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There are many addiction recovery programs available that can meet an individual’s needs, both mentally and spiritually. However, for some, a more scientific-based program like SMART recovery works best over a spiritual-based program like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

We’re diving into the science behind SMART recovery and the tools and techniques that are used in the program.

What is SMART Recovery?

The SMART recovery program is a globally recognized program with a strong foundation of scientific evidence and tools to help offer support in addiction recovery. Contrasting to AA, which follows spiritual principals in a 12-step program, SMART recovery focuses more on tools backed by science.

SMART stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. Recovery support groups allow participants to learn self-empowering techniques to aid their recovery through mutual-help, face-to-face meetings, and other services.

Micheal Jasniewski“I believe one must buy into their recovery program,” Micheal Jasniewski, coordinator of Recreational Activities and SMART Recovery Facilitator at Beachside Rehab, says. “The benefit of not having the spiritual aspect means that this program is open to a more diverse group of individuals. You may, however, be a spiritual person in AA and still benefit from a SMART program. It all depends on the individual.”

The SMART Recovery 4-Step Program

Unlike AA, which follows a 12-step program, SMART recovery is based off a four-point system that is supplemented by tools and techniques to assist in overcoming addiction.

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

SMART Techniques Backed by Science

“Smart Recovery uses tools that are practical within their mutual-help model, including CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy), REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy), motivational interviewing, and more,” Jasniewski says.

CBT therapy helps people with behavioral issues like substance abuse and mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression. It is a heavily researched practice based on several core beliefs about how human beings function and focuses on the link between our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The core beliefs of CBT are:

  • Humans continue to engage in behaviors that are somehow reinforced, meaning they “work” in some way.
  • We avoid things that are not reinforced or things that are linked with punishment.
  • Our internal thoughts (cognitions) and feelings have an impact on our behaviors.
  • We can monitor and change our thoughts and learn skills to manage our feelings.

REBT therapy was developed by psychologist Albert Ellis. The practice places importance on discussing and adapting to how patients think and changing irrational beliefs.

Motivational interviewing is a style of interviewing that encourages behavioral changes by helping clients explore and resolve uncertainty. The theory behind motivational interviewing is that by removing self-doubt, the client is more motivated to make a change.

SMART Tools Used During Recovery

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis – Informative paper-and-pencil tool to see what your behaviors are costing you as well as what they are providing you.
  • Disputing the Irrational Belief – Disputing Irrational Beliefs (DIBs) asks you to look for evidence. Evidence requires that you find an event that reflects your belief.
  • ABC’s – The ABCs are an exercise used in REBT therapy where you determine:
    • The activating situation
    • The irrational belief you have about A
    • The consequences of having those beliefs about A

Check the SMART Recovery toolbox to find more tools.

Psychological science is always evolving and so is the SMART Recovery program. Jasniewski explains that “one important aspect in SMART Recovery that differs greatly from other programs is that it changes as new scientific knowledge develops, unlike AA which has been the same since it was created.”

If you’re searching for a recovery program that is based on scientific methods and tools, SMART recovery may be right for you. We encourage you to continue reading more information about SMART recovery and to contact us if you have any questions.