With the widespread addiction epidemic across the United States, people are constantly searching for help and looking for resources to get treatment, find support, and ultimately to feel connected as they embark on their journey to and through recovery.

It’s no surprise that over the years, alternatives to AA and NA have popped up and gained attention as well as respect in the sober community. A group that is gaining both momentum and popularity is SMART Recovery, which a lot of people are just starting to hear of and learn about. So, what is SMART Recovery?


SMART is a self-help support group for addiction that stands for Self-Management And Recovery Training. SMART is rooted in a scientific foundation that believes in learning how to be self-reliant rather than with other teachings that are based on powerlessness.


SMART was first started as a non-profit in affiliation with Rational Recovery and was first known as the Rational Recovery Self-Help Network. Rational Recovery is best known as a book written by Jack Trimpey.  However, it transitioned into SMART in 1994 when the board of directors for the group had a different vision than the owners of Rational Recovery. Thus, they cut ties and formed what we know today as the SMART Recovery Program.

Who is SMART For?

It exists as a support group rather than a 12-step program and is for individuals who are choosing to practice abstinence from addictive behaviors. The focus is more in line with that of a secular organization for sobriety (SOS), as it does not involve any sort of spiritual component. This type of platform is for those seeking recovery with a more analytical perspective and those who need science to support their recovery.

How Does It Work?

This is a program to break addictive habits and practice abstinence using a broader methodology based on a 4 point program of motivation:

  • attentiveness
  • identifying and working through urges
  • problem-solving skills
  • creating lifestyle balance.

Fully based on rational thinking that is backed by scientific knowledge, SMART seeks to keep its ideas, strategies, and beliefs simple and uncomplicated. They strive to teach people effective and long-term approaches to healthier thinking, emotional intelligence, and taking intentional actions.

Are There Meetings?

SMART Recovery offers their own face-to-face meetings, as well as an online meeting schedule with daily offerings.

What Is The Difference Between A 12-Step Program & SMART Recovery?

Perhaps the biggest difference between these two approaches to sobriety and breaking addiction, lies in the basis of how the recovery works. While AA focuses on the serenity prayer and admitting you are powerless to substances, SMART focuses on empowerment and problem solving.

The other differences include:

  • AA has a spiritual foundation with a higher power.
  • SMART has an analytical foundation with no spirituality in recovery.
  • AA believes that meetings are the best way to fight cravings and urges.
  • SMART believes that dealing with the cravings and urges from the standpoint of solving the problem is effective.
  • AA believes strongly that 12 step is the only pathway to recovery.
  • SMART believes that there are many different paths to recovery, as well as in the power of personal choice.
  • AA preaches that addiction is a disease and that people with it have lost control to it.
  • SMART believes that the “addiction is a disease” argument is personal for everyone, and is much less important than getting treatment. It also tailors to individuals with an internal locus of control.
  • AA is more widely known and has been around for longer.
  • SMART Recovery is newer and less people are informed about this option.
  • AA uses labels such as “addict” and “alcoholic” and their members identify as these.
  • SMART does not use these labels.

Is SMART Recovery For You?

This form of recovery is a self-empowering group that encourages its participants to take charge of their lives through motivation, problem-solving, and creating a better lifestyle. The crux of SMART is not to work with an incurable disease, but rather to change human behavior.

If you have attended AA or NA meetings and they did not work for you because accepting powerlessness and turning your life over to a higher power did not resonate with you, SMART may be a better fit for you. Likewise, you may be in treatment and/or facing addiction on your own while looking for a support group to compliment your sobriety. SMART helps you work from an analytical and scientific approach.

Whichever road to recovery you choose, help and support is available for you. We would love to provide you with more information as well as talk to you about addiction treatment programs and options at Orlando Recovery Center. Contact us today and let us help you find the best methods for you.

By – Carly Benson
With over 11 years of recovery under her belt from alcohol and cocaine, Carly Benson has become a faithful believer in miracles, a writer and a person living a mindfully alcohol-free lifestyle. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.