SMART Recovery and AA: Comparing Substance Abuse Recovery Programmes

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)  . As substance abuse recovery programmes, they share the common aim of helping people recover from various addictions.

But some people might progress faster in AA, while SMART Recovery tends to be more appropriate for a different set of people. In order to make an informed choice about which form of treatment is best for you or your loved one, it is important to compare the two programmes directly and accurately. The path to recovery can be long and difficult, but selecting the ideal drug and alcohol treatment programmes for each participant can improve the process greatly.

AA, its beginnings and its philosophy

Alcoholics Anonymous was formed in Akron, Ohio in the 1930s, with methods introduced by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. Their treatment concept was genuinely revolutionary, helping addicts build strong social bonds through regularly scheduled group support networks. By setting up and refining a system where people could help each other find both the strategies and the strength necessary to overcome addiction, AA became a popular and effective treatment method that continues to be used today.

The core of the programme is a 12-step self-recovery process. In essence, it involves the addict admitting they need help, deciding to take responsibility for their mistakes, and taking concrete action to put their life back on the right track. Parts of the process have proved to be more controversial in recent years, such as the insistence that the person must believe in a higher power that will support and help them through their recovery.

Nevertheless, the approach itself works because it acknowledges that the problems of addiction, and all of the associated complications in the life of the addict, generally need to be addressed one step at a time, and with a deep reservoir of social support and encouragement from a group of peers. The AA programme is highly welcoming, with no requirement for joining the community of members.

SMART Recovery, its beginnings and its philosophy

SMART Recovery was originally called Rational Recovery. It was founded in 1985 as an alternative for Alcoholics Anonymous, and its name was changed to SMART Recovery in 1994. It is a nonprofit organisation that also uses support groups to help people through the addiction rehabilitation process. The main focus of the programme is to improve the life of the addict by helping them achieve a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

SMART Recovery differs from AA in that it does not require participants to seek help from a higher power. Instead, addicts are encouraged to take control of their own lives, using learned techniques of self-restraint that are reinforced through physical meetings as well as online consultations. There are more than 1500 weekly support groups led by volunteers around the world.

SMART Recovery guides addicts through six clearly identified stages of recovery, using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The initial stages of SMART Recovery involve the individual coming to terms with the reality of their addiction, its consequences, and the need to break free from destructive habits.

The following stage describes the person’s determined action to end their addictive behaviour, using advice and support from professionals as well as peers. Addiction recovery requires continued commitment, however, and the final stages focus on the person maintaining their progress, and completing their successful re-entry into society.

Advantages of both drug and alcohol treatment programmes

Both approaches strive to give a sense of pride and accomplishment to participants as they struggle with addiction in search of a better life. Both also include support from groups of peers, giving a shoulder for each person to lean on.

However, the two programmes differ in their approach to improvement. SMART Recovery encourages the individual to find strength and determination within themselves, achieving freedom from addiction through personal commitment and effective mental techniques. By contrast, AA tells participants to admit they have been defeated by addiction, and ask for help from a higher power.

AA has a longer history and is therefore better established in some countries, with more sponsors and volunteers than SMART Recovery. In some areas, of course, SMART Recovery is also a very popular method, and supportive communities for both programmes can easily be found.

SMART Recovery offers people more freedom on how to deal with their problems. Also, non-believers may feel that SMART Recovery is a more comfortable solution for them because it centres the idea of control within each individual person, rather than in an external higher power.

Research shows that both AA and SMART Recovery have the same success rates for addicts, meaning that each participant should feel free to choose the right path for them, based on their own personality and preferences.

SMART Recovery & 12 Steps philosophy at The Dawn Rehab Thailand

If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction, it is essential to seek treatment as soon as possible. At The Dawn, we provide a full range of residential treatment programmes, and can help you select the right path to personal recovery and wellness.

We offer both 12 Steps and SMART Recovery treatment options, as well as convenient access to local AA programmes. For each of our clients, we supplement these treatments with a range of holistic healing methods. We address both the physical and mental aspects of addiction, as well as their underlying causes, so that participants can embrace a positive outlook and move forward with their lives.

For more information about our treatments and services, contact us through our website, or by calling +66 63 048 487.