When someone decides to take ahold of their drug or alcohol issue, a lot of programs lie at their feet. Whether through a rehabilitation program, fellowships such as AA or a church, or even replacement therapy, many people have tackled addiction in many different ways. One such way is SMART Recovery, which has become the second largest alcohol program next to AA, joining the ranks of other AA “alternatives” such as Moderation Management and Rational Recovery.
What is SMART Recovery?
SMART Recovery stands for “Self Management and Recovery Training” and is a secular, non-profit organization. Incorporated in 1992 as the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Self-Help Network (ADASHN), the organization began operating under the SMART Recovery name in 1994. The program has a Board of Directors and volunteers known as Facilitators run local groups.
Much like AA, SMART Recovery offers its services for free although a donation is requested and its publications are sold. There are also a variety of online services, meetings and resources available for those who are unable to make it to a physical meeting. The program uses principles of motivational interviewing found in Motivational Enhancement Therapy and techniques taken from Cognitive Behavior Therapy, particularly in the version called Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, as well as scientifically validated research on treatment.
Like other programs of its type, SMART recovery falls under the category of a “harm-reduction” program, not requiring total abstinence from drugs and alcohol as part of its core belief system. There are over 800 meetings of SMART Recovery worldwide, making it the second largest “AA-alternative” program in existence.
SMART Recovery is also science-based, rather than faith-based, believing that the program itself will evolve as scientific knowledge evolves. This means that many of its components revolve around non-confrontational, motivational, behavioral and cognitive methods of addressing addiction, and empowering the individual rather than asking them to admit powerlessness.
Is SMART Recovery an effective alternative?
The program does not use the twelve steps, which make up the basis of the various “Anonymous” self-help groups such as AA and is generally listed as an “Alternative to AA” or an “Alternative to the Twelve Steps.” Though listed as an alternative, it is also suggested as a possible supplement to 12 step programs. Yet still many criticize programs such as SMART, labeling them as “step-down” programs for individuals who have not fully come to terms with the reality and depth of their problem.
The fundamental element in change is the decision to change, and that decision, when backed up by sensible action, is what creates recovery. Whether that individual chooses SMART recovery, rehabilitation, religion or Alcoholics Anonymous, it is entirely their choice.