Demystifying SMART Recovery

Demystifying SMART Recovery

In Recovery by Tree House Recovery

In recent years, there has been a backlash against 12-step programs due to their opponents claims that it focuses too much on the inclusion of a Higher-Power, the admittance of powerlessness, and the disease model of addiction. SMART recovery is a treatment modality for addiction that has risen in popularity as a response to 12-step programs. It is rooted in a scientific framework and employs specific psychological orientations such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Rational-Emotive Behavioral Therapy. SMART is an acronym for “Self-Management And Recovery Training. Proponents of SMART recovery also believe that addiction is not a disease, but rather a dysfunctional habit whereby if certain strategies are learned, one would be able to correct these dysfunctional habits in order to control their drug and alcohol use. Proponents also believe that there are some biological factors that play a role in the causation of addiction and therefore also view abstinence as a valid approach to healing from addictions.

Let’s take a look at the validity of some of the claims here such as the idea that admitting powerlessness can be disadvantageous to the recovering addict as it strips them of the empowerment they need to forge a path forward. This particular facet of the 12 steps is often confused as accepting powerlessness as a whole entity as opposed to accepting our powerlessness over drugs and alcohol. This seems to be a convenient and even lazy proposition as it would be wildly inaccurate to believe that the 12-step model does not promote the empowering of oneself as a means to combat addiction. For those who are able to maintain control over their drug and alcohol, SMART recovery would certainly be an option that may work, however, the problems seems to lie in the very nature of addiction. Part of how we define addiction is essentially the admission that we had lost control, and therefore power, over our lives which is what brought us to the acceptance of our addiction in the first place. We can also look at the notion proposed that the Higher-Power concept can be problematic. While this can certainly be true for some, if we can take the metaphysical aspect out of step 3 we can understand that, psychologically, that step is an acknowledgement that left to our own devices, we cannot combat addiction alone and that we need the help of addiction professionals, a social support group, and psychotherapists. In closing, a 2018 longitudinal study showed that the SMART approach fared worse in all domains measuring progress except when SMART techniques were used with individuals who were seeking abstinence rather than harm reduction, in which case, there was equal progress made.




Tree House Recovery of Portland, Oregon is a men’s addiction treatment center that teaches our clients how to roll with life’s punches and use the tools they’ve learned throughout the treatment process to stay on top of anything life throws at them. Call (855) 969-5181 to see how we can help you today.