Skip to content

SMART Recovery vs AA: What’s the Difference? | Inneractions

The common denominator for those living in recovery is a need for support. No matter the nature of your addiction, what you were addicted to, for how long, etc. building a support system you can rely on is critical to maintaining the sobriety you worked so hard to achieve.

To be honest, it’s right near the top of the post-rehab checklist.

Support groups help with everything from dealing with triggers to accountability to just being a place where folks truly understand you, where they just get it.

In that sense, it’s less SMART recovery vs. AA in the competitive sense and more about how each is more uniquely suited, or better suited, to the needs of various people.

What Is SMART Recovery?

The first thing you’ll notice is the all caps and that’s because SMART, like AA, is an acronym; it means Self-Management and Recovery Training.

The fast facts are that SMART was founded back in 1994 and is currently headquartered in Ohio. Their approach focuses on science and self-empowerment in the battle to overcome addiction and meetings can be found across the whole of the United States as well as a number of countries around the world.

You can find their handbook in at least 10 languages.

Their reliance on scientifically validated methods to empower change is a key differentiator from the distinctly more spiritual approach of AA, noting in their purpose and methods statement that their “efforts are based on scientific knowledge and evolve as scientific knowledge evolves”.

Rather than a 12 step program, which AA relies on, SMART is defined by their 4 point program which is:

  1. Building and maintaining the motivation to change
  2. Coping with urges to use
  3. Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in an effective way without addictive behaviors
  4. Living a balanced, positive and healthy life

What Is AA?

Arguably the most well-known support group on earth is AA or Alcoholics Anonymous.

AA dates back to 1935 and also has an Ohio link, having been started there. You may sometimes see AA meetings referred to as “Friends of Bill W.” in places like cruise ships with the Bill W. in question being the founder of AA.

They define themselves as “an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere. There are no age or education requirements. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her drinking problem”.

AA is where the concept of the 12 step program originated and it’s these very steps that form the core of the program itself.

A clear difference between the two programs is AA’s emphasis on spirituality in the pursuit of sustained sobriety. It’s not expressly required that you believe in God to join an AA meeting but the spiritual basis of AA is something to keep in mind. For some, it’s a wonderful thing. For others, they may prefer a different approach.

NA, or Narcotics Anonymous, was founded in 1953 and operates with the same 12-step program.

As for the meetings themselves, both SMART and AA are non-profits and their meetings are free of charge. Generally, only a small donation is recommended to cover the costs of putting on the meetings.

How to Overcome Drug and Alcohol Addiction Today

Conquering your addiction to drugs and/or alcohol is doable and among the best ways to go about it is through a professional treatment program that’s customized to your needs.

At Inneractions, that’s exactly what we do.

Moreover, once you complete rehab, we can help you transition back to your day-to-day life at our San Fernando sober living facility.

To learn more about support groups or aftercare, reach out to us today.

Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

Often, substance abuse issues have an underlying, root cause. Our program treats co-occurring disorders to ensure long-term recovery.

Learn more about our dual diagnosis treatment and how we can help you or your loved one.