SMART Recovery - Rehab Guide

SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery explained

SMART Recovery is a form of self-help recovery programme, delivered primarily through groups or meetings. 

SMART offers structured mentoring, teaching scientifically proven addiction treatment techniques to those afflicted with drug addiction or alcoholism, as well as their family’s.

Its programme aims to help those that suffer from addiction maintain abstinence from addictive substances and behaviours.

SMART groups have grown in popularity worldwide, with the organisation facilitating meetings in many major cities and local drug and alcohol teams, prisons and addiction treatment centres.

SMART addiction programs are science-based and not affiliated with any other organisation, religion or institute. It is considered an ongoing recovery alternative to Alcoholic Anonymous.

What is SMART Recovery?

SMART Recovery stands for Self Management & Recovery Training

The organization is a global community of people and families working together to resolve addictive problems.

“In our free group discussion meetings, participants learn from one another using a self-empowering approach based on the most current science of recovery” – (About SMART Recovery)

The support programme focuses on empowering those suffering from addiction, arming them with proven methods and techniques that they can apply to everyday life and its challenges.

The organization teaches its participants how to abstain from addictive substances and unhealthy behaviours and how to build a productive life, far removed from active addiction.

Their programme is varied, offering several self-empowerment techniques so that its regular attendees can build a recovery ‘toolbox.’

Who benefits from SMART Recovery and who can attend?

The support group can be beneficial to anyone trying to rebuild their lives after addiction and maintain abstinence from problematic substances.

It can also be attended by family members who have suffered due to their loved one’s addiction, regardless of whether they have found recovery or are still in active addiction.

The support programme can be tailored to the person, and its application can be applied to any number of different forms of addiction.

Types of addiction that SMART Recovery can help with

  • Alcohol addiction – Alcoholism and alcohol use disorders (AUD’s)
  • Drug Addictions – including illicit drugs such as Heroin, Cocaine, Cannabis, Chemsex drugs, Amphetamines, party drugs and legal highs
  • Prescription drug addictions – including addiction to opiate & opioid painkillers, methadone, benzodiazepines and sleeping tablets
  • Process addictions – including behavioural or activity-based addictions such as sex, gambling, shopping, spending, gaming and the internet.

What is a SMART meeting

SMART Recovery meetings are usually held in recovery hubs every week and last for 90 minutes on average, although this time can vary from meeting to meeting.

Meetings are held by trained facilitators who follow a set structure for the format.

Recovery meetings are free to attend, but attendees may donate towards materials and the cost of room hire for the meeting.

Those who are new to meetings are encouraged to listen and observe if they do not feel confident or comfortable contributing to the meeting.

SMART meetings focus on addictive behaviours as oppose to the problematic substance or activity. The meetings focus on the present and future as opposed to the past and involve ‘goal setting’.

Facilitators use evidence-based tools and techniques including CBT and Motivational interviewing to help members move forwards from active addiction and its associated behaviours.

In most cases, you are not required to book to attend a meeting in advance. However, this can vary depending on where the meeting is being held.

You may wish to exchange numbers with other members that attend for additional mutual support outside of meeting times or attend SMART Recovery online meetings.

If you are worried about attending your first meeting alone, some meetings allow you to take someone for support. Please check the meeting details or contact the meeting facilitator to find out if your local SMART meeting allows this.

How established is SMART Recovery?

The organization was originally founded in 1994 and has gained momentum and popularity over the past decade. It was founded in the USA but has since become available world-wide, reaching a milestone of 1,500 groups in 2015 in the US.

SMART recovery is mostly popular in the US, Australia, and the UK. The science-based programme has been embraced by treatment centres, prisons, and local drug and alcohol teams.

Prior to the support group being established other alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous were also founded, including Women for Sobriety in 1975 and Rational Recovery (RR) in 1985.

The support group now offers over 3,000 local face to face meetings a week, 45 plus online meetings and a 24/7 message board for its members to utilise.

SMART Recovery UK is a registered charity (UKSR)

How Does SMART Recovery Work?

The organization works by focusing on self-empowerment. Groups and meetings provide information on how to stay motivated in recovery following rehab treatment or detox.

It applies science-based cognitive behavioural therapy techniques and non-confrontation motivation techniques to help a person maintain abstinence by preventing cravings and motivating and educating them in achieving a well-balanced and healthy life.

The programme covers (but is not limited to) the following topics:

  • Showing self-responsibility, self-motivation and self-discipline throughout recovery from substance abuse
  • Replacing self-destructive thoughts and ideas with rational, healthy beliefs
  • Setting achievable goals and milestones throughout the recovery journey.
  • Accepting impulses as part of the recovery process and recognising when they occur
  • Learning how to resist urges to drink, drug or act on a negative behaviour
  • Being patient with the recovery journey
  • Applying SMART recovery worksheets and recovery lessons and resources to everyday situations

SMART recognises relapse as a mistake and a chance for the individual to learn and grow from it. They believe that by taking this approach that its attendees are much more likely to return to complete abstinence and more quickly

The stages of change

The SMART group encourages their members to follow ‘The stages of change’ or ‘the cycle of change’.

People who have a strong sense of their own worth and value as an individual and as human beings recover by using this model. They easily see the long-range value of quitting.

Pre-contemplation: In the midst of denial.

Contemplation: Thinking about changing, but don’t know how they are going to manage it.

Preparation: You’ve decided to change and you’re making moves towards your future without alcohol or drugs.

Action: You’re ready to implement the change.

Maintenance: You plan for temptation and potential relapse, treating any lapse as a temporary delay in your progress.

Termination: You will look back and feel good about everything you’ve achieved.

SMART Recovery V Alcoholics Anonymous

SMART recovery is an alternative to alcoholics anonymous and narcotics anonymous.

Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the largest and longest established mutual aid support groups available globally. It offers recovery from alcohol addiction by applying the 12 step programme and support from its members.

The 12 Step programme’s purpose is to bring about huge emotional and cognitive rearrangements by connecting its participants to a power greater than themselves.

This profound change in a person’s thinking and consequent behaviour is vital in overcoming alcoholism and remaining continuously abstinent from alcohol.

Those who choose to attend SMART recovery over Alcoholics Anonymous or any of its sister groups such as Al-Anon, Cocaine Anonymous, or the drug recovery group Narcotics Anonymous usually do so because they struggle to believe in a power greater than themselves which AA’s often choose to call God.

Alcoholics Anonymous and its sister groups are based on a spiritual recovery programme, whereas SMART Recovery is science-based and based on self-empowerment.

The organization would, therefore, likely appeal to those with a more practical and scientific mind or who are not open to the concept of spirituality or a God.

SMART Recovery also differs from Alcoholics Anonymous in that it accepts relapses as part of the recovery journey.

Those that relapse in addiction and attend meetings are encouraged to learn from their experience and grow from it, they do not have to go back to the start of the recovery process, as they do in Alcoholics Anonymous.

Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are facilitated by one of its more experienced group members, whereas SMART Recovery meetings are run by trained facilitators who follow a standard format.

Finding a local SMART meeting

To find a SMART Recovery meeting locations, please visit the SMART Recovery website: and type in your postcode.

The website also contains a host of information about SMART alcohol support, details of its online meetings and information on how to become a SMART facilitator.

Finding the best recovery programme for you

There is a growing number of addiction support groups and aftercare programmes available in the UK.

The rehab treatment and aftercare programme that suits you should ideally be completely and uniquely tailored to your individual treatment needs and circumstances so that you can achieve the best long term outcome for your recovery.

SMART does not suit everyone, just as Alcoholics Anonymous does not suit everyone. It is essential to find what works for you as an individual.

For information on inpatient detox and rehabilitation treatment programmes, as well as further information on rehab aftercare programmes, please call Rehab Guide to discuss your individual circumstances.

References & Resources:

SMART Recovery

UK SMART Recovery – About our organisation

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