Smart Recovery

What Is SMART Recovery?

SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training) is a treatment method based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT). At its core, SMART Recovery is defined by four goals for people with substance use problems:

  1. To maintain motivation for recovery.
  2. To cope with urges and cravings.
  3. To manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
  4. To lead a more balanced life.
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SMART Recovery encourages a holistic approach to changing detrimental behaviors. This means that it encompasses lifestyle changes, talk therapy methods, and community support groups to help people achieve long-term, lasting recovery.

The SMART Recovery process is one of the evidence-based treatment and support methods we recommend here at the AtoN Center in San Diego.

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SMART Recovery’s 4-Point Program

No matter the circumstances, long-term substance abuse is debilitating. We help our clients rebuild and reshape themselves through the SMART Recovery 4-point program.

Our California substance abuse treatment center focuses on individualized care and robust alternatives to the usual 12-Step approach to substance abuse treatment.

The SMART Recovery 4-point program succinctly embodies the principles of evidence-based addiction recovery treatment by incorporating modalities that improve physical and mental health, while tackling the social challenges of recovery.

Let’s take a closer look:


The SMART Recovery process also provides a framework for “SMART Recovery Family & Friends” meetings.

These meetings provide a dedicated arena for friends and family to share their experiences involving loved ones who struggle(d) with addiction.

Addiction can ravage relationships and often leaves people feeling isolated and alone. The SMART Recovery process recognizes the importance of fostering and nurturing a supportive home environment and keeping that crucial support system alive. It also recognizes the burden many friends and family members take on and helps them to sustain support groups with each other, through online or in-person meetings.


The 12 Step Program is one of the most common treatment frameworks for addiction in the United States. It focuses on the idea that people are powerless over their drug of choice and that they must give themselves over to a Higher Power for strength beyond their own.

In turn, the 12 Steps also encourage members to tackle addiction recovery with the support of an experienced member (a “sponsor”) and to do the same for others down the road.

The SMART Recovery process was first developed as an alternative to the 12 Step Program and does away with the required belief in a Higher Power, the focus on helplessness, and the reliance on experienced members as proxies for professional medical treatment.

It also does not require lifelong attendance, nor are people who seek treatment through the SMART Recovery process required to be involved in the treatment of others – although they can continue to attend meetings for as long as they want.

The Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) is a motivation-building tool. This tool identifies the short- and long-term “pros and cons” of engaging in a particular behavior (substance use). Residents also identify the short- and long-term “pros and cons” of not engaging in the same behavior. 


The CBA is processed thoroughly with a skilled member of the Clinical Team. Many residents report having increased motivation for recovery after utilizing this SMART Recovery® tool. The CBA can be used for other important decisions, such as making discharge plans and accepting anti-craving medication recommendations.

DISARM (Destructive Images and Self-talk Awareness and Refusal Method) is a technique that focuses on refuting urges to use substances. It can be utilized and practiced in therapy to tackle the negative self-talk threatening a resident’s resolve to stay sober. The first step in DISARM is identifying the thoughts, urges, and impulses that undermine one’s long-term goal of sobriety. Once the client has identified the negative self, they will begin to assess and understand how these adverse beliefs foster the urge to abuse substances.


Once the thoughts and beliefs have been identified, the clinician and resident aggressively attack them via role play in individual and group sessions. The clinician fortifies the client with coping mechanisms and self-affirmative statements that allow the resident to realize their long-term objective of attaining sobriety and wellness.

Values and Goals Clarification is a vital tool utilized at AToN Center. Its purpose is to assist our residents in maintaining motivation for recovery. Residents identify their values with the clinicians and plan appropriate short- and long-term goals that uphold their identified values.

SMART Recovery Provides Meetings Online and In-Person

We understand that clients who come to AToN Center will need ongoing support after they leave us. We encourage attendance at SMART Recovery meetings, held online or in-person, for as long as needed.

Meetings are 90 minutes long. They consist of a check-in, discussion, working on a relevant SMART Recovery tool, and a simple checkout.

Any SMART Recovery meeting is based on inclusivity, mutual respect, confidentiality, and non-judgmental behavior. People are encouraged to volunteer and discouraged from sharing or glorifying past behaviors that could trigger attendees (i.e., “war stories”).

SMART Recovery meetings help reinforce the fact that you’re not powerless. The focus of these community meetings is to identify problems in recovery and find solutions.

Online meetings are available to those who live in areas where face-to-face meetings are not available. Meetings are free, although the organization is grateful for donations.

Are You Ready To Get Sober With the Help of SMART Recovery?

Do you want to learn more about a typical SMART Recovery meeting, or the SMART Recovery process?

Do you have questions about the 4-Point Program?

If so, we welcome you to get in touch with AToN Center today.

Aside from the health risks of substance abuse, drug dependence wreaks havoc on the lives of everyone it touches. It robs you of joy, short-circuits your personal and professional goals, and harms your bond with your loved ones.

That ends today! Our specialized treatment programs offer an individualized approach to your addiction recovery journey today, allowing you to put your best foot forward against addiction.

Frequently Asked Questions About SMART Recovery

Who Benefits from the SMART Recovery Program Process?

The SMART Recovery process is designed for the treatment of substance use disorders but can also be used to treat and manage other addictive, and problematic behaviors.

Is SMART Recovery effective in helping individuals achieve long-term recovery?

While the existing data on the outcomes of SMART Recovery programs are promising, there are very few systematic reviews.

Research on the outcomes of the individual elements of the treatment process for substance abuse issues, however, has been very positive. CBT is considered a well-established intervention with demonstrated effectiveness, and a meta-analysis of REBT spanning fifty years found that it is a sound psychological intervention tool for anxiety disorders, depression, addiction treatment, and more.

We at AToN Center have personally seen the SMART Recovery process help countless people to achieve lasting recovery.

Is SMART Recovery suitable for individuals with co-occurring mental health issues?

Yes, SMART Recovery’s tools and techniques can be beneficial for individuals with co-occurring disorders, such as addiction with generalized anxiety disorder, or major depressive disorder.

The core principles of the treatment process – including a balanced approach to mental and physical wellness, and a focus on talk therapy – are consistent with the first-line treatment modalities for these dual diagnoses.