WHAT IT IS
SMART stands for Self Management And Recovery Training.
SMART is a group program designed to assist people who want to change behaviours that are a problem for them. In theory, this could be anything from gambling to shopping or cigarettes to sex, but the majority of attendees come to change the way they use drugs or alcohol. SMART began in the USA and has been in Australia since 2006.
The SMART program is based around weekly attendance at a 90 minute meeting. Discussion is led by a facilitator specially trained in a combination of evidence-based techniques and tools including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing. A number of rehabs, drug and alcohol services and Aboriginal health services are using the SMART way to help their service users make life changes.
The SMART program doesn’t focus on any particular substance, it’s about changing your behaviour by looking at underlying issues. Co-ordinator Josette Freeman says “SMART isn’t therapy or counselling; it’s about finding immediate solutions to immediate problems. By focusing on your strengths, a facilitator helps you to set goals and work through how to reach them.”
The SMART catchphrase is: “Come with a purpose, leave with a plan”.
HOW IT WORKS
Smart recovery is based on a 4 Point program.
1. Enhancing and maintaining motivation
2. Coping with urges
3. Problem solving
4. Lifestyle balance
Unlike other programs which confront your past, SMART techniques focus on the present. Josette explains: “SMART Recovery is not a lifetime program. It’s about learning the tools and skills to live the life you want, and then going out there and applying those things. It’s about practicing what you’ve learnt, trying all the suggestions.” Most people attend SMART meetings until they are confident they have learned what they need to reach their goals. However there are no limits to the number of times people can come back if they need more help or if their goals change.
SMART Recovery Australia differs from most programs that use the term “recovery” because it is not abstinence focused. Josette told User’s News: “Your plan is whatever you want. Your goal does not have to be abstinence.” Nonabstinence goals could include wanting to only use on the weekends; to reduce your alcohol use but not your drug use; or to just change a particular risky way of using. Unlike programs that focus on being completely drug-free, SMART has no issue with your pain medication or substitution therapy like methadone or modafinal. Josette explains further: “Your facilitator may suggest that you work on whatever is causing you most grief however your goals are your choice. Only you decide and only you are accountable. There is no ‘clean time’, no judgement, no punishment.”
WHAT TO EXPECT
There are usually around six participants plus the facilitator at each SMART meeting. The facilitator welcomes and introduces the participants and then ensures the group stays focused so everyone gets what they need out of the session.
There are no labels - no “addict”, “alcoholic”, “junkie”. If participants self-label, that’s accepted, but the facilitator doesn’t use labels and encourages participants not to apply labels to other people.
There is no religious aspect. If participants want to use a “God” or incorporate things like mindfulness, meditation or yoga that’s fine too - but it’s not a group thing and it’s not part of the SMART way.
Discussion only focuses on the 7 days before the meeting and the 7 days following it. Regulars are asked how their last week has been, and what they want to talk about that day. Those who had just experienced a difficult week would be encouraged to look at what interfered with their plan and how they could respond differently next time. New people are asked what brought them to SMART Recovery and what they want to get out of it. By the end of the meeting, everyone has worked out a realistic goal for the following week and has a set of strategies and skills to help them identify and work through triggers that might trip them up.
There is no drug talk at SMART meetings. The discussion is around feelings like anxiety, depression, anger, stress and loneliness and how to deal with them.
SMART Recovery has useful resources and worksheets to support participants but they are not used in the group sessions. They include things like a balance sheet to weigh up the pros and cons of behaviour, a log to note cravings and urges and a tool for setting goals.
WHAT’S THE COST?
Attendance at SMART meetings is free to participants, although they do “pass the hat”.
MORE INFO & MEETING SCHEDULES
There are currently 175 meetings nationwide, nearly half of which are in NSW.
Call SMART on 02 9373 5100 during office hours to find out more or ask if there is a meeting near you. Their website www.smartrecoveryaustralia. com.au has a full meetings list and lots of great information like worksheets and research articles. You can also call ADIS on 02 9361 8000 or 1800 422 599 (open all day every day) for meeting details.