SMART Recovery® – 12-Step Alternative

06 Feb SMART Recovery® – 12-Step Alternative

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Individuals battling drug and alcohol addiction have often heard that the 12-step philosophy (Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous) is the only way to maintain long-term sobriety. This doctrine has worked for millions of people all over the world but what about individuals who have a hard time embracing the 12 Steps? There is SMART Recovery® which is an alternative to the 12 Steps and is quickly gaining popularity.

What is SMART Recovery®?

SMART is an acronym for Self-Management and Recovery Training. It is based on developing and using skills and tools to maintain recovery. It is a psychologically based recovery programs that addresses thoughts, feelings and behaviors as they relate to drug and alcohol use, and teaches people how to effectively change them to help stay clean and sober.

The fundamental premise of the SMART Recovery® program is that addiction to drugs and alcohol does not have to control your life – YOU are in control of YOU. This thinking is somewhat of a departure from the 12-step philosophy and is rooted in empowering the SELF and strengthening the ego (self).

How does SMART Recovery® work?

The SMART Recovery® program emphasizes that the individual is in control of choices he/she makes and is responsible for consequences that arise as a result of those choices – good, bad or indifferent. In this way making good choices (such as not drinking or using drugs) is not only empowering but reinforces continued good choices.

SMART Recovery® offers its own set of problem-solving tools, Cost/Benefit Analysis, goal setting and behavior change worksheets. These worksheets are available for download and print, easy to understand and involve exercises that an individual can do in order to become more self-aware and ultimately make a mental shift from addictive behaviors (that didn’t work) to recovery behaviors that do. This helps build self-esteem, self-worth and self-identity by putting the onus of recovery on the person and his/her actions.

SMART Recovery® also uses the ABC process which is grounded in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) developed by Dr. Albert Ellis in the 1950’s. The basic principles of his theory are that we as human beings are governed by thoughts, feelings and behaviors. People, places and events don’t make us feel good/bad but rather our perceptions of them influence how we feel which in turn influences behavior. The REBT approach views drug and alcohol abuse as a behavior that can be stopped with self-discipline, self-motivation and self-responsibility.

SMART Recovery® and 12-steps

SMART Recovery® and the 12-step do have a very important element in common and that is the sense of community and belonging – 12-step programs call this the Fellowship. SMART Recovery® offers support groups (Face to Face SMART Recovery® Meetings) across the United States including in Georgia as well as a growing online community that offers chatrooms, voice chat, text chat, and Podcasts. An online library houses worksheets, homework assignments, SMART Recovery® dictionary articles and much more.


“Home.” Smart Recovery. 14 Mar. 2019.

“About Smart Recovery.” 14 Mar. 2019.

“Treatment Program and Providers.” 14 Mar. 2019.


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