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The Benefits of Smart Recovery: A Mental Health Tool for Addiction

By May 26, 2021July 13th, 2021Recovery

SMART recovery is a mental health tool that helps people recover from addiction. It is not a 12-step program and does not require participants to have a belief in a higher power, God, or any other deity. SMART stands for four phrases: self-management training, motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy. We will discuss how these methods can be used to help people recovering from addiction live happier lives.


What is Smart Recovery

This method of recovery is based on the idea that people with addiction have two choices: they can either manage their addictive behavior or let it rule them. People who choose to control their addiction are able to do so because they understand what triggers a relapse and know how to deal with difficult situations without resorting back to using alcohol or drugs.


How Does Smart Recovery Work

Participants use SMART in order to work on four skills: abstinence, managing feelings, and urges, solving problems that can lead to relapse for them personally, and accepting their addiction while working through it. Participants do not need to find a relationship with a higher power just need a desire to end an unhealthy relationship with old habits. SMART Recovery is the world’s largest community of mutual support group meetings that use science and self-empowerment to help people overcome addictive behaviors. SMART Recovery discourages the use of labels such as “addict” and “alcoholic,” because they can undermine motivation for many people.





A psychologist by profession, Dr. Marcia Valenstein first learned about SMART Recovery in 2007 and found that it helped her patients with substance abuse problems because of the abstinence focus. She also discovered that psychologists who do not work directly with addiction can easily learn how to assist their clients by using this program for issues such as self-esteem or chronic pain management (Glassman, 2013). They just need a desire to end an unhealthy relationship with old habits.


The Origin of Smart Recovery

The system is based on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which was developed in 1959 and has been used ever since then whether one wants to recover from drug dependency or any other type of mental health problem.

The SMART Recovery program uses CBT techniques because they are designed so people can find more effective ways to deal with difficult thoughts, retrain behavioral patterns, and change how they react to their feelings.

In the SMART recovery system there are four core principles that describe its approach:

Build and Maintain Motivation

The first of the four core principles of the SMART Recovery program is to “build and maintain motivation.” One of the most important things you can do for your addiction recovery, according to this system, is keeping a positive attitude.


Identify High-Risk Situations

The second principle in the SMART approach is identifying high-risk situations. When it would be best not to use substances or engage in addictive behaviors at all. This means taking note of what triggers your addiction as well as where and when these times take place. The goal is to identify these high-risk situations by recognizing them sooner and more easily over time.


Manage Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors




The third principle of SMART recovery is learning how to manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This means acknowledging that urges and cravings are normal parts of the addiction process while also understanding why they happen in the first place. For instance, alcoholics might experience high levels of discomfort when sober because their tolerance has decreased greatly or if they have an anxiety disorder.


Clarify Values & Lead a Balanced Life



The fourth principle is clarifying one’s own values so as to maintain abstinence from substances or addictive behavior at all times. It can be difficult to remember what exactly was once most important enough to stop the cycle of addiction. Especially when the cycle can be so familiar to us. But these are the things to rediscover and guide us through life as it doesn’t need to stay this way.


Join Smart Recovery Anytime

A person does not need professional counseling or therapy in order for this process of healing from addiction or dependency on alcohol or drugs when using the self-management training (SMART) offered by SMART Recovery International. That’s because it uses a set of interactive meetings and the 4 points of the program.


A Welcoming Community Environment

In previous posts, we’ve talked about how important the connection to people is when you are in recovery. These meetings would be a great place to start in terms of social connection. It is a very informal and non-threatening approach to everyone with any type of addiction, whether it’s alcohol or drugs. The program doesn’t require the user to be present in meetings at set times of day or place. You can participate when you have time and not feel like you are missing out on anything important by not attending every meeting. There’s no requirement that you quit using substances during this time period either. This makes SMART recovery so welcoming to all stages of recovery and change.



If you have more curiosity about SMART recovery, check out more on their website. You really have the power to transform your life and habits significantly based on the next decision you make.  Join us for a free course to get started today!



Glassman, Scott D., “Motivational Interviewing with Individuals In Recovery: Effects On Hope, Meaning, Empowerment and Service Participation” (2013). PCOM Psychology Dissertations. Paper 258