SMART Recovery MeetingsCamila Archuleta
SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training) is an effective alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). In this treatment modality, participants learn techniques that enable them to continue progressing in their recovery. While we also support 12 step recovery, the team at Icarus Behavioral Health embraces SMART Recovery as an evidence-based program that can be either an alternative or complement to other recovery efforts.
What is SMART Recovery?
SMART is a four-point program through which those who run the meeting encourage inner change in all participants. These points include building and maintaining motivation; coping with urges; managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; and living a balanced life.
In this program, you’ll learn about self-empowerment and self-reliance. The premise for this is that nobody can recover for you. Instead, you must gain the strength and skills you’ll need to make it through recovery and remain in sobriety.
In SMART, you must also take responsibility for the way you act. SMART teaches you how to be accountable for your thoughts and behaviors throughout recovery. Since relapse can happen to anyone, you need to learn how to prevent them. With SMART you’ll learn various techniques (e.g., cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement) to help you successfully recover from your addiction.
What is a SMART Recovery Meeting?
When you look at an overview and history of SMART, you’ll see that in 1981 George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham created the principles of SMART Recovery. They wanted to allow people to find a self-empowering way to overcome their addiction. What they discovered was a recovery method that’s grounded in science.
The method also has over a quarter-century of experience behind it. This is because Doran, Miller, and Cunningham have experience teaching practical tools that encourage lasting change in the lives of those who are struggling with addiction.
Who leads SMART Recovery Meetings?
Today SMART has become a powerful recovery community. This is thanks to the passionate volunteers who are thankful for the role that SMART has played in their recovery. They now want to help others find this same hope in their recovery. To do so they’ve chosen to work with
Mutual Support and Assistance Concepts
One of the most important things that you can have going for you throughout your recovery is support from others who are also in recovery (a.k.a., mutual support). You’ll find this within the SMART community where members engage with one another to help create a sense of belonging.
While some other groups may embrace spirituality, you won’t find this within the SMART community. This is because it’s been shunned in favor of a more evidence-based approach. For instance, SMART’s programs incorporate cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT). The program is also based on the following four goals:
- Enhancing and maintaining your motivation to abstain from your drug of choice
- Coping with any urges that arise throughout your recovery so that you don’t relapse
- Learning how to manage your thoughts, behaviors, and feelings so you can embrace a healthier you
- Balancing any satisfaction you experience whether it’s momentary or enduring in nature
What are the Stages of SMART Recovery?
SMART Recovery recognizes that those who attend their meetings may be in different stages of recovery. Doing so is important because each of the various stages of recovery requires different types of help. The various stages that are recommended by SMART are:
- Precontemplation: This is the stage in which you might not be aware that you have a problem with drugs or alcohol.
- Contemplation: Here you’ll evaluate both the advantages and the disadvantages of addiction. You’ll do this by creating a cost/benefit analysis.
- Determination/Preparation: Now it’s time to choose to change yourself as a person. At this point, you’ll complete a “Change Plan” worksheet.
- Action: At this point, you’ll start looking for new ways in which to manage your addiction. Some of the suggestions you’ll receive from SMART for this include self-help, professional guidance, and seeking support from other self-help groups.
- Graduation/Exit: It’ll take a while to get here because you must sustain a long period of change first. This is when you’ll decide to move forward in life and “graduate” from SMART.
Although not inevitable, SMART recognizes that relapse is a normal part of the change you’ll undergo. If you’re able to handle it well, relapse will serve as a learning experience in your recovery process.
Where do SMART Recovery Meetings Happen?
While the most common regions for SMART are Australia, Canada, the U.K., and the U.S.A., this is an international organization. Their meetings are found throughout the world and embrace people of all genders, races, ethnicities, and religions.
SMART has even created a culturally appropriate version of their manual for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia. Online meetings are also becoming increasingly popular among SMART attendees and allow for attendance across the globe.
Other Alternatives to Twelve-Step Programs
Non 12 step rehabs and smart recovery have grown in popularity today. Several of these secular support groups now exist. They ask their participants to find internal motivation and learn internal control instead of relying on an external higher source of power.
These alternative groups continue to provide their members with the tools they need to help minimize their chance of relapsing. Typically, these tools include peer support and accountability. Some of these common alternatives include:
- Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S.)
- Women for Sobriety
- Holistic and Experiential Therapies
- Moderation Management
- Evidence-Based & Science-Based Treatments
- LifeRing Secular Recovery
As more research is conducted regarding the nature of addiction, we’re likely to see even more alternatives to SMART created. The hope is to offer flexible approaches that are flexible enough that everyone can find something that works for them.
Rational Recovery and Ending Addiction
Rational Recovery (R.R.) is another abstinence-based addiction recovery program in existence today. Like SMART, it was created to offer an alternative to spiritually-centered programs like AA.
Founded by Jack Trimpey in 1986, the program centers itself around the Addictive Voice Recognition Technique (AVRT). As a recovering alcoholic and clinical social worker, Trimpey trademarked this technique which is described as a way of recognizing your “addictive voice” (AV) that prompts you to seek out your drug of choice.
AVRT sees addiction as the result of a person’s ambivalence between their desire to be sober and their desire to listen to their AV. Our AV is what tells us that substance abuse is the solution to all of our problems. Through AVRT we promote our own objective awareness of the thoughts and triggers in our lives that cause our cravings. As you learn to dissociate from your AV you become rational enough to choose to override your addictive impulses and choose abstinence instead.
Essentially, what Trimpey is teaching us to do is to constantly undermine our free will (a.k.a., “I”). This is because he views sobriety as merely an act of self-control. Therefore, he rejects any suggestion of us being “powerless” over our addiction – something that’s in direct contrast to 12-step groups which believe that we are powerless.
Furthermore, addiction isn’t viewed as a disease by RR – something that’s again in direct contrast to 12-step programs and beliefs held by the medical community at large. Instead, Trimpey believes that addiction is voluntary behavior.
Additional Rational Recovery Insights
According to RR when you use AVRT you can quickly accomplish recovery instead of dragging it out into a lifelong process. Since RR promotes itself as “religiously neutral,” you don’t have to worry about it containing any spiritual component. Therefore, many atheists and others who question or reject the idea of there being a “higher power” favor this recovery program.
Many people also appreciate the fact that there aren’t any meetings to attend with RR. Instead, you can access all they have to offer (e.g., literature, crash courses, videos, forums) either for free or for a minimal fee online. They seem a bit hesitant to charge this fee because they believe there aren’t any good reasons why people should pay for help in permanently discontinuing their addiction. However, they admit that due to a lack of charity or tax-subsidized services they need some monetary “donations” to help sustain the program.
All things considered, there isn’t any conclusive scientific data stating whether these types of secular programs are as successful as the 12-step programs. The only thing that research does state in this regard is that a combination of behavioral therapy and a treatment program is necessary if you want the best possible hope of recovery.
What are the Benefits of SMART Recovery Attendance?
Attending SMART Recovery meetings is a great way for you to address your addiction. Those who are involved with this program understand that making major changes can feel overwhelming. The program offers proven tools and support to help you make and sustain long-term changes successfully.
SMART Recovery is different from other mutual-support programs because its science-based approach places a great deal of emphasis on self-reliance and self-empowerment. Since SMART believes the power to overcome your addiction lies inside you, you’re not making a lifetime commitment to the program. It’s up to you to decide when you’re ready to move on.
Choices like this are found throughout the program. You make choices so that your plan is personalized to help you make successful changes in your life. Therefore, you can use SMART as a stand-alone program or with another recovery path. The choice is up to you since SMART believes you’re the only true expert in your recovery.
Are there Drawbacks to SMART Meetings?
While SMART looks like a great program, it’s important to note that research has never been conducted regarding how effective this program’s meetings are. However, there are a few studies that indirectly show that SMART is beneficial in helping people overcome their addiction. These studies took a specific look at two types of people: those with an internal locus of control and those with an external locus of control.
It’s up to you to decide which type of locus of control you have and choose your recovery program with this factor in mind. You can do this by asking yourself “Who’s in charge of my future?” If you believe that a higher power is in charge, you should stick to a traditional 12-step program such as AA or NA. However, if you think that you control your future, SMART is a great choice for you.
Finding the Treatment that Works for You
Regardless of who you are or where you’re at in your recovery, every day may feel like a battle. Therefore, it’s vital for you to find a treatment program that works for you. Although you may feel like this won’t happen, it can. The right program for you does exist somewhere out there. You simply need to find it.
Finding the right treatment for you starts with recognizing that you need help. Once you can admit this, you’re well on your way to recovery before you’ve even stepped foot into a treatment facility or a therapist’s office.
Throughout this process, you need to remember that everyone’s needs are different. There’s no “one-size-fits-all” treatment modality out there. This means that while something worked for your friend, it won’t necessarily work for you. Ideally, you should work with your healthcare provider, a trusted friend or family member, and a substance abuse professional to sort through your various options and create a plan that’ll work well for you.
Regardless of what you decide you need, it’s important to avoid treatment facilities and professionals who guarantee you’ll be successful. This promise isn’t one they can guarantee as it’s up to you to deal with your addiction. Attempting to control and guarantee another person’s actions isn’t realistic.
Lasting Recovery with SMART Meetings and Icarus Behavioral Health
At Icarus Behavioral, we understand how overwhelming it can feel when you’re searching for the right rehab facility. We know that every facility is different, just like every treatment approach is different. Subsequently, we don’t apply a “one-size-fits-all” treatment modality. Instead, we’ll assess you as the unique individual that you are and then create a program that’s individualized to fit your specific needs.
If you feel that SMART meetings are what’s right for you, we’ll not only respect your decision, but we’ll also help you locate meetings near where you live. This is because we want to offer you only the best treatment that’s available today. We know that you deserve it.
Your care is our number one priority. Our goal is to help you achieve complete sobriety. This is why we continue to follow up with you even after you leave our facility. So, if this is the sort of devoted and compassionate care that you’re seeking, we invite you to contact us today.