The 12-step approach to alcohol rehab has been around since the establishment of Alcoholics Anonymous back in the 1930s. It is an approach that has proved successful for not only recovering alcoholics, but also those recovering from drug and compulsive behaviour addictions. Yet it is not the only approach that works.
Another approach, known as self-management and recovery training (SMART) looks at the rehab equation from a slightly different perspective. Since its development in the 1990s, the SMART approach has given birth to more than 1,000 support groups around the world.
There are two primary differences between the 12-step and SMART approaches. The first can be found in the way the two approaches view addiction. The second is one of personal responsibility. Let us look at both differences in a little more detail for better understanding:
View of Addiction
The 12-step approach to alcohol and drug rehab sees addiction as a lifelong disease requiring a lifelong commitment to recovery. As such, this approach equips recovering addicts with certain tools and strategies they can use to avoid relapse permanently. The SMART approach sees things differently.
Rather than seeing addiction as a lifelong disease, advocates of the SMART approach see it as a personal problem that can be permanently solved by finding and applying the right solutions. Moreover, just like any other problem, once solved the former addict can move on with his life. Those who employ this approach do not expect to see the same people in support meetings for years on end.
The area of personal responsibility is another one where the differences between 12-step and SMART programmes are stark. The 12-step approach is built on the belief that the recovering addict is responsible to a higher power. That higher power is not necessarily identified as any particular religious deity; rather, each recovering addict relates with the higher power as he understands it.
In the SMART approach, the only personal responsibility is to oneself. This view lays all of the responsibility for success or failure directly at the feet of the addict. As such, it is also the responsibility of each addict to find a solution that will work best for him. That’s not to say he doesn’t receive support and good ideas from others, it’s simply to say that the ultimate responsibility for finding and applying solutions rest on him.
It is interesting to note that both approaches work fairly well. That should be no surprise, given the fact that addiction is a very personal struggle that cannot be defined as concretely as some would believe. In the end, it comes down to whatever approach works for the individual. As long as the demons are conquered, it matters not how one gets there.