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What is SMART Recovery?

SMART Recovery

SMART is an acronym for Self-Management and Recovery Training. While twelve step programs are the most utilized, well-known, and preferred self-help groups for recovery, SMART is another option that some may find more suited to them. This program of recovery is based on current science backed knowledge by emphasizing methods such as coping with cravings, cognitive-behavioral techniques, and self-empowerment.  Many consider SMART recovery to be an AA alternative although it has been found to be a strong supplement to use with twelve step programs as well.

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Instead of using twelve steps, SMART uses four points. Those are:

1: Building and Maintaining Motivation

2: Coping with Urges

3: Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors

4: Living a Balanced Life

The SMART Recovery program offers a toolbox that includes a variety of therapy methods that address each of the four points in different ways. It is through addressing these that users of SMART Recovery are able to find recovery from their addictions and other issues. SMART revolves around the individual experience, emphasizing that individuals experience substance use disorders differently and as such, their experience in recovery will be just as unique. It focuses on building upon someone’s strengths and works to give them the tools to use them to achieve their goals.


SMART and the Stages of Change

The SMART Recovery program uses the Transtheoretical Model, also known as the Stages of Change. These stages are precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination. The stages aren’t necessarily a smooth process, and many people will move back and forth between different stages. The stages are briefly broken down below to explain what each one might look like.

  1. Precontemplation: This stage is when one may not have any desire to change and possibly doesn’t see the benefits of change outweighing the negatives. The individual is commonly unaware of the fact that their substance use is a problem.
  2. Contemplation: While in this stage, people will start thinking about the changes they need to make and be making plans to do so in the future. They likely see the problems that their substance use is causing and realize that change is a necessary or beneficial thing for them to do. Despite these feelings, the person may still be unsure about making the action to change. Contemplation is sometimes considered an event rather than a stage.
  3. Preparation (Determination): This stage is when someone is ready to take action, though they may still be ambivalent about it. People will typically start taking small steps towards change but might need encouragement and support from those around them. This is when a plan and steps (albeit small ones) will begin to be made.
  4. Action: This is where real change begins to happen. The plan made in the previous stage will be in progress. A conscious decision is made to stop using substances and a large amount of effort is directed towards this goal. One will learn how to overcome the cravings and impulses that lead to substance use. This stage takes place for up to six months.
  5. Maintenance: After 6 months abstinent from substances and living in the action stage, maintenance begins. People will work to avoid relapse but the amount of effort needed to do so is less than before.
  6. Termination: This is the stage where someone will have a new self-image that is aligned with their new lives in recovery. Confidence and self-control will be apparent and happiness is present. The desire to return to substance use will have subsided.


SMART Recovery versus Twelve Step Programs

There are several differences between SMART and AA (and other 12-step programs) but the main ones revolve around their definition of the problem and their solution. A few of those differences are below.

  • Twelve step programs identify the individual as powerless, SMART does not.
  • SMART believes that once someone is in recovery, they are no longer an addict. Twelve step programs do not.
  • SMART focuses on a scientific basis, whereas twelve step programs have a spiritual basis.

The main difference between the two revolves around the locus of control. Put simply, that is the difference between whether recovery comes from within or from a higher power.

SMART Recovery and Open Sky Recovery

Open Sky Recovery supports all types of recovery programs, including SMART, twelve-step, and many others. As with many other sober living homes, we require our clients to attend several meetings per week. We permit clients to attend whatever recovery program they prefer, and all clients are treated the same no matter which they choose. Contact us to learn more.