About SMART Recovery

Our Mission

To empower people to achieve independence from addiction problems
with our science-based 4-Point Program®

About SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is an abstinence-based, not-for-profit organization with a sensible self-help program for people having problems with drinking and using. It includes many ideas and techniques to help you change your life from one that is self-destructive and unhappy to one that is constructive and satisfying. SMART Recovery is not a spin-off of Alcoholics Anonymous.  No one will label you an “alcoholic”, an “addict” or “diseased” nor “powerless”, and if you do not believe in a religion or spirituality, that’s fine, too. We teach common sense self-help procedures designed to empower you to abstain and to develop a more positive lifestyle.  When you succeed at following our approach, you may graduate from the program, or you may stay around to help others.

Based on Sensible Theory

Drinking and using can serve a purpose — to cope with life’s problems and emotional upsets. There’s a drawback, however.  Many problems arise from heavy drinking and continual using. So that kind of coping is not only impractical, it’s counterproductive. To help you reverse your self-destructive behavior, we use a cognitive-behavioral (thinking/doing) psychotherapy called REBT which stands for Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.  Psychologist Albert Ellis devised this system in the’50s.  It’s effective and widely accepted. According to REBT, your thinking creates your feelings and leads you to act.  By managing the beliefs and emotions that lead you to drink or use, you can empower yourself to quit.  Then you can work at problems you have with abstaining. In SMART Recovery, we are not much concerned with the past, except to learn from it.  We focus on present-day events and the causes of self-destructive behaviors.  We concentrate on what to do about them in order to achieve a positive lifestyle change, especially in the areas of our lives that are related to drinking or using.

Key Areas of Awareness and Change

In SMART Recovery we emphasize:

(1) Enhancing motivation;

(2) Refusing to act on urges to use;

(3) Managing life’s problems in a sensible and effective way without substances; and

(4) Developing a positive, balanced, and healthy lifestyle.

Motives and Goals

Motivation is a key element in nearly all you do. Consider that we all have two primary goals – survival and the avoidance of pain along with seeking happiness.  You can increase your awareness of your motives for drinking and your reasons for quitting. Then you will feel better about changing your behavior.  We will show you how.


What  you  believe  about  addiction  is  important,  and  there  are many beliefs  about  heavy drinking and recovery.  You may believe, for example, that you have an incurable disease, that you have a genetic defect, that you’re powerless, or that after the first drink you have to lose all control.  These beliefs may actually be damaging to you. Some people have additional beliefs.  For example, “I’ve tried and failed, so I can’t do it.  I need alcohol to cope”, or “Because I’ve tried to quit and failed, I’m no good”.  Those beliefs, and many like them, can’t be justified because the evidence just doesn’t support them.


Emotions are important too.  People often drink or use to cope with their emotional problems including anger, guilt, anxiety, and low self-esteem.  SMART Recovery teaches you how to diminish your emotional disturbances and increase self-acceptance.  Then you can have greater motivation and ability to remain abstinent and to live more happily.


Changes in thinking and emotions are not enough.  Commitment and follow-through are essential.  We encourage members to work at problems and to become involved in enjoyable activities in place of their substance use activities.

How Help is Provided

Our meeting format is straightforward and organized.  Our facilitators (some are professionals) are trained for the job.  Some of them have had experience with drinking and using, and some haven’t. That doesn’t seem to make any difference. Remember, SMART Recovery is a mental health and educational program, focused on changing human behavior. SMART Recovery meetings are serious but often fun. We’re certainly not into drunkalogues (war stories), sponsors, and meetings-for-life.  We don’t dredge up the past about which you can do nothing.  We can do something about the present and the future. We present either our problems with drinking or using or our difficulties in recovery. The primary tool used in SMART Recovery is the ABC method of problem-solving. The ABCs help us gain awareness of our mistaken beliefs that lead to problem emotions and behaviors. Near the end of the meeting, the “hat” is passed for donations, which are encouraged but not required.

Guiding Principles

Recovery through Self-Empowerment: Our purpose is to help participants gain independence from any addictive behavior. We believe that individuals seeking recovery should be fully informed about the range of recovery options and free to choose among them. Our program encourages participants to take responsibility for their own recovery. Our meetings support their capacity to regulate their own behavior. Mutual Help: As participants progress in recovery their focus can shift to enjoying the activities of a healthy, fulfilling and productive life, including the satisfaction of assisting new participants in SMART Recovery. Volunteer Management: SMART Recovery is operated almost entirely by volunteers, including the Board of Directors, and our meeting facilitators. Facilitators may have recovered through SMART Recovery, or be qualified individuals who are not “in recovery.” Acceptance: SMART Recovery participants are welcome to discuss addictive behavior with any substance or activity. SMART Recovery encourages participation by persons of any race, color, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. We do not tolerate harassment of any kind in our meetings. Participant Support: Our meetings and online services are offered free of charge. Donations are requested. We are funded primarily through personal contributions and literature sales. We accept funding from other sources provided that receiving such funds does not interfere with our purpose. Evidence-Based Practice: SMART Recovery uses evidence-based cognitive behavioral and non-confrontational motivational enhancement techniques. Our meetings focus on the application of these techniques, as guided by our 4-Point Program®: 1) Enhance and Maintain Motivation to Abstain, 2) Cope with Urges, 3) Problem Solve (manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors), and 4) Achieve a Balanced Lifestyle. The components of the SMART Recovery program will evolve as scientific knowledge evolves. Collaboration: Some participants may choose to augment their SMART Recovery experience with professional therapy, medications, or other mutual help groups. All of these options are respected by SMART Recovery. Treatment professionals may volunteer to facilitate meetings in their community or at their facility. When doing so, they need to switch from “therapist” to “facilitator.” Professionals are encouraged to incorporate SMART Recovery principles and tools into their professional work. International Presence: SMART Recovery is an international organization. We support local volunteers so that our meetings can be available in every country. We support national health services and professionals so that SMART Recovery can be available in every country.

SMART Recovery vs 12-Step Programs

At SMART, we believe that each individual finds his own path to recovery. For some that may include 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). While the SMART approach differs from AA and NA, it does not exclude them. Some SMART participants choose to attend AA or NA meetings when they cannot attend a SMART meeting. Some find that what they hear at AA or NA meetings helps them on their path to permanent recovery.

Position on Medications

SMART Recovery supports the scientifically informed use of psychological treatment and legally prescribed psychiatric and addiction medication.

Position on Spirituality

We believe that the power to change addictive behaviors resides within each individual and does not depend upon adherence to any spiritual viewpoint. The use of religious or spiritual beliefs and practices in recovery is a personal choice and not a part of our program.

Position on Addiction as a Disease

SMART Recovery tools can help you regardless of whether or not you believe addiction is a disease.

Position on Meeting Verifications

SMART Recovery is an independent organization and is not affiliated with any governmental agency, court, corrections facility, or treatment program. Facilitators, at their discretion, will provide attendance verification at the request of individuals following their participation in SMART meetings; however, SMART Recovery keeps no permanent record of participant names or meeting attendance. Consistent with the practices of other addiction mutual help groups, this verification provides acknowledgment of meeting attendance and is not indicative of the depth of engagement in the meeting.

Policy on Socializing within SMART Recovery

For many people, an important part of a successful recovery program is building or rebuilding healthy social networks. Meeting other like-minded, supportive participants and volunteers through SMART Recovery can be an additional benefit from the program. SMART seeks to provide comfortable social environments at our meetings and online community. We encourage you to build relationships with other people, including those you meet through SMART. Please remember that SMART is not responsible for the environment outside of its meetings and online activities.

The Code of Conduct for SMART Recovery Volunteers

Although the following principles and behavioral guidelines for ethical conduct by SMART Recovery volunteers may seem obvious, we state them here to reflect without doubt what is expected. We have deep and abiding trust in those who have done so much for SMART Recovery. We have put these principles and guidelines in writing so that any reader can see the level of ethics and efficacy that is expected and found in our volunteers.

Principles of being a SMART Recovery Volunteer:

  • Promote Independence from Addictive Behavior: We promote gaining independence from addictive behavior based on the principles and concepts of SMART Recovery.
  • Serve as a Community Resource: We make SMART Recovery available to our local neighborhoods and serve as a resource for our communities.
  • Respect the Dignity and Worth of the Person: We strive to treat each meeting participant with care and respect, mindful of individual differences and cultural and ethnic diversity.
  • Act with Integrity: We strive to act honestly and responsibly and to conduct ourselves in a manner consonant with the goals and principles of SMART Recovery.

Behavioral Guidelines

Honor our Commitments: In our capacity as Facilitators, we are responsible for conducting meetings consistent with the principles and concepts of SMART Recovery. This includes striving to maintain focused discussions and to balance opportunities for individual participation with the needs of the group. We will endeavor to hold all meetings as scheduled. In other volunteer roles, we take our commitments seriously, understanding our roles are critical in the support of the overall functions of the SMART Recovery organization. Support Self-Determination of Participants: We respect and promote the right of participants to socially responsible self-determination and assist them in their efforts to identify and clarify their goals regarding addictive behavior within the context of SMART Recovery. Where a participant’s goals are outside the scope of SMART Recovery, we can encourage them to seek more appropriate options for assistance. Pursue Knowledge and Competence: All volunteers are expected to learn about the concepts of SMART Recovery. Facilitators apply these concepts in meetings and function as leaders within a peer-group, self-help setting to help foster a group process that encourages learning and development in gaining and maintaining independence from addictive behaviors. Support Social Diversity: We strive to actively understand and respect issues of social diversity, including race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital/partner status, political belief, religion, and mental or physical ability. Protect Confidentiality: We respect and promote confidentiality and the participants’ right to privacy at all times, both in and out of meetings, including all verbal, written, and electronic communications. A Volunteer should not solicit or disclose private information about a participant that is unrelated to the focus of SMART Recovery or that may put a participant at risk. If a participant appears to be at risk of imminent harm to self or others, a Volunteer may contact the local SMART Recovery Volunteer Advisor, the local crisis intervention agency, or the local police/medical/mental health authority. If required by local law, we may be required to report to local authorities regarding disclosures relating to child or elder abuse. Avoid Conflicts of Interest: Under no circumstances should we exploit a participant relationship or meeting to further personal, religious, political, or business interests. We should strive to be alert to and avoid conflicts of interest. Avoid Engaging in Harassment: Under no circumstances should we engage in any form of verbal, emotional, or physical harassment. Under no circumstances should we seek to exploit a participant relationship for sexual activity or engage in sexual harassment of participants, including sexual advances, sexual solicitations, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Work Together: We strive to work cooperatively with other members the SMART Recovery organization. We strive to acknowledge the positive contributions of other programs aimed at gaining independence from addictive behavior. Provide Accurate Representation: We make clear distinctions between statements made as a private individual and those made as representatives of SMART Recovery. We represent ourselves as knowledgeable only within the scope of our experience. Seek Solutions: In the event that a Volunteer or Volunteer Advisor has an ethical lapse or an addictive behavior relapse, appropriate members of the SMART Recovery organization will be contacted to determine an appropriate course of action.

SMART Recovery Policy on Facilitator Slips and Relapses

There is no firm policy about how to respond to slips and relapses. Facilitators who experience a slip or relapse are asked to contact your Regional Coordinator, local Volunteer Advisor and/or the Central Office. The general guideline is that we desire facilitators without active addiction problems. If they are in recovery, that means we want them to be abstinent from their drug of choice. If they have never needed recovery then we also want them not to misuse substances or activities. Slips and relapses are handled on a situation-by-situation basis. Situations can vary greatly. The three areas of concern are: 1. the meeting and its participants, 2. the facilitator, and 3. responding in a balanced manner so as to be responsible and maintain the integrity of SMART Recovery. (See the President’s Letter in the Fall 2012 News & Views for a longer article on this subject.)

Purposes and Methods Statement

1. We help individuals gain independence from addictive behavior.

2. We teach how to:

– enhance and maintain motivation – cope with urges – manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors – live a balanced life

3. Our efforts are based on scientific knowledge, and evolve as scientific knowledge evolves.

4. Individuals who have gained independence from addictive behavior are invited to stay involved with us, to enhance their gains and help others.


1. We assume that addictive behavior can arise from both substance use (e.g., psychoactive substances of all kinds, including alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, food, illicit drugs, and prescribed medications), and involvement in activities (e.g., gambling, sexual behavior, eating, spending, relationships, exercise, etc.). We assume that there are degrees of addictive behavior and that all individuals to some degree experience it. For some individuals, the negative consequences of addictive behavior (which can involve several substances or activities) become so great that change becomes highly desirable. To individuals who are, or think they may be, at this point, we offer our services. Our groups are free of charge (although a donation is requested). Our Internet listserve discussion group is free to those who can access it. There is a nominal charge for our publications.

2. Gaining independence from addictive behavior can involve changes that affect an individual’s entire life, not just changes directly related to the addictive behavior itself. Consequently, there appear to be as many roads to gaining independence from addictive behavior as there are individuals. For many the road will lead somewhere other than using our services. We recommend they follow the direction they have chosen, and we wish them well. They are always welcome to return. Individuals who have been successful in gaining independence from addictive behavior appear to have made changes in all four areas we teach about. These four areas could also be described as maintaining motivation, coping with craving, thinking rationally, and leading a balanced lifestyle. Although we teach important information in each of these areas, ultimately it is the individual’s determination and persistence to keep moving forward that will determine how much success is achieved. Our services are provided for those who desire (or think they may desire) to achieve abstinence. Individuals unsure about whether to pursue abstinence may observe in our group discussions how abstinence can be achieved, and how it can help. Even those whose ultimate goal is moderated involvement with their substances or activities may benefit from participation in abstinence-oriented discussions. Benefits could occur if the individual aims to engage in selected periods of abstinence, or frames the goal as abstaining from over- involvement (as opposed to all involvement). Much of the information imparted by us is drawn from the field of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and particularly from Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, as developed by Albert Ellis, Ph.D. Use of the CBT perspective allows us to use a rich and easily accessible body of ideas, techniques, and publications. Some of these publications we are able to make available directly to our participants and other publications are available through bookstores and other sources.

3. What we offer is consistent with the most effective methods yet discovered for resolving emotional and behavioral problems. As scientific knowledge advances, our teachings will be modified accordingly. Individuals with religious beliefs are likely to find our program as compatible with their beliefs as other scientifically derived knowledge and applications.

4. The length of time an individual will derive help from our services is variable. For many sincere participants there will come a time when attending our groups, or participating in our other services, is more in conflict with the pursuit of their life goals than enhancing them. Although these participants will always be welcome back if they want to come, this conflict signals that the time for graduation has arrived. One of the most enduring satisfactions in life is helping others. The individuals who have nurtured SMART Recovery thus far have reported intense satisfaction at witnessing the positive changes our participants have experienced, and at witnessing the influence we are having on professional addictive behavior treatment. We offer to others, whether graduates of our efforts or not, the opportunity to join us in experiencing that satisfaction.

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