The past few articles have looked at local faith-based recovery organizations. Today the focus is on SMART recovery.
While AA and Living Free are spiritually-based recovery organizations, SMART recovery is secular and scientific in its philosophy and orientation. SMART recovery, like AA and Living Free, is an abstinence-based recovery system. AA and SMART recovery originally focused on alcoholism, but like Living Free, SMART recovery now includes any self-destructive habit or coping strategy such as substance use (prescription or illicit drugs), gambling or sexual addiction, or other problematic behaviors.
SMART Recovery stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training focusing on evidence-based, scientifically validated methods to empower individuals to change from self-destructive, unhappy coping skills/ habits to ones that are constructive and satisfying.
SMART recovery is a mental health and educational program based on cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing and mindfulness. SMART recovery holds that your mindset creates your feelings and influences your actions. By keeping your thoughts, emotions, and beliefs in check, individuals can be empowered to take responsibility for their own change.
SMART recovery does not apply labels to its members such as “alcoholic” or “addict”. SMART recovery does not believe you are powerless over addiction but the power to change lies within each individual.
Where AA has an emphasis on healing past experiences, SMART recovery focuses on the present and how to change your current thinking, emotions and behavior. They focus on changing present thinking and actions.
Instead of 12 steps, SMART recovery incorporates a four-point program:
(1) All people are motivated to survive, avoid pain and seek happiness. Habits or coping strategies are ways to pursue these goals. Some habits may seem helpful in the short-term but can cause long term damages and consequences to the person as well as those around him.
(2) SMART recovery offers specific strategies to overcome cravings and desires to fall back into ineffective ways of life.
(3). SMART recovery focuses on changing damaging belief systems (I’ve tried to quit before and it didn’t work. I need _____ to cope with life.), dealing with anger, guilt, anxiety and low self-esteem, and then developing behavioral patterns to overcome them.
(4) SMART recovery encourages participants to become involved in enjoyable, healthy, productive activities that replace their problematic coping strategies, and have the commitment and perseverance to continue.
SMART recovery has many online resources. There are online group meetings for those struggling with addiction, as well as their friends and family members. There are short 4 to 6-minute videos explaining the process, tool kits that teach specific strategies to overcome destructive habits, 24/7 chat rooms, and online message boards. There are currently no SMART recovery meetings in White County, but SMART recovery resources can be accessed from a computer or smart phone.
SMART recovery does not prescribe a path of recovery but encourages each individual to find their own way. They support the use of Medically Assisted Treatment as well as other support groups such as AA.
Lynn Saylor is the AmeriCorps member working with the United Against Opioid Abuse Initiative alongside the White County United Way. She is a major facilitator of the United Council on Opioids serving White County and a regular contributor to local media.