What is SMART Recovery?

With addiction being one of the most prevalent health concerns in the United States today, it is no wonder that there are sev

May 29

With addiction being one of the most prevalent health concerns in the United States today, it is no wonder that there are several different forms of recovery options available to those who abuse drugs and/or alcohol.

Most commonly, individuals in need of addiction treatment turn to inpatient programs, outpatient care, or even the likes of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Every one of these forms of treatment has proven to be successful in their own ways. For instance, those who attend inpatient treatment tend to experience more success in their recovery, as studies show that the longer an individual remains in treatment, the longer his or her recovery will last. Outpatient programs are excellent treatment resources, too, as not everyone who has an addiction requires lengthy care. And, for those who find it challenging to get into either one of these programs for financial reasons or work complications, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings can be an effective way to kick-start one’s recovery.

One recovery option that is not nearly as discussed is SMART Recovery. SMART recovery is defined as the following:

SMART Recovery is a nationwide, nonprofit organization which offers free support groups to individuals who desire to gain independence from any type of addictive behavior.”

This program, which is offered via local meetings across the United States, has helped countless individuals struggling with addiction.

What Qualifies as Addictive Behavior?

When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol or is addicted to other things such as gambling, sex, or gaming, he or she will display behaviors that qualify as addictive behaviors. Since SMART Recovery works to help those with all types of addictive behaviors, it is important to understand some of the most common behaviors.

One of the top addictive behaviors people display includes obsessively thinking about the substance/thing that they are addicted to. This tends to lead into beginning to compulsively give into the urges or desires that he or she experiences, causing the addiction to become an everyday occurrence.

Other addictive behaviors include being visibly out of control in regards to intake of substances or engagement in activity. For example, someone who is a heroin addict might swear up and down that they will only use a certain amount of the drug but instead consume much more than what has been discussed.

Denial about the addiction, hiding behaviors from others, and finding ways to rationalize behaviors are also common in those who are addicted to something.

SMART Recovery offers services to people who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol and those who struggle with addictions such as gambling addiction, sex addiction, shopping addiction, and food addiction, to name a few. The truth is, anyone can exhibit addictive behaviors, and it is imperative that when these behaviors occur, there is hope to break this dangerous cycle. That is what SMART Recovery is for.

SMART Recovery Defined

SMART Recovery stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. This program, while similar to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous in that they are conducted for free through local meetings, is not spiritually based, as other 12-Step programs are. Instead, SMART is based on scientific findings and detailed research. The program will constantly adjust based on the newest findings regarding the science of addiction.

Those in SMART Recovery are constantly encouraged to empower themselves so that they can achieve their recovery goals. Popular therapeutic modalities utilized in SMART meetings include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational enhancement.

smart recovery

A 4-Point Program

The cornerstone of SMART Recovery, however, is its four points. Individuals can utilize these points to structure their recovery on. They include the following:

  1. Building an maintaining motivation
  2. Coping with urges
  3. Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  4. Living a balanced life
Building with motivation

The first step of the 4 points requires individuals to want to get sober and stay that way. When in one of the first meetings that you attend, you will likely develop a list of your goals in SMART as well as compare and contrast pros and cons of using or being sober.

Coping with urges

SMART Recovery offers several different strategies to combat urges to use, however, some of the most effective ones are known by the acronym DEADS. They include the following:


D – Delay: Allow some time to pass when you have an urge. All urges pass with time, so learning how to sit in that uncomfortable space until it passes can bring you significant success.


E – Escape: Always remember that you can walk away from any person, place, or thing that is triggering your desire to use. Simply just leave to protect your sobriety.


A – Accept: Strive to accept the fact that you will experience urges to use again. Accept it as something that occurs within your life and is normal.


D – Dispute: Using other exercises learned in the program, you can, according to the SMART Recovery Handbook, “diagnose past addictive situations and develop useful tactics for disputing them when they occur again”.


S – Substitute: When an urge to use comes on, utilize effective “substitutes”. Substitutes can include positive thinking or partake in some form of physical activity to keep your mind off of your desire to use.

Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors

One of the most critical aspects of maintaining sobriety and continuing a healthy recovery includes knowing how to manage your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Therefore, SMART Recovery strives to offer you the tools you need to handle uncomfortable feelings, upsetting thoughts, or addictive behaviors.

Living a balanced life

Similar to other 12-Step programs, you will take a personal inventory regarding what is most important to you. Additionally, you will learn how to develop healthy, attainable goals so that you are not only planning your day-to-day but for your future as well.

How Do I Know if I Need SMART Recovery?

If you are someone who struggles with an addiction of any kind, you probably know (even if it is subconsciously) that you need help to overcome your addiction. And, while most treatment options out there include inpatient or outpatient treatment, there are other resources available that can be just as helpful, depending on the severity of your addiction and your willingness to recover.

SMART Recovery can be effective for anyone who puts his or her heart and soul into the program, however, it may not be the top treatment pick for everyone. And, in some cases, it might not be the appropriate form of treatment for an individual. For example, someone who is addicted to heroin will likely fair better in a facility where detox options are available and intensive care can be provided. That is not to say that those addicted to heroin are not welcome in SMART Recovery, but just to mention that some addictions can require more hands-on treatment.

SMART Recovery is an excellent option for someone who does not need as intensive care as inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment but still requires help to end addictive behaviors.

If you are considering SMART Recovery to help put a stop to your addictive behaviors, contact us right now. We can help you decide if this program is right for you and your own personal needs.

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    Dr. Drew Pinsky
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    Former Ultimate Fighting Champion Ricco Rodriguez
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