One complaint that people have about 12-step programs is that they are not based on science. 12-step programs are based on Alcoholics Anonymous which was founded in 1935 as a spiritually based program of recovery from alcohol overuse. Since the founding of AA, addiction treatment programs have based their protocols on a foundation of 12-step recovery, using the AA fellowship as a template.
SMART Recovery not only provides a secular alternative to 12-step programs. It is also based on the science of psychological addiction treatments. There are facilitators who run the group and the meetings. These facilitators are supported by professionals in their volunteer work in SMART Recovery. There are live meetings in the community as well as online meetings using chat in a chat room or other online mechanisms.
Psychological tools such as REBT and CBT, MET, and motivational interviewing may be a part of the support groups of SMART. SMART Recovery meetings use these tools to assist members in overcoming substance abuse and alcoholism. Of course, SMART Recovery meetings do not replace sessions with a psychologist or doctor visits. It is important to first start treatment with a qualified psychologist and medical doctor or osteopathic physician.
The benefit of SMART Recovery having online meetings is that new members who are uncomfortable with showing up in person to support groups at first can find comfort in the true anonymity of an online chat room. While there are online NA meetings, these may be more limiting in that NA and AA are traditionally in-person groups. The members of an NA or AA chat room may recommend to new members that they should first go to a community meeting. This should be an individual decision.
Alcoholics who are involved in medication-assisted treatment, with naltrexone, for example, may find that SMART Recovery works better for them than the traditional 12-step model. As a scientifically based program, SMART Recovery is consistent with medical treatment and is not held back by outdated beliefs that medication cannot be helpful in treating alcoholism. Opioid addicts will also find that SMART Recovery may be a better program for them than 12-step groups that frown upon the medication-assisted treatment protocols, even though MAT has a very high success rate.
While SMART Recovery is a science-based recovery program for the individual who wants a more modern support group that applies current scientific knowledge, the success rates of SMART alone may not be very high without the support of a licensed doctor of psychology and a medical or osteopathic doctor. This is particularly true in the case of opiate addiction and alcohol use disorder, though even other drug use disorders will benefit from medical treatment. Regardless of the addiction, seeing a trained psychologist is essential.
While seeing a doctor is important, if you have made an appointment and you will not be seen for a few days or weeks, you can still benefit from attending meetings right away. Whether it is a face-to-face meeting or an online chat, getting involved in recovery from addiction will be a step in the right direction. And, while many people will choose to go to non-12-step meetings such as SMART, if you prefer a more spiritually based program that involves prayer and the belief in a higher power, you may choose to go the 12-step route instead.
If you are undecided, you may want to go to meetings of various types, in the beginning, to see what feels right to you. You can try out NA meetings, AA meetings, LifeRing, and SMART. For alcoholics interested in The Sinclair Method of pharmacological extinction of alcoholism, you may be interested to check out the C Three Foundation online where there are additional support group meetings via either online chat or even voice chat.