What Happens at a SMART Recovery Meeting?

A SMART Recovery meeting offers people who want to stop doing something – but find themselves still doing it – an opportunity to meet together with others with similar challenges. The free meeting is chaired by a volunteer trained as either a host or as a facilitator.

A facilitator has completed a 30-hour training. A host has completed a self-paced, online training that takes 4-6 hours.

Circle of welcome at a SMART Recovery meeting

I am trained as a host, not as a facilitator. At the facilitated SMART Recovery meetings I have attended, the facilitator warmly and skillfully guides participants to deeper understanding using what’s termed SMART Recovery “tools.”

At a hosted discussion meeting – the type of SMART Recovery meeting available to the community in my hometown of Blacksburg, Virginia and for which I am trained – prior to the meeting, the host has chosen a SMART Recovery activity that the attendees might find helpful or meaningful. Given that people thrive when they feel safe, the host doesn’t divide his or her attention by participating but focuses on the needs of the group and its members. To foster safety and continutity, the meeting is held using a script and the meeting proceeds in this order: check-in, discussion, activity, discussion, check-out.

In the above description, I meticulously did not use any of these terms: support, group, support group, mutual aid, mutual aid group, addiction, recovery, illness, disease, disorder, science, evidence, or research. As, happily, discussions about addiction and recovery become more frequent and these terms are used variously in multiple contexts, without meticulous definitions, they’re pretty meaningless.

And none of those terms describes my primary experience of a SMART Recovery meeting: kindness.

Maybe it’s the hope-filled discussion topics: building and maintaining motivation, coping with urges, managing thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and living a balanced life.

Maybe it’s the guidelines for discussion read at the beginning of the meeting, including “We don’t give advice. SMART Recovery encourages participants to make their own choices,” and “We don’t debate issues about addiction and recovery. We are free to speak in the language we want to, and to view addiction and recovery however we want to.”

Maybe it’s the tools and the activities that primarily ask what’s working and what might work better, rather than pointing out how bad and wrong everything is – including the individual.

Maybe it’s the use of “I-statements” rather than boundary-violating “you-statements” or “we-statements.”

Maybe it’s the time and space to speak without being interrupted or corrected.

Whatever it is that results in prevailing kindness, I sense participants’ best wishes for themselves and for others. I sense an intentional effort to bring forth the best of their hearts and minds for the time we’re together.

In her letter to the New York Times, author Maia Szalavitz wrote, “Shame and stigma are the exact opposite of what fights addiction.” In response to my Twitter tweet asking her what does fight addiction, Maia Szalavitz replied, “Love, evidence & respect.”

At a SMART Recovery meeting, I give and receive love – as much as people who may not know each other or know each other well may offer – I work together with others in ways for which there is enough evidence to support it might be helpful, and I feel respected by, and I feel respect for, people who are willing to come together to talk. 

I chortle with joy thinking that, in our kind little well-intentioned circle, we’re “fighting” addiction.

  • A hosted SMART Recovery discussion meeting is held on Sundays, 4:00-5:00 PM,  at New River Valley Community Services, 700 University City Boulevard, in Blacksburg, Virginia. Directions
  • A facilitated SMART Recovery meeting for Virginia Tech students is held when classes are in session on Thursdays, 6:30 PM – 7:45 PM at Squires Student Center, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia. For more information, please contact: [email protected] or call 540-231-2233.
  • Recovery resources in the Blacksburg and New River Valley areas
  • Maia Szalavitz, author of Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction, will be speaking in Blacksburg, Virginia on August 3, 2016. Read more

The content of this post is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or professional advice. Consult a qualified health care professional for personalized medical and professional advice.


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