What Happens During a SMART Recovery Meeting?

By Boris M | 19 February, 2019


If you are reading this article, then it’s likely you are at least contemplating attending your first SMART Recovery Meeting. Perhaps Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous wasn’t for you and you wish to attend a meeting that’s less secular and more scientific in its outlook.

If that’s the case, then choosing to attend a SMART Recovery meeting is perhaps the best decision you will make this year!

The thought of attending a mutual support group for the first time in your life is likely to instigate a mixture of emotions such as excitement, anticipation, anxiety and fear. That’s perfectly normal and not something to worry about too much. Once you have completed this guide, we hope the positive emotions that arise through anticipation outweigh the negative.

At Rehab 4 Addiction, all of our advisors are themselves in recovery, so we know exactly how you might be feeling right now as you contemplate attending a mutual support group for the first time.

But rest assure that experiencing these mixed emotions is well worth it in the end because SMART Recovery will arm you with many strategies that serve to strengthen your recovery. You will also meet many incredible people who serve as wonderful role models for all those who are new to the group.

The SMART Recovery 4-Point Programme

SMART Recovery meetings are based on a 4-Point Programme. This programme is underpinned on scientific principles. The 4-Point Programme helps you gain your independence from your addiction. This applies equally to both substance misuse and behavioural addiction. The 4-Point Programme consists of a variety of techniques and ideas that assist you in undergoing a life-transforming process.

You will shift from a position of self-destruction to a position where you feel satisfied and pro-active in how you manage your life.

Below, we list each of the 4 Points:

  • Point 1 – Building and Maintaining Motivation
  • Point 2 – Coping with Urges
  • Point 3 – Managing Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviours
  • Point 4 – Living a Balanced Life

In practice, each point is seldom carried out in the exact same order for each individual attending a SMART Recovery meeting. You will always begin with Point 1, but you are unlikely to move from Point 1 to Point 4 in incremental steps.

Instead, you are likely to take a step back as obstacles and challenges take their toll on your recovery. This should not equate with failure. Recovery is a lifelong process and it takes time and great effort to secure a Balanced Life that Point 4 requires.

Helpful Information to prepare you for a SMART Recovery meeting

Now you are acquainted with the 4-Point Programme, we shall now discuss practical points that serve to prepare you for an actual meeting. This advice covers both online and in-person SMART Recovery meetings.

Below, we offer a number of facts that help to outline SMART Recovery’s approach:

  1. No emphasis is placed in a ‘higher power’: this contrasts with 12-step programmes that expressly ask participants to rely on a ‘higher power’. This ‘higher power’ often infers some form of deity, although not always. The concept of a ‘higher power’ conflicts with some people’s belief systems, and so avoiding this concept is helpful to those who do not want to subscribe to the idea of a ‘higher power’
  2. There is no obligation to talk during a SMART Recovery meeting: at the beginning of SMART Recovery meetings, members conduct what is known as the ‘check-in’ activity. This is where members introduce themselves and discuss the challenges they have met since their last group meeting. However, you are not required to participate in check-in. You may merely sit back and passively listen. You can participate in this task when you are ready to do so
  3. Emphasis is placed on the concept of ‘self-management’: given SMART stands for ‘self-management and recovery training’, it perhaps will not come as a surprise that much emphasis is placed upon ‘self-management’. SMART Recovery as an organisation strongly believes that each person has the power within themselves to enact positive changes and to rebuild an existence that’s healthy and sustainable. This helps to foster the belief that you yourself are in total charge of your recovery and your destiny
  4. SMART Recovery encourages you to discuss your recovery story, rather than your ‘war’ stories: this means the emphasis is put upon the good you are currently doing in your life. SMART Recovery meetings are not about dwelling on the negative experiences that led to and sustained your addiction
  5. Other members will not judge you, no matter what you are coping with right now: SMART Recovery assists with all manner of addictions, including addiction to drugs, alcohol, sex, relationships and eating, amongst others. Nobody in the group will label you an ‘addict’ or ‘alcoholic’. SMART Recovery feels such labels are unhelpful and often counter-productive in helping you achieve your recovery goals
  6. It’s OK if you relapse: SMART Recovery will not negatively penalise you if you relapse: this is often the case with 12-step meetings where it is not unknown for members to be banished from the group for relapsing. Instead, SMART Recovery views relapse as a natural part of the recovery process. You are encouraged to learn from your relapse and move on
  7. Meetings are owned by the attendees themselves: although a facilitator is present during each SMART Recovery meeting, the role of the facilitator is not to present or ‘teach’. Instead, the facilitator’s role is merely to encourage members to engage with one another in a constructive manner. Facilitators will contribute to this engagement and introduce SMART Recovery’s resources and tools where it is helpful to do so
  8. SMART Recovery makes available tools and resources to aid your recovery: tools and resources are what really set SMART Recovery apart from other mutual support organisations. Example tools utilised during group meetings include a cost/benefit analysis, a change plan worksheet and roleplaying/rehearsing. These tools are underpinned by both cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and rational emotive behavioural therapy (REBT). You will be encouraged to master these tools during meetings. In time, these tools will become subconscious to you, and they will assist you in your everyday life in coping and dealing with stressful and challenging situations that may otherwise pose a threat to your recovery. A full list of these tools can be found here.
  9. SMART Recovery maintains a lively online recovery community: this may be particularly useful if a local person-to-person meeting is not available close to your home town. The online community may also help if you are new to recovery and you wish to learn more about SMART Recovery before you commit to an in-person meeting. You may join the online forum by clicking here.

How effective is SMART Recovery for helping me succeed in my recovery?

SMART Recovery’s ability to help you is determined by your ability to help yourself. After all, SMART stands for ‘self-management’. This means you ultimately get out of SMART what you are willing to put in.

Whilst it is true you will need to work hard on your recovery no matter which support group you attend, this is particularly the case with SMART Recovery given its founding principles, tools and resources are founded upon scientific and not spiritual principles.

What’s the history of SMART Recovery?

SMART Recovery was founded in 1994. SMART Recovery was created because the founders could see the need for a mutual support organisation founded on scientific and psychological principles. This would serve as an alternative to existing meetings that emphasised spirituality.

Today, SMART Recovery is truly a global organisation. More than 3,000 meetings take place each week across 23 counties. Also, SMART Recovery maintains a thriving online community. There are more than 25 online meetings. This is complemented by an internet message board forums and chat rooms.

How may I locate a SMART Recovery Meeting near me?

To locate an in-person SMART Recovery meeting, simply click here and type in your postcode. You will then be able to view SMART Recovery meetings taking place in your local area. It’s likely your location will be served by many different SMART Recovery meetings. If you live in a remote region, you may struggle to locate a meeting that’s within a reasonable commuting distance. If this is the case, click here to join the online community instead.

When is a SMART Recovery Meeting not suitable?

If you are physically addicted to drugs such as opiates or alcohol, then you will require the services of a drug and alcohol detox clinic. When you suddenly stop using these drugs, you will begin to experience potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms require professional medical treatment.

To local a suitable drug and alcohol rehab clinic, contact Rehab 4 Addiction today on 0800 140 4690.

3 Reasons Why Recovery Coaching Works

Victory from Addiction and Recovery

As we gain a better understanding of how these drugs work on our minds, body, and spirit, we begin to realize that breaking free from the hold these substances have involves more than just getting rid of the drugs. According to the Life Coach Hub, the problem is not just about the drug itself.

“A recovery coach supports your recovery from addiction. With coaching, you can create a new and better life for yourself. Addictions become so ingrained that you hard wire your brain to do the negative behavior. Coaching is an ideal way to empower yourself to make necessary changes.”

When it comes down to it, the drug is only the catalyst that opens the door to negative behavioral patterns. Because they offer strength-based guidance and tap into the here and now aspects of treatment, they are able to accomplish many areas that are not usually addressed in typical therapeutic sessions.

Minute to Minute

While therapy works at getting to the root of the addiction, Coaching helps you to cope with the minute-by-minute challenges that usually cause people to fail at sobriety. When you’re in a treatment facility, things may be a lot easier than life could be when you’re in real life situations. Recovery Coaches serve as a guide as you begin to relive your life again in the real world. They help you face risks that could put your sobriety in jeopardy.  As they explain at Transcend,

“Once you return home from a sober living program or a residential treatment center and you return to your home community, there may be risky situations that could jeopardize your recovery. Having a coach can shield you from these risky situations, facilitating healthy decisions, serving as a reminder of your sobriety, and supporting you in your long-term goals.”

Recovery Coaches are the ones that give you the tools needed to fight back when the world of harmful substances start to close in on you again.

It’s a Partnership

It is difficult enough to get sober after addiction and it is even more challenging to stay sober without help from others around you. With a Recovery Coach, no one needs to feel like they have to fight the battle completely on their own. They are there to supply the support for the decisions you will have to make in order to remain clean. They help you to focus on your values and guide you in making principle-based decisions that will help you to develop the necessary course of action to fight the powerful attraction of drugs. They even direct your thinking toward your more positive strengths and keep your mind trained on future goals.

They Focus on the Outside World

Their non-clinical approach focuses on the external environment that people must live with. They guide you in decisions on housing, employment, court cases, and even meetings probation officers if needed. These are situations where people who have already undergone detox and treatment centers tend to wane from the stress and fall into relapse. According to the Addiction Pro,

Recovery Coaches focus on non-clinical issues such as housing, employment, proceeding through drug court, and dealing with probation officers… Recovery coaches also can help engage people who are waiting to get into treatment.”

Once you realize that getting sober involves much more than just ridding yourself of the drug in your system then you come to realize just how important a role the Recovery Coach plays. While the therapist helps with finding out what caused the addiction the coach is helping out with how to avoid other traps that could lure you back into the practice. This requires a change in lifestyle and being able to identify and make different decisions as you work your way back into your environment again.

11 Awesome Benefits of an Online Recovery Coach

When you are dealing with substance abuse, it is hard enough to break the habit without the needed support. Nearly anyone who has gone through the treatment process for recovery will tell you that it can be very taxing even under the best of conditions. For that reason, more people find success in incorporating a Recovery Coach in the healing process to motivate, support, and give them a push when it becomes necessary.

Client With Recovery Coach

“Similar to life and business coaching, Recovery Coaching (also known as peer mentoring) is a type of partnership where the person in or seeking recovery self directs his/her recovery while the coach provides expertise in supporting successful change.”

Because the coach focuses on honoring the values and principle-based decisions one needs to make, they can be invaluable in helping the user to develop their own plan of action and guide them in using their personal strengths in attaining future goals. They are in fact a partner in the entire healing process.

Benefits of Using an Online Coach

While every case of substance abuse treatment is different there is a recovery coach that can be of great benefit to everyone. In fact, a recent study revealed that online coaching provided even more advantages to the recovering addict that was originally expected.

The study analyzed whether adding an online aspect to the coaching program would improve participation and if it would help more people to get involved in the program. The results were very encouraging. According to their findings published in NCBI.nim.nih.gov,

“Our results indicate that online coaching from a peer specialist significantly increased engagement and retention in MyRecoveryPlan.com. Future research should examine the effect of adding peer coaching to other online programs on quality of life and daily functioning.”

Benefits of Recovery Coaching

There are many reasons for the many benefits of an online recovery coach session.

  1. It can be done any time in your busy schedule so it fits better into your normal life patterns, especially with the advent of Online Recovery Coaches who you can confer with face-to-face in the comfort and privacy of your home.
  2. Recovery Coaches Empower clients in order to move them from Recovery to Discovery.
  3. Recovery Coaches Make themselves accessible via text, phone, and email during Critical times (i.e “Triggers”, Holidays) throughout recovery.
  4. Take a Non-Biased approach to recovery and substance use disorder.
  5. Recovery Coaches “bridge” the gap between the client and family for recovery resources.
  6. Recovery Coaches help provide awareness of “Life Purpose” beyond recovery.
  7. Recovery Coaches help reduce or eliminate relapse.
  8. Recovery Coaches help build confidence with skills in areas of the clients’ life pertaining to career, family, health/wellness and relationships
  9. It works well for those who may live out of commonly populated areas where coaches may be difficult to find.
  10. It eliminates the need to come to an office for your treatment.
  11. You get the same benefits of structured and direct programs, as an in-person coaching session would bring.

Recovery from substance abuse can be difficult no matter how you look at it. The treatment alone can be very taxing for a recovering addict so having the kind of support you need at your disposal can prove to be one of your best lines of defense against a relapse.

Once an addict has completed their initial treatment and is sober, they are only halfway through the battle. The recovery process is an extended period of treatment where they need to learn how to maintain their soberness. The coach is there to help with the early stages of reinserting yourself back into life. They can help with pointing out valuable coping strategies and strengthen an individual’s awareness of their own attempts at self-sabotage and prevent a relapse.

For those struggling with any type of substance abuse, getting sober can seem impossible. While no treatment is effective for everyone, statistics show that there is a much greater chance of success if you’re not doing it alone. No matter how hopeless your situation may seem, getting a recovery coach may be the best way to take that tough road to stay sober. As they point out in the Help Guide,

“ Whatever treatment approach you choose, having positive influences and a solid support system is essential. The more people you can turn to for encouragement, guidance, and a listening ear, the better your chances for recovery.”

Factors to Consider Before Staging an Intervention

by Thaddeus Camlin, Psy.D.

Practical Recovery Treatment Center, San Diego, CA

Posted January 24, 2020

Consider these five factors before staging an addiction intervention

If a loved one is struggling with addictive problems and not interested in treatment, the overwhelming message from society is that staging an addiction intervention is the best way to help.  Interventions, like the ones depicted on television, generally involve a paid interventionist who coaches family members and friends on how to confront so-called ‘addicts’ and get them to agree to go to rehab.  For some, it may be surprising to learn that addiction interventions are only successful in encouraging a loved one to enter treatment around 30% of the time

Furthermore, when interventions are not successful they can backfire in truly horrific ways.  Thus, it might be helpful to consider these five factors before staging an intervention.

1.  Other Options are More Effective  

Research clearly shows that other approaches are more effective in encouraging a loved one to get help.  For example, CRAFT is successful in encouraging a loved one to get help about 65% of the time, far superior to the success rate of about 30% in classic interventions.  

2.  When Addiction Interventions Don’t Work, the Fallout Can be Devastating  

The potential damage of gathering all of someone’s friends and family together and threatening to abandon that person during a time of need might seem obvious to some, however, when a self-proclaimed addiction expert is telling people that the best way to encourage change is to “confront the addict’s denial,” it is understandable that some families and friends listen.  When interventions backfire, they sometimes backfire in a fashion even more dramatic than the intervention itself. People can leave interventions feeling betrayed, scared, and completely alone – a perfect recipe for a heroic ingestion of substances that, sometimes, results in overdoses and fatalities.

3.  Confrontation Increases Resistance to Change  

Psychological reactance is a real human phenomenon, and backing someone into a corner is a great way to elicit it.  When we feel our autonomy impinged upon, it is natural to act in a way that re-establishes it.  Thus, when people are confronted in an intervention, increased resistance to change is a more likely outcome than agreement to change.

4.  Some Interventionists Believe Only in 12-Steps

Multiple pathways to recovery is a clearly defined reality in the field of treating addictive problems.  However, some interventionists believe 12-Step approaches are the only way to recover and would lump a loved one’s request to participate in something like medication-assisted treatment or SMART Recovery under the categories of denial and drug-seeking behavior.  If you believe your loved one would benefit from a self-empowering approach to overcoming addictive problems, an addiction intervention may not be the best way to encourage change.  Asking a potential interventionist what her or his thoughts are about self-empowering approaches is a good way to gauge openness to multiple pathways to recovery.

5. Interventions can Hinder Engagement in Treatment

Even if a loved one does agree to go to treatment after an intervention, they may get to treatment resentful and determined to get nothing out of it.  Many times people agree to go to treatment after an intervention to buy themselves some time and to avoid the consequences threatened at the intervention, not because they are ready to change.  Additionally, as noted in the book Beyond Addiction, research shows that people who enter rehab after an addiction intervention are more likely to relapse upon discharge than people who enter treatment without an intervention.  External motivators, like an intervention, are much less likely to result in lasting change than internal motivators. Offering choices rather than ultimatums is a great way to increase a loved one’s sense of autonomy and the likelihood of genuine engagement in treatment and sustained change.

South Dakota Man Looks to Improve State’s Drug Courts

By Arielle Zionts

Rapid City Journal

Feb. 11, 2019

A recovering addict in South Dakota has been thinking of ways to solve the state’s methamphetamine problem.

The Associated Press

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Ideas on how to solve the state’s methamphetamine problems have been racing through the mind of Jay Erickson.

The 45-year-old Rapid City resident and small business owner has developed proposals based on his years of experience as a recovering meth addict, drug court participant and prisoner.

“I’m the kind of addict that needs to get the the bottom of why I can’t stay quit,” he told the Rapid City Journal.

With the South Dakota legislative session in full swing, politicians and criminal justice officials are also looking for ways to address widespread meth use and its contribution to crime and crowded jails and prisons.

Proposed solutions range from taking away presumptive probation, to building a prison for meth users, to increasing funding for drug treatment, to exploring alternatives to imprisonment for those convicted of ingesting drugs.

Erickson, who has speckled gray hair and a bright smile, spoke with confidence and passion as he explained his recipe for improving the system.

In his ideal world, the law against ingesting drugs would be abolished or become a misdemeanor. South Dakota is the only state where it’s a felony, he pointed out.

“You’re not (necessarily) driving, you’re just high, or even coming down, you could have been high three days ago but it’s still in your system,” he said.

He said drug possession, but not drug dealing, should be treated like DUIs: the first two offenses are misdemeanors and only becomes a felony after the third offense.

Addicts often need many chances to achieve the difficult task of quitting drugs, and that change would give them more time to do so before becoming a felon, which can greatly limit a person’s housing and job options, he said.

“I would have been very motivated to not become a felon,” Erickson said.

In a 2016 study, the Urban Institute, a D.C.-based think tank, suggested reclassifying drug ingestion and possession as misdemeanors in order to improve on the successes of a 2013 criminal justice reform bill. The ACLU of South Dakota said it supports making drug ingestion a misdemeanor.

Erickson said police should focus less on drugs users and more on drug dealers and preventing meth from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Which one is more of a threat to society or to themselves or to others? The guy who can get another 100 people high, or the guy who’s got (evidence of drug use) in their urine?” he asked.

Lastly, Erickson said, we need to fund treatment places and widen access to treatment within prison.

One thing that won’t work, he said, is the idea that the threat of prison can deter drug addicts.

“You could say that you’re going to cut the person’s arm off the next time they use, they’re going to do it anyway,” Erickson said, calling addiction “a nightmare.”

Erickson, who grew up in Rapid City, said he was first introduced to meth around 2006. He was prescribed Oxycontin after a four-wheeler accident and his friend started stealing and selling his drugs without his knowledge. The friend brought back cocaine and shared it with him, but Erickson later switched to using meth because it’s much cheaper. He said he turned to drugs because he was depressed from being immobile.

Erickson said he eventually quit using drugs on his own, got married and had two boys. But he would relapse and then quit every six to 12 months, a cycle that caused pain for his family and contributed to his divorce.

After he and his wife separated in 2011, Erickson said, he looked into treatment for the first time. He was interested in the Keystone Treatment Center, but the facility didn’t accept his insurance.

“I just didn’t have that kind of money or insurance coverage. Still don’t,” he said.

Instead, he signed up for a more affordable program, an intensive outpatient program run by Pennington County. He said most of the participants were there on court order, whereas he was there of his own free will.

“As soon as the person giving the course would leave the room, everybody’s talking about getting high,” Erickson recalled. “If you really want to quit, your heart has to be in it,” he said.

Erickson said the first time he was caught using drugs was in 2012. He said he kicked some friends out of his home after learning they were stealing from him, and they reported him to the police. He was convicted of drug possession and grand theft, according to Erickson and his profile on the Department of Correction’s website. He said the grand theft charge was for pawning stolen items, including a gun that his friends brought to him.

“I didn’t know, but should have known, that they were stolen,” he said. “But I was so desperate to get more (money for meth) that I guess I didn’t care.”

Erickson was given probation in August 2013 and stayed clean for more than a year until he was caught relapsing, court records show.

When he was brought to court for his probation violation, Erickson said, he asked the judge if he could be ordered to attend an inpatient program, but the judge said that wasn’t an option. But the judge said if he pleaded guilty, he could participate in the Sturgis drug court. The Rapid City specialty court didn’t open until 2016.

“We need to have a conviction out of you before we can treat you. Well the problem is you become a felon,” Erickson said.

Erickson explained how becoming a felon can lead to a difficult cycle, especially for those who live in low-income areas of Rapid City and reservations where meth is widespread.

“When these people haven nothing else, what are they going to do besides get high or decide to try selling? Especially when now you’re a felon and you need to check the felon box to get housing or you need to check the felon box to get a job.”

Erickson said he’s lucky, because even though he will likely never be able to use his nursing license again, he was able to work at his small family-owned business.

“I did go ahead and take drug court because I was accepting it was the only help I had available to me. I thought great, here’s something that’s going to keep me accountable and monitor me.”

The purpose of drug court is to avoid sending people to prison, treat addiction and prevent recidivism, according to the program’s website. It involves random drug screenings, and individual and group therapy and drug counseling. Graduating from the program means avoiding prison, but it doesn’t erase your conviction. A 2018 study by the Legislative Research Council found that graduates of the Sturgis and Sioux Falls drug courts were less likely to re-offend than those who didn’t graduate and those who were served through the traditional court.

After beginning drug court in late 2014, Erickson said he relapsed three times until he was formally kicked out of the program in 2016. He said he knows one participant who was booted from the program after one relapse and another who had 11 chances.

It’s “totally arbitrary,” Erickson said.

Arman Zeljkovic, a prosecutor with the Pennington County State’s Attorney Office, confirmed that it’s up to the judge to determine how many chances people have in drug court. He said that if someone does relapse, they have the right to be represented by an attorney during a termination proceeding and evidentiary hearing.

After failing to graduate from drug court, Erickson was sentenced to eight years in prison. The sentence translated to spending a few weeks getting processed at the prison in Sioux Falls and then being incarcerated at the Rapid City Community Work Center, a minimum-security prison, for 2.5 years. Toward the end of his stay, Erickson said, he was allowed to leave the facility to work during the day.

While Erickson voluntarily signed up for coping skills and group therapy classes in prison, he said an assessment he took found he didn’t qualify for the more intensive drug-treatment programs.

“I was addicted enough to get an eight-year sentence but not addicted enough to get treatment,” he said, adding that people brought drugs back into the facility after returning from work. Erickson said he supports South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg’s idea to build a prison specifically for people addicted to meth, so all addicts can get intensive treatment. But he noted that being in prison without intensive treatment was “not the answer.”

Erickson said he was released from the Rapid City facility on Oct. 4, 2018. He would have to spend two more years on parole.

But just eight days later, he was arrested for allegedly possessing meth and having a positive drug test, police records show.

Erickson’s idea to treat drug possession like DUIs is based on the theory that people will have more chances to avoid racking up a harmful felony.

“What they’ve got to do is provide a person chances. And that’s the biggest thing I think an addict needs is one more chance.”

But some might say Erickson had his chances to quit for good when he was attending the county treatment program, and especially when he was in drug court.

“You’re absolutely right,” he said. “Any addict wants to quit and is torn between (quitting and using). I think the best definition of addiction is continuing a bad behavior despite negative consequences.

“Anybody who’s smoked and tried to quit will understand. Anybody who struggles with eating will understand. ‘Why did I eat that pizza? Why did I have those extra two slices when I know this isn’t what I wanted to do?'”

“There’s bigger consequences (for using drugs) but the concept is the same” as other addictions, he explained.

Jay said he’s stayed sober since his most recent arrest and is focusing on keeping clean, one day at a time.

“My plan is to beat the charge, and I don’t trust the system anymore,” Erickson said. “My best bet at this point is to get that charge dropped and then to build my life.”

Because he is on parole, he can’t participate in drug court again. People can’t be in drug court since it’s a probation sentence and part of the judicial system and also on parole, part of the Department of Corrections, Zeljkovic said.

Erickson said he thinks the key for him to stay sober is to work with his therapist to get to the root of why he uses meth.

He also leans on the support of his parents and church, attends Alcoholics Anonymous and a Christian support group for addicts, and participates in group therapy as part of his parole. He’s motivated to permanently quit by his new support system and the possibility of gaining some custody of his two younger children.

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