The SMART Alcohol Recovery Program

Smart Recovery Logo
Smart Recovery Logo. © Smart Recovery

SMART Recovery® is an abstinence-based, not-for-profit organization that uses "common sense self-help procedures" designed to empower participants to abstain and to develop a more positive lifestyle.

SMART Recovery® is an acronym that stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. The program is based on the Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), developed by Psychologist Albert Ellis in the 1950s.

The system is a "mental health and educational program" as it states on the website, "We're not trying to cure an imaginary disease. We're concerned with changing human behavior."

Much of the information imparted by SMART Recovery® is drawn from the field of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and particularly from Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. According to the website, CBT views addictive behavior more as a complex maladaptive behavior than as a disease and the purpose of the organization is to help individuals gain independence from addictive behavior.

SMART Recovery's Four-Point Program

SMART Recovery® emphasizes a Four Point Program:

  • Enhancing motivation.
  • Refusing to act on urges to use.
  • Managing life's problems in a sensible and effective way without substances.
  • Developing a positive, balanced, and healthy lifestyle.

Volunteers Are the Backbone

The backbone of the program is its volunteers:

  • Volunteer facilitators who are the volunteer non-professionals who run SMART Recovery® groups.
  • Volunteer advisors, who are the volunteer behavioral health professionals who advise and support the facilitators.
  • A volunteer Board of Directors and its committees, which formulate the SMART Recovery® program and policies.

    SMART Recovery® Meetings

    The SMART Recovery® website has a list of International meeting and contact persons for its Self Management and Recovery Training meetings. There is also a recommending reading list available online.

    There are now over a dozen meetings at SMART Recovery® online per week in both text and voice formats. The message board serves as a hub of SMART Recovery® online. Links to the schedule and the message board can be found on the chat page. The meetings provide extensive peer support and training in the concepts of SMART Recovery®

    Alternative and Supplement to 12 Step Groups

    SMART Recovery® serves as both an alternative to the 12-step programs and as a supplement to the 12 steps fellowships. Many members of SMART Recovery® also attend 12-step support groups.

    Spirituality is not a part of the SMART Recovery® program. However, alternative seekers are not allowed to bash the 12-step program during SMART Recovery® meetings and likewise, 12-step members are not allowed to evangelize their higher power message.

    SMART Recovery® neither encourages nor discourages spirituality or religion. The program provides the secular tools without religion or spirituality.

    Another non-12-step program for recovering alcoholics is Rational Recovery, which was founded in 1986.​