The History and Principles of the SMART Recovery Program

An international non-profit organization that works to help people conquer addiction is SMART Recovery. The SMART acronym stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. This organization’s approach is secular and based on science. It utilizes non-confrontational methods of motivation as well as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Alternative Method

This organization’s method is an alternative to other twelve-step recovery programs. SMART is different as it does not promote individuals admitting they are powerless over addiction. They do not promote the concept of a higher power. The disease theory of alcoholism is not endorsed. SMART recovery views addiction as a person’s dysfunctional habit. It states that certain people have a predisposition to engage in addictive behaviors.

History Of SMART Recovery

Jack Trimpey is the founder of Rational Recovery (RR). He made the decision to make this a for-profit organization. This organization’s board of directors left and created SMART Recovery. It was incorporated in 1992, and it became the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Self-help Network (ADASHN). In 1994, ADASHN began operating under the name of SMART Recovery.


The organization’s general operations are conducted by a board of directors who are all volunteers. All local SMART Recovery groups are staffed and run by volunteers known as facilitators. They are helped by recovery professionals who volunteer and are referred to as volunteer advisers. The services provided by SMART Recovery are free. Its publications are sold and donations are always encouraged.


SMART Recovery utilizes the principles of motivational interviewing. This is part of motivational enhancement therapy (MET). It also utilizes techniques of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). They emphasize the version of CBT involving rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Their method also involves other types of treatment from scientifically validated research.


The SMART Recovery Program is agreeable with participants who have chosen to take medications that have been appropriately prescribed. Part of the program also involves participants taking opioid-agonist medications. During a person’s recovery process, the SMART Recovery program emphasizes four areas known as the 4-Point Program.

  • Lifestyle Balance
  • Building Motivation
  • Problem Solving
  • Coping With Urges

The SMART Recovery toolbox addresses these four points. This is a collection of different REBT, CBT, MET methods that are referred to as tools.

Stages Of Change

The SMART Recovery program understands its participants are in one or more of the various stages of change. This means different exercises are helpful for each stage of change.

  • Precontemplation – During this stage, a participant does not believe they have a problem.
  • Contemplation – This is when a participant analyzes the advantages and disadvantages of addiction. They do this by performing a cost/benefit analysis.
  • Maintenance – A few months have passed and a participant’s behavior has significantly changed. They now seek to maintain their gains.
  • Action – A participant tries to find new ways of dealing with their addictive behavior. This can involve the support of an addiction help group, as well as professional guidance and self-help.
  • Determination/Preparation – This is when a participant makes a decision to pursue personal change. They may decide to fill out a Change Plan Worksheet.
  • Graduation/Exit – This is when a participant has experienced a long period of change. It is a time when they are ready to move on with their lives. They are ready to graduate from the SMART Recovery program.
  • Slide Event – This is when a participant experiences a relapse. They are not inevitable, but a relapse is often a normal part of a person’s change cycle. If a relapse is handled correctly, it will serve as a learning experience for the person overcoming addiction.


The SMART Recovery meetings are free for anyone who wants to attend them. They are intended to provide important information and be supportive. There are more than 1,500 weekly group meetings held worldwide. They are all led by volunteer facilitators. The SMART Recovery organization provides important online resources to support their volunteers. The organization also provides direct support for those who attend their group meeting and attend one or more of their daily online meetings.


A 2018 study compared the success of the SMART Recovery program with other alcohol abstinence programs. Once the treatment goals were normalized, the members of the SMART Recovery program, who pursued abstinence, did as well as members of AA. When members of AA were compared to members of the SMART Recovery program, both programs had similar rates of success. The SMART Recovery program is recognized by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), American Academy of Family Physicians, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as well as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

If you are ready to get started on dealing with a substance abuse problem, you can call us today at 844-639-8371. We can help you.

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