S.M.A.R.T. : Self-Management and Recovery Training
Written by Sarah Siegel

Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) is a mental health and educational program that centers on changing human behavior, thoughts and feelings. It is designed to empower people to abstain from substances or behaviors that cause suffering and to help them develop positive lifestyles.

SMART uses evidence based treatment tools that change as scientific understanding of addiction changes, with particular emphasis on a type of cognitive behavioral psychotherapy called Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. SMART Recovery does not have a spiritual component, but people of all faiths and backgrounds are welcome in the group and can incorporate their own religious or spiritual beliefs into their healing as they see fit. In SMART Recovery, religion and spirituality are considered a matter of personal preference, not a necessity for recovery. The locus of power is centered entirely on the individual and on one’s ability to use the different tools and methods contained within the program to heal and change through self-knowledge.

SMART Recovery emphasizes four key areas of awareness and change. These are:

(1) Building and maintaining motivation.
(2) Coping with urges.
(3) Managing thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
(4) Living a balanced life.

According to SMART Recovery’s website, the primary tool used by those in the program is the ABC Tool, which helps us understand how our thoughts impact both our emotions and behavior. If we change our thinking, our feelings and actions will also change. Michael Mihailos of the Portland Recovery Community Center has found great value in the SMART Recovery program. Mihailos, who is in recovery, first connected with SMART in New York City, where he grew up. However, it wasn’t until he found himself in Maine that he decided to really “try everything,” which led him to visit many different types of groups and programs and ultimately brought him back to SMART Recovery.

One of the major obstacles for Mihailos in other programs was the religious aspect. While he respects other faiths, personally, he struggled with the prescribed method of prayer. “A lot of people thought I was an atheist, but it’s the opposite,” Mihailos said. “I’m Eastern Orthodox Christian.” He simply felt uncomfortable when it came to following a path of recovery that included a religious component that differed from his own. “Spirituality cannot be forced. It must be felt,” says Mahailos. Ultimately, SMART Recovery resonated with him because of its focus on self-empowerment.

“The resources were there and I used the resources,” Mahailos says. He believes that it doesn’t matter what group or program you use, as long as you put in the effort — and, he says, it doesn’t need to be done perfectly. He sees healing as a process and says it is important to find a recovery program that resonates with your own personal views and beliefs. As a result of his personal experience using the SMART program in his own recovery, Mahailos has become a facilitator of a SMART Recovery group at PRCC and supports others as they walk their own, personal paths of recovery.

For more information on SMART Recovery, visit www.smartrecovery.org

Sarah Siegel

Sarah Siegel

Sarah Siegel is a recovery coach at Crossroads as part of an innovative project with Portland Recovery Community Center. She has been in recovery from opioid use disorder and substance use disorder since 2007 and from working the sex industry since 2003. Today she is a mother, interfaith minister, meditation coach and writer.