The Science and History of SMART Recovery

Posted on September 19, 2017

SMART Recovery 2017

Guest Blogger, William L. White 

The growth of secular addiction recovery mutual aid groups is an important landmark within the history of addiction recovery in the United States. In recent years, I have helped catalogue (See HERE) the history of groups such as Women for Sobriety, Secular Organizations for Sobriety, LifeRing Secular Recovery, and SMART Recovery, as well as describe the growth of a secular wing of Alcoholics Anonymous (See HERE and HERE).  A related involvement has been serving on SMART Recovery’s International Advisory Council. Dr. Joe Gerstein, founding President of SMART Recovery, recently shared the following update with members of the International Advisory Council. This communication highlights both the growth of SMART Recovery and its increasing recognition by addiction professional and recovery support specialists. It is shared here with permission.

30 August 2017

Dear Member of the SMART Recovery International Advisory Council:

Those of us who are deeply involved in the development and expansion of the SMART Recovery Program into a worldwide phenomenon greatly appreciate your willingness to lend your name and reputation to our endeavors!

SMART Recovery has now clearly entered into the mainstream of the self-help/mutual aid recovery movement with more than 2,400 weekly meetings in 21 countries. The SMART Recovery Program has been endorsed by NIDA, NIAAA, SAMHSA, NADCP, Federal Bureau of Prisons, ASAM, EAPA, AAFP, NICE (UK) and NCHCQR (Australia). SMART Recovery received three mentions in the landmark U.S. Surgeon General’s Report Facing Addiction (2016). The SMART program for correctional facilities InsideOut, funded by NIDA, is now used in more than 200 prisons worldwide.

The SMART Recovery Handbook is now in its 3rd Edition and has been published in 11 languages plus a special edition for Australian Aboriginals. Special editions of the Facilitator Handbook for SMART Recovery and the Family & Friends (F&F) program were developed in Australia and the Participant Handbook in the UK. Our F&F program is based on the highly effective Community Reinforcement And Family Training (CRAFT) system. SMART now hosts about 50 F&F group meetings.

A global SMART corporate entity is in formation: SMART Recovery International, which will hold the SMART Recovery trademarks and copyrights, and administer multinational entities being formed, along with national organizations to support local SMART groups. At the outset, the Board seats will be occupied by US, UK and Australia SMART representatives. We hope to add representatives from Ireland (Eire), Denmark and Canada in the near future.

The smartrecovery.org website is approaching 2,000,000 annual visitors and 200,000 registrants. SMART online meetings are in tremendous demand. The SMART Recovery online, interactive facilitator training program is enrolling a monthly cohort of about 300 people, about two-thirds of them professionals.

SMART’s value in reducing crime was proven in a recent study of inmates in the New South Wales Prison System. Authored by Chris Blatch, et al., this study was published as an Invited Article and the Leading Article in the Journal of Forensic Practice in January of 2016. It followed the reoffending [reconviction] rate of 3,000 inmates with addiction histories within two years of release who were exposed to SMART Recovery meetings compared with 3,000 exquisitely matched controls. Those who attended at least 10 SMART Recovery sessions had reoffending rates reduced by 22% overall and an impressive 43% in violent crimes.

This January, Bill White and Rita Chaney generated a SMART Recovery bibliography, which now runs to more than 100 articles and research papers. Additional research is planned and underway, including significant studies that will evaluate SMART’s effectiveness in providing recovery support/mutual aid in detail and over significant periods of time.

John F. Kelly, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Addiction Medicine at Harvard Medical School, has been serving as SMART Recovery’s Volunteer Director of Research since 2011, vetting proposals for research potentially involving SMART Recovery participants. You might be interested in this article, which concerns the ethics of appropriate mutual aid group referrals: “Addiction, 12-Step Programs, and Evidentiary Standards for Ethically and Clinically Sound Treatment Recommendations: What Should Clinicians Do?” available here: http://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/2016/06/sect1-1606.html

If and when you come across a scientific study which you think might have pertinence to the SMART Recovery Program, please do send me the reference so that we may consider its potential utility.

Again, many thanks for your generous support of SMART Recovery.

Cordially,

Joseph Gerstein, MD, FACP
President, SMART Recovery


William L. White is an Emeritus Senior Research Consultant at Chestnut Health Systems / Lighthouse Institute and past-chair of the board of Recovery Communities United. Bill has a Master’s degree in Addiction Studies and has worked full time in the addictions field since 1969 as a streetworker, counselor, clinical director, researcher and well-traveled trainer and consultant. He has authored or co-authored more than 400 articles, monographs, research reports and book chapters and 17 books. His book, Slaying the Dragon – The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America, received the McGovern Family Foundation Award for the best book on addiction recovery. Bill’s sustained contributions to the field have been acknowledged by awards from the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, NAADAC: The Association of Addiction Professionals, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and the Native American Wellbriety Movement. Bill’s widely read papers on recovery advocacy have been published by the Johnson Institute in a book entitled Let’s Go Make Some History: Chronicles of the New Addiction Recovery Advocacy Movement.


 

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