SMART Recovery stands for Self Management for Addiction Recovery – https://www.smartrecovery.org/local/. It was created to address the most common concerns about 12-step programs and does this relatively well. We can help clients navigate the SMART program and find meetings which might work for them. SMART should be used in conjunction with individual psychotherapy. SMART philosophies focus on the concepts of 1) motivation, 2) coping with urges, 3) managing thoughts, feelings and behaviors and 4) living a balanced life. These are excellent and broad based concepts for addiction recovery. These concepts seem universal in most effective addiction treatments which are scientifically based.
SMART offers a more evidenced based and empirical view of addiction recovery than AA. This is appealing and laudable and is the wave of the future but AA works too even if we don’t fully understand its mechanisms of action. To date, there is little compelling research to suggest SMART is more effective than AA. Still many individuals will find SMARTs principles more palatable. SMART was created to address the most common obstacles to 12 step programs which are as follows. Twelve step programs rely heavily on the disease model which many find limiting or to be an outright excuse for poor behavior. SMART teaches self reliance and self empowerment and self direction as opposed to the concepts of “powerlessness” portrayed in AA. SMART recovery encourages medication where AA makes little or no references to psychiatry, psychology and medication.
SMARTs message is welcoming and its founder Tom Horvath is warm, inviting and brilliant. Dr. Horvath suggests clearly that it is OK to do SMART and other programs simultaneously, alluding to Alcoholics Anonymous specifically. He says that if you believe in God and the disease model that that is OK too. It is probably his followers and other well meaning but uninformed and overly opinionated professionals who bad mouth 12-step programs while promoting SMART as the cure all solution to addiction. SMART uses its website, publications, online message boards, and face to face meetings, to provide support for recovery.
It is our opinion that despite it’s excellent rationale and well crafted mission and support, it as of yet, does not offer as comprehensive a social support system as most 12-step fellowships do and it is precisely this social support component that is necessary and sufficient to ensuring strong recovery. The only downside of SMART recovery meetings are that they are not well attended and supported and so it is hard to find a good one whereas AA is everywhere, it’s all the time and it is a way of life. SMART may be before its time and so we are hopeful that as the science of addiction progresses, so to will the support for SMART and that eventually it will as popular as AA.