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SMART Recovery Programs

Although many have insinuated that the 12-step method is the only route to gain recovery from drug addiction, this is simply not the case. The 12-steps have shown to be very effective in helping many addicts gain long-term sobriety, however, this strategy does not have a monopoly on addiction treatment. The leading recovery support group excluding the 12-step approach is SMART Recovery which stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. SMART Recovery is similar to the 12 steps in that it is a non-profit and differs in that SMART Recovery is entirely secular and science based.

The other differences between the 12-steps and SMART are lengthy and dramatic. SMART Recovery works towards self-empowerment when it comes to decision making, as oppose to the powerlessness of the first step of AA. SMART Recovery meetings encourage cross-talk, it is more similar to group therapy in this respect. Attendance is encouraged for an extended period of time, but never a lifetime. Sponsorship does not take place at SMART meetings and labels such as “addict” are not regularly applied to its attendees.

SMART Recovery used to be one in the same with Rational Recovery or RR, another sober support group. In August of 1994, following a dispute over the direction of RR, SMART Recovery sectioned off as a separate group. RR became a for-profit venture and SMART Recovery remains entirely free.

SMART Recovery employs scientifically proven methods of change such as Motivational Enhancement Therapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. These therapeutic strategies emphasize the four major points of SMART: Building Motivation, Coping with Urges, Problem Solving, and Lifestyle Balance. Although SMART is traditionally thought of as an alternative to the 12 steps, SMART declares it can also be implemented as a supplemental program for those already finding benefit in the 12-steps. SMART Recovery also provides the websites of various other recovery programs and asserts that sobriety is an individual conquest. In other words, what works for one person might not work for another and everyone finds their own path to recovery, which may or may not involve SMART Recovery.

SMART meetings are informational and supportive, providing numerous strategies for transformation. There are roughly 600 meetings worldwide, about one or two a day online and various self-help guides are provided on the official website ““. SMART Recovery states it is not important whether or not addiction is viewed as a disease and it can be treated successfully either way. SMART believes a spiritual program is not necessary to recovery and the power of change resides inside each individual, it just needs to be harnessed. SMART infers that having self-control over addiction producing actions is not a personality trait or a gift that some have and others do not. SMART emphasizes this is a skill that is developed through continuous practice.

There is a counterpart of SMART Recovery for the family and friends of those with substance abuse issues. Concerned Significant Others or CSO is an online support group that started in September 2010. This program addresses the obstacles that are faced when close friends or family attempt to help a loved one with a substance abuse issue. CSO differs from Alanon in that CSO promotes the idea that loved ones can have a positive influence on an addict’s life whereasAlanon stresses that one ispowerless over his or her loved one’s addiction. CSO incorporates Robert Meyers’ Community Reinforcement and Family Training or CRAFT in its approach for interacting with addicted loved ones.

SMART Recovery uses a plethora of approaches to assess one’s mind concerning addictive behaviors. These include Unconditional Self-Acceptance, Unconditional Other Acceptance, Cost/Benefit Analysis, Disputing Irrational Beliefs and deviating from absolute thoughts such as all or never. These are just a few of the instruments provided by SMART Recovery and as research develops, so does SMART Recovery. These approaches are described in detail on worksheets displayed on the website.

As SMART Recovery infers, there is not one all superior method to maintaining sobriety. Those in recovery have each found what works for them; not a single one-size-fits-all solution. A person believing they have “the answer” and that this is the answer for everyone is actually an arrogant sentiment to convey. It is illogical to jump to the conclusion that what works for you must work for all other addicts. Fortunately, we live in a world that provides various options for a life changing experience, whether it be SMART Recovery or AA, my only hope is that each addict eventually finds serenity one way or another.

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