A Review of the SMART Recovery Program

Therapy session
SMART therapy plan. Tom Merton/Caiaimage/Getty Images

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 facilitated 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 diagnoses involving a mental health problem, 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.

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