12-Step programs are some of the most common in the country. They have also been a fixture of movies and TV shows for decades. People tend to be at least somewhat familiar with the 12-Step approach to addiction recovery. SMART programs, on the other hand, are an alternative addiction recovery program that is growing in popularity. SMART programs are very different from the traditional 12-Step approach. Let’s take a look at what a SMART program looks like and how it differs from the 12-Step approach.
Quick Introduction to SMART Recovery
SMART Recovery is a new approach to addiction treatment that looks to use skill-building and therapy to help people with addictions and behavioral disorders regain control of their lives. SMART programs are evidence-based and have proven results in helping people recover from their addictions. “SMART” stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. SMART has the advantage of constantly being updated and focussed on outcomes rather than its own institutional structure.
SMART Addiction Treatment
SMART, in contrast to traditional 12-Step programs, focuses on empowering people who are recovering from addiction. 12-Step programs are premised on “surrendering” and admitting powerlessness over one’s addiction. This path to recovery uses a 4 point training program to help people regain control over their addictions.
SMART 4 Point Addiction Treatment
SMART Recovery programs teach a 4 point system. These points are not like traditional “steps” and individuals in the program are able to start at any point. This is more flexible and lets patients address what will help them best at the moment. The 4 points of the SMART system are:
- Motivation – SMART Recovery programs recognize that the core of any addiction treatment program’s success is actually sticking with it. SMART suggests patients make a list of all the reasons they want to get sober. This list is the pros and cons of sorts and is meant to be a source of motivation when times get hard.
- Coping – The lived experience of addiction is difficult to control. SMART teaches various coping techniques in order for people in recovery to be able to resist their cravings. This point also addresses the irrational beliefs about addiction that many people develop.
- Managing Behaviors and Feelings – Long term success in the SMART program involves learning how to manage your behaviors and feelings that have led to drug use. This can be everything from social situations to clinical conditions like depression.
- Balanced Life – This is a unique quality of SMART. This program recognizes that transitioning from addiction to sober living is a drastic life change. SMART teaches how to make a smooth transition by helping people in recovery gain the skills to plan for the future and learn how to live a sober life.
Differences Between SMART and 12-Step
One of the biggest differences between SMART and 12-Step programs are in how they approach their patients. SMART does not use labels such as “addict” or “disease” to refer to people and their experiences. SMART programs view such language as unproductive. Another big difference is that 12-Step programs are a life-long approach to addiction recovery whereas individuals can graduate from SMART and start a new phase of their lives. 12-Step programs are also sometimes required by law depending on the case. SMART programs maintain an atmosphere of being totally voluntary.
There are pros and cons to both SMART and 12-Step programs. SMART programs have been reviewed by researchers and have proven results. At the end of the day, each person should consult with their medical team to make the decision that is best for them and their recovery.