What is SMART Recovery Program?

Learn about what the SMART Recovery Program is, how it works, and if SMART is the right treatment option for you.

What is SMART Recovery?

Most of us have heard of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-Step programs, but have you heard of SMART Recovery? SMART is an evidence-based intervention program that helps people move on from substance addiction and create a more positive life. SMART stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training.1

The SMART Recovery Program emphasizes peoples’ ability to be self-empowered, meaning they learn to believe in themselves and cultivate the inner strength and confidence necessary to overcome addiction. Like other substance use support groups, SMART offers nationwide free meetings where people can work with others to address substance use issues and find new tools to gain independence from addiction.2

SMART Recovery Program

Who is SMART Recovery Best Suited For?

The SMART Alcohol Recovery Program could be a great alternative for people who are interested in a more science-based recovery program, rather than one with a spiritual foundation, like Alcoholics Anonymous. There is no spiritual element to SMART Recovery, making it suitable for all people.3

Four-Point System in SMART Recovery Program

How does SMART Recovery work? SMART rehabilitation operates on a four-point system to help participants address substance abuse and related problems. The four points are based on the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy, focusing on changing behaviors that fuel addiction. The four points are:4

  • Building and maintaining motivation: This teaches participants how to find the inner strength and motivation to stay sober.
  • Coping with urges: Urges to use will be inevitable, but learning how to identify triggers and cope healthily with urges can ensure your sobriety.
  • Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors: This is important because individuals must learn how to handle difficult emotions and practice self-acceptance in order to avoid relapse.
  • Living a balanced life: This involves making healthy choices that support a more positive lifestyle.

Tools and Techniques Used in SMART Treatment Program

The SMART Recovery tools are an essential part of healing through this program. The so-called SMART Recovery Toolbox includes a large selection of activities, worksheets, and exercises that individuals can utilize on their own or with a therapist to keep their recovery on track. 

SMART Recovery tools are based on cognitive behavioral therapy techniques and can help people bolster their ability to challenge their urges to use substances. Some of the tools include activities and worksheets such as:

  • Change plan worksheet
  • Cost/benefit analysis
  • Hierarchy of values
  • ABCs of rational emotive behavior therapy
  • Destructive imagery and self-talk awareness and refusal method (Smart Recovery DISARM)
  • Brainstorming
  • Role-playing/rehearsing
  • Unconditional self-acceptance

Stages of Change in SMART Recovery Program

Someone participating in the SMART Recovery Program is likely to go through a few stages of change as they confront and challenge their substance use disorder. The SMART Recovery steps are explained below.5


In this stage, people are often in treatment not because of their own desire to get better, but because a loved one or medical professional has urged them to seek treatment. These individuals may be resistant to change and unwilling to take responsibility for their substance abuse. 


Once someone has reached the contemplation stage, they are able to admit that they have a problem and start considering recovery. They may feel unsure of how to solve their problem or understand why they struggle with addiction in the first place. Any plans to get treatment are likely in the distant future, with many individuals reluctant to make solid plans. 


Someone in the preparation stage is likely still a bit hesitant about seeking treatment, but they are willing to accept and admit they have a problem and are preparing themselves to seek treatment. They may still need convincing from loved ones. 


As the name implies, people take action in this stage of change. They begin to actively alter their behavior; they may change the people they spend time with or avoid certain places where substances are used. Other people begin to notice changes for the better in the individual. 


This phase doesn’t actually have an end since people in recovery must stay committed to maintaining sobriety. However, this phase often gets easier as time goes on and individuals have created healthier and happier lives for themselves through SMART sobriety. 

Meetings in a SMART Recovery Program

SMART Recovery meetings are similar to other support groups, such as AA, in that they are free and open to anyone. You will likely be greeted with smiles and a welcome and given some information about the meeting and the program. SMART meetings can be found in person and online, and they offer a secular alternative to AA and NA while still proving to be just as effective as their spiritual counterparts.6

SMART Recovery Methods and Approach

Additionally, SMART Recovery does not base its program on the 12-Step program. Instead, it focuses on cognitive-behavioral principles and science-based treatments. It also doesn’t label its participants as alcoholics or addicts like Alcoholics Anonymous. 

SMART Recovery does not see addiction as a disease (although participants are free to believe whatever they wish) but instead views it as a behavioral issue that can be corrected. This makes addiction just one part of a person, rather than allowing it to take over their identity.

SMART Recovery Program

Why You Should Choose Essence Healthcare for SMART Recovery

At Essence Healthcare, you can take part in the SMART Recovery Program along with several other therapeutic methods to recover from substance abuse and begin the journey to living a sober, more positive life.

Learning SMART Recovery tools at Essence—whether you choose inpatient or outpatient treatment—means you can connect with others who share similar experiences and become part of a community that supports you and your journey to recovery. Additionally, you have the option to work one-on-one with a therapist to address any other mental health concerns you may have, speeding up your recovery and helping you move forward. 

Opportunities for Healing at Essence Healthcare

Essence offers several therapy options, including:

Healing at Essence Healthcare means your well-being is our top priority. To learn more about the SMART Recovery Program, reach out today at (800) 426-9829.

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Questions About Treatment?

We are a patient-first substance abuse and mental health treatment facility located in Los Angeles, California. At Essence Healthcare, we provide different levels of care from detoxification to drug rehab aftercare. Our team is standing by to address your questions. Your call is confidential and no obligation is required.