SMART Recovery groups and AA meetings are two of the most widely known support resources for people who have been struggling with addictions to alcohol and other drugs. When you understand the similarities and differences between SMART Recovery vs. AA, you can make the most informed choice about which approach is right for you.
What is SMART Recovery?
SMART Recovery is a secular addiction recovery model. The acronym SMART stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training.
As described on the organization’s website, SMART was created for people who are seeking “a self-empowering way to overcome addictive problems.” SMART Recovery takes a science-based approach to help people end their use of addictive substances and move away from other self-defeating behaviors.
SMART Recovery hosts free mutual support meetings in communities throughout the U.S. as well as online. The program also offers focused meetings and resources for veterans and first responders, young adults, members of the LGBTQ+ community, incarcerated individuals, and other special populations.
Founded in 1994 as an offshoot of Rational Recovery, SMART is registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
What is AA?
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international mutual aid movement to help people who have been struggling with alcohol use disorder (alcoholism).
AA created the 12-Step recovery method, which employs spiritual principles to help people establish and maintain an alcohol-free lifestyle. The 12-Step approach includes admitting one’s powerlessness over alcohol, believing in a power greater than oneself, and making amends to those who were harmed by the individual’s actions while they were actively abusing alcohol.
According to the AA website, the organization has an estimated global membership of more than two million people.
AA was founded by Bill Wilson (aka Bill W.) and Robert Smith (Dr. Bob) in 1935. The first AA meeting was held in Akron, Ohio.
What are the Differences Between SMART Recovery vs AA?
The primary difference between SMART Recovery vs. AA is that SMART is grounded in science while AA places great emphasis on religion or spirituality.
Other differences between SMART Recovery vs. AA include:
- AA is a larger and more widespread organization than SMART Recovery. At the time that this post is being written, AA has been around for 88 years and has groups in more than 180 nations, while SMART Recovery has been in existence for 29 years and has established a presence in 23 countries.
- AA requires participants to admit that they are powerless when it comes to addictive substances. SMART Recovery promotes self-empowerment as a means of overcoming the urge to abuse alcohol or other drugs.
- AA is based on the 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions. SMART Recovery is guided by a four-point program: Building and maintaining motivation; Coping with urges; Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; and Living a balanced life.
- Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) remains a controversial topic within the AA community, while SMART Recovery welcomes participants who are taking methadone, buprenorphine, Suboxone, or other medications to help them remain in recovery.
Benefits of AA vs SMART Recovery
As we noted in the previous section, there are some obvious differences between SMART Recovery vs. AA. However, this doesn’t mean that these programs are complete opposites of each other. Additionally, is doesn’t imply that one approach is fundamentally better than the other one.
There are many paths toward addiction recovery. For some people, AA provides essential structure. For others, SMART Recovery offers the tools they need. As with seeking professional treatment, finding the right recovery support organization is a matter of determining which option is the best fit for you.
The many benefits of SMART Recovery vs. AA include:
- Both programs provide a set of clearly established principles and fundamentals to guide people out of active addiction and into successful recovery.
- SMART Recovery and AA both emphasize volunteerism, peer support, and free participation.
- Both AA and SMART Recovery offer online meetings as well as in-person gatherings.
- SMART Recovery and AA both promote mutual assistance by connecting participants with others who have had similar struggles and who are working toward similar goals.
How to Find Either AA Meetings or SMART Recovery Meetings Near Me?
One way to determine if either SMART Recovery or AA is right for you is to attend a meeting. To locate a SMART Recovery group or an AA meeting, visit the following resources:
- Find AA Near You – www.aa.org/find-aa
- SMART Recovery Meetings – www.meetings.smartrecovery.org/meetings
The SMART Recovery link above will show you online meeting options as well as in-person gatherings. To find online AA meetings, please visit Alcoholics Anonymous Online Intergroup.
Contact Los Angeles Detox for More Addiction Support
SMART Recovery and AA can both be invaluable sources of support for people who are working to maintain a drug-free lifestyle. However, many people need a bit more assistance, especially in the early stages of their recovery. If you can use some extra help, LA Detox may be the ideal environment to begin your journey toward lifelong sobriety.
Our addiction treatment center in Los Angeles, California, offers multiple levels of customized care, with a full continuum that includes detox, residential programming, and outpatient services. At every level and within every program, you can expect to receive personalized care and compassionate support from a team of highly skilled professionals. With our help, you can end your substance abuse for good and build a foundation for a much healthier and more satisfying future.
To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact page or call our center today.