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SMART Recovery Programs for Addiction

The path to recovery from addiction looks different for every single person. While some of the most well-known approaches to sobriety may involve attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings or participating in a12-Step program, these approaches may not fit every person. SMART Recovery Programs, which embody some similarities to 12-step programs, are another treatment approach for those who may be struggling with substance use disorder. Learn more about the SMART addiction program and meetings including how they work as well as how compare they compare to other treatment methods.

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What is a SMART Recovery Program?

SMART—which stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training—Recovery Programs offer people self-empowerment to overcome their struggles with addiction.1 SMART Recovery group meetings and programming help people learn necessary skills to overcome their substance use, addiction, and negative behaviors, and transform their lives.1 This addiction therapy treatment method is described as a transformative method, helping participants leave negative behaviors and addiction behind in exchange for leading a life of positive self-regard.

SMART programs include in-person and online meetings, where participants can design their own recovery plan and put it into place.1 Additionally, the SMART Recovery Toolbox uses various tools, including methods, worksheets, and exercises for participants to self-manage their addiction recovery. Some recovery tools include: ABC tools, change-plan worksheet, DIBs (disputing irrational beliefs), DISARM (destructive images and self-talk awareness and refusal method), goal-setting, lifestyle balance pie, role-playing/rehearsal, urge log, and USA (unconditional self-acceptance).2

SMART Recovery is used to help those struggling with addictive behaviors, including substance addiction and addiction to activities (e.g., eating, gambling, spending, and sexual behavior).3, The SMART community involves peers and professionals coming together to help others use SMART to overcome their addictions.1 There are also specialized meetings and resources available for specific groups, including veterans and family and friends.1

The 4-Point Program

A key part of the SMART Recovery handbook involves the 4-Point Program, designed to help participants implement behavioral change.4 The 4-Point Program involves the following steps:4

  1. Build and maintain motivation to make a change and abstain. The program’s first step involves building and maintaining the motivation to make a significant change in your life and abstain from your addictive behaviors.
  2. Cope with urges to partake in addictive behaviors. The second step of the program involves coping with the urges to partake in your addictive behaviors without performing the behaviors.
  3. Manage and cope with daily thoughts, behaviors, and feelings without using or partaking in addictive behaviors. The third step of the program involves navigating your daily life and the demands of life, like daily stresses and unexpected events, without using or partaking in your addictive behavior.
  4. Live a balanced and positive, healthy life. The final step of this program involves the true transformative portion of the program, which refers to leading a happy, healthy, positive life.

While every person’s unique recovery plan will vary, the program’s progression is based on the 4-Point Program. The power of choice is essential in SMART Recovery groups, and the program believes that making multiple options for recovery support available is essential to the program’s overall success.5

Smart Recovery Programs vs. 12-Step Program

One of the most common recovery treatment methods, specifically for alcohol addiction, is the 12-Step Program. The 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are 12 guidelines used by the Alcoholics Anonymous program to help alcoholics recover from their addiction.6 AA co-founder, Bill Wilson, is credited for creating the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.6

Both SMART Recovery Programs and 12-Step Programs are rooted in guidelines designed to help participants on their path to overcoming addiction. The 12-Step program is based on faith, whereas the SMART Recovery Program is founded on science.3 SMART Recovery Programs, which are also known as an alternative to AA, avoid using terms or labels (e.g., “alcoholics” or “addicts”) and don’t encourage attendance for a lifetime like AA does.3 Because of the more empowering and supportive environment, plus the ability to create your own recovery plan, many people turn to SMART Recovery to overcome their addictions instead of seeking out AA or 12-Step programs.5

Finding a SMART Recovery Program Meeting Near Me

The program itself has grown in popularity over the years and can be found in various countries around the world. SMART Recovery Program meetings are also held in different forums to make them more accessible. If you cannot find a local meeting near you, you can can look for a SMART Recovery online meeting.

If you find that a SMART Recovery Program is not enough to help you overcome your addiction, you can work with your support team to discuss how to get more help. Other support groups may be available to you, and you may benefit from outpatient addiction treatment. Many SMART participants choose to go through SMART Recovery in conjunction with professional therapy or medication-assisted treatment.7


  1. SMART Recovery. (n.d.). About SMART Recovery.
  2. SMART Recovery. (n.d.). SMART Recovery Toolbox.
  3. SMART Recovery. (n.d.). FAQs.
  4. SMART Recovery. (n.d.). Purposes & methods.
  5. SMART Recovery. (n.d.). Why SMART?
  6. Alcoholics Anonymous Cleveland. (n.d.). Origin of the Twelve Steps.
  7. SMART Recovery. (n.d.). Principles & positions.