An alternative to addiction treatment
Today’s addiction treatment options may seem fairly limited. So if you are considering options for alternative addiction treatment methods…why not look into addiction treatment from home? Self-help groups like SMART Recovery® or self-empowering addiction treatment methods like Practical Recovery use psychotherapy techniques as alternative options to addiction treatment for both chemical and behavioral addictions.
So what is SMART Recovery?
SMART Recovery is a recognized resource for addiction recovery by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Center for Health Care Evaluation, The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. In the SMART Recovery program, you are responsible for doing the work and teaching yourself how to cope with life without drugs or alcohol using their guidelines and free tools. Learn more about SMART Recovery and its recovery tools from the President of SMART Recovery, Tom Horvath, Ph.D. He is a California licensed and board certified (ABPP) clinical psychologist and presents more about SMART Recovery here.
What are SMART Recovery “recovery tools”?
SMART Recovery is based on the intersection of successful scientific findings about addiction recovery, what is self-empowering, and what is workable in a support group led by a non-professional facilitator. The recovery tools developed by SMART are therapy techniques that have also been used by professionals, but can work in a support group. For instance, perhaps our most commonly used tool is the Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA). Usually participants begin by identifying what they like about their addictive behavior (either substance use, or an activity addiction such as gambling), and then what that behavior costs them. If the addictive behavior is significant, the CBA will reveal that the benefits of the behavior are short-term and the costs long-term. More importantly, if it is a significant addiction, the costs will dramatically outweigh the benefits. In many cases participants will not have listed out these costs and benefits. The hope in using the tool is that by looking at all costs and benefits set out together, the participant will be more likely to draw the conclusion that the disinterested individual would draw, that the addictive behavior is damaging overall, despite its momentary benefits.
Are there any other notable SMART Recovery tools?
Also very commonly used is the ABC, formulated by Albert Ellis, the creator of Rational Emotive Therapy (REBT). The A stands for Activating event, the B for underlying Belief, and the C for emotional or behavioral consequence. Simply stated, when events occur, our emotional or behavioral response is not directly caused by the event, but by our interpretation of it. For instance, I could tell you someone is getting a divorce. Based on that one fact, you have no idea how the individual feels about the divorce. The individual could feel any feeling you could imagine, but each would be based on different interpretation about what the divorce means. The individual who is angry about the divorced is interpreting that evident differently than the individual who feels fearful or depressed. Of course, we often have multiple emotional responses to events, or sequences of responses. The point, however, is that when we look beyond A and C, and realize that B might be questioned and modified, we can gain control over our behavior and emotional life. We will not eliminate negative emotions, but we might often be able to reduce panic to concern, rage to irritation, and depression to sadness.
What does a SMART Recovery meeting look and feel like?
If someone has attended a 12-step meeting, SMART Recovery may look and feel rather different. The biggest differences are likely to be the discussion format, the effort to work on specific recovery tools, and the check-ins and check-outs that give everyone a chance to participate in sequence. Additionally, the language of the meeting is different. Although participants are free to use any language and terms they like, the facilitator will emphasize that SMART Recovery does not include the terms alcoholic, addict, higher power or disease.
What do you mean by a discussion format?
After a brief welcome, and going around the room for a brief check-in, the facilitator sets an agenda for the discussion section of the meeting. One or more topics may be selected, based on what was said during check-in. For instance, one participant may have had a slip, one participant may not be sure he is ready to stop drinking, and a third may be upset about work stress and concerned that a relapse is more likely. These facilitator would confirm that these participants are willing to discuss these issues. Then an order for discussing them would be decided on, and discussion would begin. For instance, if the first topic were the recent slip, the discussion might begin with a presentation of the basic facts of the event by the participant. Then other participants might ask questions, to enhance their understanding of what occurred. Depending on how the discussion unfolded, it might end with the participant having “gotten off his chest” what happened, or it might move on to a tool that could be employed.
Are there any other noteworthy aspects of a SMART Recovery meeting?
My favorite meetings are the ones in which the participants open up deeply. Perhaps it is to discuss a recent slip or relapse. Perhaps it is to discuss a highly emotional event that might interfere with recovery. In some cases the meeting might not even use a tool to address these issues, but simply allow open expression and discussion of difficult issues. In these discussions many participants may reveal experiences similar to the experience that started the conversation. As with any support group on any subject, just knowing that you are not alone can be enormously helpful.
Addiction treatment options
If you are interested in learning more about addiction treatment options, or are interested in learning more about SMART please leave us a message below. We answer your questions quickly and personally.
Tom Horvath, Ph.D., is a California licensed and board certified (ABPP) clinical psychologist. He is the founder and president of Practical Recovery, a self-empowering addiction treatment system in San Diego. He is past president of the American Psychological Association’s Society of Addiction Psychology (Division 50), the world’s largest organization of addiction psychologists. He is the author of Sex, Drugs, Gambling & Chocolate: A Workbook for Overcoming Addictions (listed by the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies as a “Self-Help Book of Merit”). He has been involved with SMART Recovery since 1990, and president for over a decade.