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What is SMART Recovery? Part 2

By Andrew McNaughton, LCSW, CADC

In the first part of this blog, we explored Point 1 and Point 2 of SMART Recovery’s 4-Point Program for behavior change. Next, let’s look at: 

Point 3 – Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors

This dives deeper into Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy tools and concepts. The key tool here is the ABC’s. I have written about the ABC’s of REBT previously, but in short, the theory of REBT says that we create our emotions through our interpretation of events. Emotional Consequences are NOT directly caused by Activating Events. By learning to identify and understand our Beliefs, we can dispute the irrational Beliefs, and reframe them into Effective new rational beliefs. This can shift our emotional Consequences from unhealthy negative emotions to healthy ones, (anxiety to concern, shame to regret, depression to sadness, or anger to annoyance). Point 3 also explores the concept of Unconditional Self Acceptance (USA), Unconditional Other Acceptance (UOA), and Unconditional Life Acceptance (ULA). With USA, we may rate our actions, words, thoughts, and feelings, but we accept ourselves unconditionally as neither good or bad, but simply as fallible and unique. For UOA, we apply this concept to others, and we do this not for their benefit, but for ours in order to not disturb ourselves over other people’s nonsense! With ULA, life conditions may be harsh at times, but we resist the urge to condemn life as all bad.

Point 4 – Living a Balanced Life

Lastly, we have Point 4 – Living a Balanced Life, which seeks to help participants find balance in their lives and not simply focus exclusively on their recovery. Some of the exercises in Point 4 include completing a Lifestyle Balance Chart, where we can determine what areas of our lives are full and which are lacking (family, work, social, spiritual, creative, health, for instance), and exploring and discovering our VACI, Vital Absorbing Creative Interests. 

Secular Versus Spiritual Recovery

SMART Recovery is a secular program but it need not be godless. Like most things related to one’s recovery, if your spirituality helps you maintain your behavior change, then by all means use it, however, it is not a requirement of this program, and is generally not discussed in meetings.

Disease Model of Recovery 

SMART Recovery does not officially take a position on whether addiction is a disease or not, but similarly, if conceptualizing your addiction as a disease aids in your recovery, then SMART respects that, though hopefully we can all agree that regardless of whether addiction is a disease or a maladaptive pattern of behavior learned over time, there is always an element of choice involved when deciding whether or not to engage in an addictive behavior, so the SMART tools are applicable regardless.

Harm Reduction

Contrary to some perceptions, SMART Recovery is an abstinence program, not a moderation program. Some of this confusion may arise with SMART’s use of a Harm Reduction approach to recovery, wherein a participant is met where they are at, and if they are ready only to cut down rather than quit, address only one behavior but not others, or not commit to lifelong abstinence, SMART Recovery will still work with these individuals without judgement. Again, Point 1 – Building and Maintaining Motivation is designed for participants to make a case for themselves to change, not to have their recovery goals dictated to them.

Meetings, Online and In-Person

SMART Recovery hosts online and in-person meetings (in-person options are limited at this time due to the COVID-19 Pandemic). Start with the SMART Recovery website and SMART Recovery Online (SROL) to get connected with the online community, and start participating in online meetings. Find out about local options on the SMART Recovery Illinois page. Meetings are run by trained facilitators who provide supportive and educational meetings with open discussion amongst participants.

If you are concerned about your addictive behaviors, Symmetry Counseling has many addiction specialists on our clinical staff. Contact us today for a free initial consultation for in-person therapy or online counseling in Chicago.


SMART Recovery:

SMART Recovery Illinois:

SMART Recovery Arizona: (search for local meetings)

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