SMART Recovery

What is SMART Recovery?

SMART or Self-Management and Recovery Training is an international, non-profit support program designed for people struggling with drug addiction and behavioral disorders. It is often used as an alternative to 12 step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. It also helps to diagnose and treat underlying mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, co-occurring with drug addiction.

Contrary to 12 step programs, it is scientifically based program that helps people manage their addictive behavior using behavioral and cognitive approaches. It uses the techniques taken from Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). As the scientific knowledge expands, these techniques are continuously updated.

SMART Recovery has been recognized by National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and American Academy of Family Physicians as a helpful approach to overcome addiction.

The goal of SMART Recovery Program:

SMART recovery uses a 4 point program to help people recover from all types of addictions and behavioral issues including alcoholism, substance abuse, drug addiction, drug abuse, alcohol use disorders and gambling addiction. The program supports individuals who have decided to give up addiction and are in the process of recovery. It helps them stay positive and effectively cope with negative tendencies such as self-defeating thinking, emotions and actions. It also helps them learn effective techniques to overcome urges and triggers.

How does SMART Recovery work?

Unlike 12 step programs that require the addict to admit his helplessness over addiction, SMART Recovery focuses on self-empowerment and self-reliance. The participants are taught techniques to empower themselves and effectively treat the behavioral issues that cause addiction.

The volunteers of SMART Recovery help the participants evaluate themselves and pinpoint the basic behavioral or psychological problems.  The 4 point program is used through the process to teach the participants effective coping techniques and mechanisms.

4 points of SMART Recovery program:

SMART Recovery program helps participant have an upper hand over their addiction using the following 4 points:

  • Point 1: Building and Maintaining Motivation– Making the decision to quit the drug or a habit and staying firm on it is the first step towards recovery. The participants are motivated using scientific approach and techniques from psychotherapies.
  • Point 2: Coping with Urges– The urge to go back to addictive substance/habit is the reason for most of the people to relapse. Techniques, including distraction technique, are taught to effectively manage these urges. Point 2 also involves finding out the triggers and teaching the participants how to effectively avoid them.
  • Point 3: Managing Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors– There are certain thoughts, feelings and behaviors that lead to a relapse. Point 3 involves finding out such thoughts, feelings and behaviors and effectively managing them.
  • Point 4: Living a Balanced Life– Making positive changes in lifestyle can help addicts stay sober. Lack of routine can be a major contributing factor towards the development of addictive behaviors.

Even though the points are given in a sequence, they are not supposed to be followed in the same way. A person can start from anywhere he feels comfortable or revisit any point if need be.

SMART Recovery meetings:

SMART Recovery offers face-to-face meetings as well as online meetings all over the world. These meetings are free if anyone wishes to attend. They are not only supportive but also educational. SMART Family & Friends is an online support group started for the Concerned Significant Others (CSO) of the addicts to help them deal with their addicted partners. SMART Recovery program has been proven to be immensely helpful to overcome addictive behaviors.

SMART Recovery vs. 12 steps programs:

SMART Recovery has got its similarities and differences with 12 step programs.


  • Both SMART Recovery and 12 step programs require the participants to go through a series of steps that will help them overcome their addiction.
  • Both programs offer privacy. The identity of any participant is not disclosed beyond the limits of meeting place.


  • SMART Recovery program does not consider the addicts helpless in front of addiction. In fact, it encourages them to take control over themselves and eradicate the addiction.
  • SMART Recovery program does not label the participants as ‘addicts’ and the addiction as a ‘disease’ as such terms are considered discouraging.
  • Recovery is not considered as a lifelong process in SMART Recovery program. The participants are made to believe that recovery is gradual and they will soon be living an addiction free life.
  • SMART Recovery does not require the participants to submit to a higher power. They are instead told to believe in themselves.

Both the 12 step program as well as SMART Recovery program has been proven to be helpful to overcome addiction. It is entirely on the individual to decide which one will work better for him. What works for one individual may not necessarily work for another.