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Alternatives to 12-Step Programmes: Have You Heard of SMART Recovery?

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No two people are exactly alike, which is why there are many different approaches to treatment and recovery. Breaking free from addiction requires real effort and commitment from each individual, but rehab treatment centres also need to give their clients the tools and resources needed to select the very best treatment method for them. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are often very effective in guiding people back to sobriety – but they are not the only resources available. Many addicts prefer alternatives to 12-step programmes, such as SMART Recovery.

As a non-12-step option, SMART Recovery utilises a different structure and philosophy than the more traditional methods, and is worth careful consideration for those seeking to escape addiction. Choosing the right programme is one of the most important processes in addiction recovery, so let us see how SMART Recovery helps addicts find their way forward.

What is SMART Recovery, and What Kinds of Problems Can it Solve?

Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART Recovery) is a well-established treatment approach for people looking to overcome various kinds of addiction. As an alternative to the 12-step approach, it relies on a carefully guided process of self-restraint. SMART Recovery uses the benefits of personal counselling and group therapy, and also incorporates the additional resource of an online support group after the main treatment has concluded.

The structure for the programme is based on individual choices, and its efficacy is verified by solid scientific research. By allowing each person to choose their own path towards a healthy life, SMART Recovery lets participants use their own initiatives to break free from chemical or behavioural addiction.

How does SMART Recovery Work?

As perhaps the most effective of the alternatives to 12-step programmes, SMART Recovery relies on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in each of the different stages of recovery. Whereas AA asks participants to base their recovery on a belief in a higher power, SMART Recovery gives the power back to the individual.

A combination of planning and action forms the structure of SMART Recovery, which is divided into the following stages:

  • Pre-contemplation – In this stage, the individual may not even realise the relationship between their problems and their addiction, and therefore they may not accept the need to take action.
  • Contemplation – Here, participants calculate the true impact that their addiction has had on their own life and the lives of those around them, helping them understand the nature of their situation and the effort needed to recover from it.
  • Determination/Preparation – In this stage, individuals make a decision to take committed action to escape from the control of their addiction. Addicts will also fill in a Change Plan Worksheet.
  • Action – After completing the above stages, participants are ready to pursue their plan of dealing with their addiction. Possible paths include support group meetings, self-help guidance, and expert advice.
  • Maintenance – After 2-3 months of action, the participant should be experiencing significant changes in their personal habits. Their task then becomes focused on maintaining those changes and the benefits they provide, and working to continue improving themselves.
  • Graduation/Exit – After achieving sustained, significant and stable change, participants are able to graduate from the programme and continue living a healthy and successful life.

As alternatives to AA, the SMART Recovery group counselling meetings are led by professional therapists with extensive experience in addiction treatment. In many cases, these professionals have direct personal experience with alcohol and drug addiction themselves, and can show the way forward to clean and responsible living.

How is SMART Recovery Different from AA?

SMART Recovery requires self-motivation to refuse the urges of addiction, and provides the tools and mental resources needed to break the cycle. The programme also helps participants rebuild and develop new, healthy lives without leaning on the concept of a higher power. AA, by contrast, helps people overcome their addiction by adding the element of faith and a belief in an external power.

As a form of non-12-step option, SMART Recovery focuses on 4 types of achievements, which condense many of the lessons of AA and NA into a simpler form. Successful SMART Recovery treatment depends on succeeding with the following tasks:

  • Assembling motivation and staying motivated
  • Controlling the need for using
  • Handling thoughts and emotions while solving the problem at hand
  • Understanding the healthy and balanced life, and learning how to live it

Who would Benefit Most from SMART Recovery?

SMART Recovery is suitable for people affected by many kinds of addiction, including alcohol, marijuana, heroin or cocaine – and also behavioural disorders such as eating disorders, gambling, and sex addiction. Some may find the concept of a higher power, a central tenet of traditional AA and NA, uncomfortable or unconvincing.

For these people in particular, and for many others who become more engaged when they make their own decisions and follow through on them, SMART Recovery may be the most convenient and satisfying of the alternatives to AA.

AA has long been known as a reliable programme for people recovering from addiction, due in large part to the social encouragement that it includes throughout the process. SMART Recovery was designed to keep the advantages that AA offers, while providing a new and equally effective path toward success. Recent studies have shown that people choosing SMART Recovery are just as likely to remain clean as those in AA. Selecting the right programme, then, depends entirely on individual preference.

SMART Recovery at The Dawn Rehab Thailand

At The Dawn, we offer a wide range of addiction services and mental health treatments. Our holistic addiction treatment programme includes detoxification, as well as personalised psychotherapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and SMART Recovery. Our experienced addiction recovery team can walk you through each of the options, so that you receive the very best care for your personal needs.

We also offer round-the-clock recovery support, access to local AA/NA and weekend excursions, thanks to our impressive 1:1 staff-to-client ratio. Our services include comfortable accommodation in a relaxed environment, and a variety of wellness activities such as yoga and massage to reduce stress, strengthen our clients both mentally and physically, and help them on the road to clean living.

For more information about our treatment services, contact The Dawn today to speak to our addiction expert.

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