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A Review of the SMART Recovery Program

User Rating 4 Star Rating (2 Reviews)


Updated May 01, 2014

The Bottom Line

As with 12 step groups, the SMART Recovery program can be an excellent resource for many people who are working to overcome addictions. The SMART Recovery Program shares with AA the foundation principles of accessibility, confidentiality and mutual support, which links you to a worldwide network of help, as often and when you need it. However, the SMART Recovery Program is not as widespread or well-known.

More rigorous in approach than 12 step groups, the SMART Recovery program can provide more safety for participants in its faciilitated and standardized approach to overcoming addiction.


  • Free and unlimited
  • No wait time
  • Everyone is accepted
  • The other group participants understand the problem through personal experience
  • Based on a proven psychological approach (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).


  • Not as widespread as 12 step meetings.
  • Not as well known as 12 step meetings.
  • Although facilitated, still run by volunteers, so no professional accountability.
  • The approach the SMART Recovery program is based on requires commitment and self reflection.
  • If you are looking for spiritual support, you probably won't find it at the SMART Recovery Program.


  • The SMART Recovery program is based on a four point process.
  • Point 1: Enhancing and Maintaining Motivation
  • Point 2: Coping with Urges
  • Point 3: Problem Solving
  • Point 4: Lifestyle Balance
  • The meetings follow a standard structure which includes both teaching and participant input.
  • The SMART Recovery program teaches self-empowerment, self-reliance, and tools and techniques for self-directed change.
  • The SMART Recovery program takes a non-judgemental view of appropriate medication use.
  • The SMART Recovery Program differs from 12 step groups, but many people choose to be involved in both groups.

Guide Review - A Review of the SMART Recovery Program

The SMART Recovery program is a community-based self help program, which can be an alternative to, or complement to, 12 step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Cocaine Anonymous (CA). Although not as widespread or well-known as 12 step groups, there is a large network of over 500 meetings, which are available in many countries, and online meetings on the Internet. This is a boon to people with addictions who require ongoing support: No matter where you go, you can often find a meeting if you want to attend one.

SMART Recovery meetings are facilitated, and the meetings themselves follow a standardized format. This can provide a great advantage over 12 step groups, which can vary greatly, and can be dominated by individuals pushing their own agenda.

Another advantage is that, unlike AA and other 12 step groups, SMART Recovery is based on sound and proven psychological and evidence-based approaches.

Some members also appreciate the fact that SMART Recovery makes no demands of participants to engage in spritual practices. And particularly important to those with dual diagnosis involving a mental health problems, or a physical health problem requiring psychoactive medications, you will not be faced with individuals suggesting that this is another form of "addiction," which can sometimes happen with extremist 12 step participants. In fact, the SMART Recovery Program states that it supports the appropriate use of medications.

User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 5 out of 5
Recovery without an Invisible Friend!, Member NickJulius

I am a SMART participant and it really works. It is so different to languishing in a 12 Step group where because I am an Athiest I was basically told I was incapable of recovery. I am so glad to be freed of all those awful and damaging ideas...I am Powerless. I am incapable of rational thought and therefore I should run everything passed God, the Group or a 12 Step Elder. I needed meetings or I would inevitably end up in jail, an asylum or dead. The Big Book was divinely inspired, absolutely correct and perfect and the ONLY way to sobriety. To speak ill of it or the programme was tantamount to killing people. Even if I stopped using my drug of choice without God I was merely a dry drunk and NOT Sober (whatever that meant...it certainly seemed to mean more than simply stopping use of my Drugs of Choice...sober in 12 Step was a state of harmony with God where I should feel nothing but blissful serenity 'catapulted into the 4th Dimension' no less!). My 'stinking thinking' would have finally ceased... because God would do all my thinking for me...I would be on divine autopilot! This isn't self empowerment - this is other empowerment, 12 Steps are steps towards dependency not indepence. We are not treated as rational adults but as children in constant need of supervision by our Sky God father. To recover properly I needed nothing less than a spiritual awakening! People who *thought* they could do it without 12 Steps were really in DENIAL they were fooling themselves. Even though we KNOW for a fact that millions of people just decide to quit without any help at all. 12 Step answers 'Aha! But those people were not REAL addicts!' Whenever the ground gets shaky they shift the paradigm. I was told that moral defects were the root cause of my *disease*. The cure, confession of my past, present and future moral failures, my deepest darkest fears, secrets and faults to God, and one other person. Probably the ex-addict who was now my sponsor. Pray for forgiveness and salvation and then my disease would be cured by FAITH - Miracles happen here! The root cause of Addiction is sin (moral defects) - the cure is God. Ok... lets try that with another disease... The root cause of Cancer is sin - the cure is God. Does that sound reasonable? Our addictions ARE NOT diseases. No respectable medical authority classes them as a disease. We have an alchohol dependency... A Drug Dependency. We have developed an unhealthy relationship with a substance...we are substance abusers not diseased. But 12 Steps are SPIRITUAL not Religious. I can make anything my HP...It is a God of MY understanding... I can choose whatever I like that lamp, my iphone, a teddy bear. Cool... Wait how do totally hand my life and will over to my iphone? My Lamp? I can't...oh well I guess it'll have to be GOD.... Hold on. I am a creature of sin. I must pray to God for deliverance. Surrender to his will and totally hand over my life to HIM. I must get on my knees and HUMBLY pray for his help. I must covert others to him. Then I get a miracle. Does that sound kinda like a Religion? You know a quite specific kind of Religion? If I DON'T get a miracle then it is *not* God's fault it is mine. I am not doing it properly... I am not on sufficiently surrendered or humble. I wasn't completely honest in my 4th Step. It's never the programme, because that is perfect, it is YOU! What kind of God is it who sets the hurdle so high? Rational models of Recovery are so simple. All you have to do is decide to put long term benefit in front of Instant Gratification. Learn to hear your Addictive Voice and challenge the irrationality consistently. You don't need miraculous supernatural intervention. You don't need to become a perfect person. Are you telling me that everyone who has recovered through 12 Steps is now a nice person? Don't get me wrong 12 Steps work for A LOT of people. It is huge, free and especially in early recovery a life safer. But, whatever they tell you in the rooms, you CAN recover outside them. If you're an unbeliever, if you're brand of faith doesn't fit 12 Steps you are NOT doomed to death, asylums or prisons. There is an alternative. A very SMART one.

33 out of 40 people found this helpful.

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