SMART Recovery vs AA: Which is Better?

what is smart recovery

Written By: Lighthouse Editorial Team

Our editorial team includes content experts that contribute to Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s blog. Editors and medical experts review our blogs for accuracy and relevance. We consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA and NIDA to provide you with the most comprehensive addiction-related content.

Published on Aug 18, 2019 | Drug & Alcohol Recovery

what is smart recovery

If you’re anything like me, you’ve heard of various alternatives to twelve-step fellowships and asked yourself, with intrigue, “what is SMART Recovery?” Well, you’ve come to the right place. So, find the skinny on all things SMART Recovery below.

What is SMART Recovery? It’s an organization offering individuals an alternative to self-help alcohol and drug abuse treatment. It’s a free service, like Alcoholics Anonymous, though that’s where all resemblance between the two ends. Its central office is in Mentor, Ohio.

This organization describes itself as an “organization of self-management and recovery training for people seeking abstinence from addiction.” Their program centers around behavioral and cognitive methods of recovery. Intensive therapy is the basis of their principles.

In addition to what this program is, you may be wondering what the pros and cons of SMART Recovery are. Well, one pro is that it offers three main forms of therapy. They’re diversified and work well with many individuals suffering from alcoholism or addiction.

  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)
  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
  • Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

To put it another way, SMART Recovery is an alternative to twelve-step based programs.

So, which is better? In the battle of SMART Recovery vs AA, who’s winning?

Why is Delray Beach called the recovery capital of the world?

How SMART Recovery Works

Instead of the twelve-steps used in traditional recovery programs, this alterative to AA uses a four-point program.

  1. Building and Maintaining Motivation
  2. Coping with Urges
  3. Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors
  4. Living a Balanced Life

The Seven Stages of Change

On top of their four-point program, SMART Recovery proposes a seven-step model to change harmful behaviors. This is another way that this program and AA differ.

  1. Pre-contemplation – the individual’s in denial and doesn’t realize they have a problem
  2. Contemplation – the individual weighs the pros and cons of their addiction by using a cost/benefit analysis
  3. Determination/Preparation – the individual completes a “Change Plan Worksheet”
  4. Action – the individual finds new ways to cope with their addiction, i.e. support groups and professional therapy
  5. Maintenance – the individual puts their changed behaviors into regular use and strives to maintain sobriety
  6. Relapse – the individual reengages in their addiction. This is thought of as a normal thing that happens and that it can be a learning experience in overcoming addiction
  7. Termination – the individual graduate from SMART Recovery

Check out the harrowing statistics of Prescription Drug Abuse

Next, to answer the question of which recovery program is better, we need to examine the pros and cons of SMART recovery.

Pros of SMART Recovery

  • Teaches self-empowerment and self-reliance
  • Provides educational and support meetings with discussions
  • Encourages abstinence from alcohol and drugs
  • Alternative to AA and NA for those who don’t want a twelve-step program

Cons of SMART Recovery

  • Supports legally prescribed psychiatric medication
  • Has not been proven as effective as AA or NA
  • Does not seek spiritual resources
  • 100x smaller than AA
  • Meetings are much smaller (there are under 1,000 meetings available. AA has upwards of 100,000 meetings available)
  • Opposes addiction as a disease
  • The recovery program isn’t lifelong

How Do I Get Involved?

SMART Recovery offers online resources and support to individuals participating in the program. They bring meetings to correctional facilities in numerous states, including Arizona, California, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The easiest way to get involved is by joining their online support group.

What is Powerlessness and what does it really mean?

One thing that both programs can agree on is that addiction is a progressive and deadly disease, therefore successful treatment must be just as progressive and specialized. Fortunately, Lighthouse Recovery Institute takes this idea to heart.

We offer Gender-Specific Addiction Treatment, so our patients can focus on what’s important while in treatment and begin living healthy and successful lives.

Call Lighthouse today at 1-844-I-CAN-CHANGE or 1-(561)-381-0015 to learn more about the importance of gender-specific substance abuse treatment.

Lighthouse Recovery Institute: Guiding You to a Brighter Tomorrow

Cite This Article
Lighthouse Editorial Team. "SMART Recovery vs AA: Which is Better?." Lighthouse Recovery Institute., Published on Aug 18, 2019,


Contact Us

Related Articles

The Relationship Between Recovering Alcoholics & Anger

The Relationship Between Recovering Alcoholics & Anger

Everyone experiences anger at one point or another. Most people experience and express it appropriately. However, when it comes to recovering alcoholics and anger, this relationship is a bit more turbulent. In general, expressing appropriate emotions is a skill that...

What Are Character Defects?

What Are Character Defects?

We're all human beings; thus, we are all fallible and flawed to have some degree of character defects by default. Even when most of the time we do good, and everyone around us can vouch we're good people, we all have character defects. If you're part of a 12-step...

Songs About Addiction and Recovery

Songs About Addiction and Recovery

There are plenty of songs about addiction and recovery that are obvious about it. There are just as many songs that exist in pop culture that are all about addiction and recovery – and people have no idea. Many popular songs are about their singer's own struggles with...

We are here to support you during your time of need and help you make the best decision for yourself or your loved one. Click below to speak to a member of our staff directly.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This