is a good alternative.