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12-Steps Program vs. Smart Recovery: Choosing What Fits

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Treatment for substance use disorder comes in many forms and understanding the options available can often help you take the first steps towards recovery and forming better lifelong habits. While there’s a myriad of options available, let’s take a look two programs that are particularly popular during sobriety journeys and how you might choose between them.

12 Step program vs Smart Recovery

12-Step Program

  • Are group of spiritual ideals that can help you on your way to recovery when you practice them as a way of life.
  • Regular meetings include sharing personal stories and confessing struggles to everyone in the room. Cross-talk is prohibited. 
  • Meetings are run largely by volunteers with no formal training but with a personal insight into recovery as they too have been through the same journey. 
  • Every participant must face that they are an alcoholic and use this term during meetings.

SMART Recovery Program 

  • Is a relatively new, science-based, self-empowering recovery tool that advocates for choice in recovery. It can be a good alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous programs like the 12-Step program.
  • Open discussion is welcomed in meetings. Meetings are discussion-oriented, and members are encouraged to engage with one another.
  • This program discourages labelling yourself.
  • Meetings are led by trained professionals who have not necessarily been in recovery but have extensive knowledge and understanding.

Choosing Empowerment

Where the 12-Step program often holds that individuals don’t have willpower strong enough to overcome addiction by themselves (i.e. you’re powerless in the face of addiction) SMART recovery is different in that it teaches individuals how to use self-reliance as a long-term tool to use on the road to sobriety.

SMART Recovery is grounded on individual empowerment, since the recovering individual needs to develop the willpower to recover ultimately within themselves (although they may have some help form professionals and peers). Your journey to recovery begins with you. Choosing between the two programs when it comes to empowerment requires a lot of self-reflection – at certain points in your recovery you might feel like either one of these statements are true.

Choosing Your Timeline

Often the 12-Step program is seen as an indefinite commitment for participants since recovery is an ongoing process that never ends. For those who take part in meetings, recovery is a journey lasts a lifetime. As long as you keep attending meetings you keep yourself on the path to sobriety.

SMART Recovery, on the face of it, seems to be a much shorter program lasting a matter of weeks or months. There is no expectation of a lifelong involvement in meetings but because SMART recovery provides you with the tools to face challenges like relapse and slips it can also set you on the road to recovery permanently.

guide to smart recovery

Choosing Your Treatment & Support

At the heart of the 12-Step program is sponsorship. Sponsors are guides that can take you provide support, particularly during early days of recovery. While SMART Recovery doesn’t involve sponsors, professional support is available during the meetings or from more experienced members of the group. Selecting between the two programs in terms of support, then, is a matter of what best suits your needs. For some people professional support can be key where other programs have failed, but the support of a sponsor is also powerful.

Additionally, where the 12-Step program doesn’t use medication, SMART Recovery can involve the use of appropriate prescribed medications and psychological methods together with SMART resources. Because of the co-occurrence of other mental health issues alongside substance use these partnering methods can offer a more rounded approach to recovery and set you on the path to success.

Choosing What Fits

Recovery is not a one-size-fits-all journey, so the program you select to use needs to be suited to you personally. At Aquila Recovery, we’ve seen many people take part in a number of different programs – each suited to them at their particular crossroads.

For some, the 12-Step program may meet their expectations while others may resonate more with the self-empowered focus of SMART recovery programs. At the end of the day, choosing your method of recovery is a very personal decision, and it’s all about finding the perfect fit for your personality and lifestyle. Whatever your approach, the goal is to help you get on the path to a sober life today.

At Aquila Recovery, we have a range of programs and activities designed to set you up on the road to success. Call us now and talk to one of our specialists. We’re ready to help you select the ideal program for you. We are here for you, and we can guide you and recommend the best treatment program for you entirely confidentially