How do you design an effective recovery program that provides structure and guidance, yet at the same time recognizes individual uniqueness and encourages self-management?
This is a question that has plagued substance-abuse specialists for decades, ever since the mid-20th-century when follow-the-leader programs seemed like the only option for people caught in the grips of unhealthy addictive patterns. However, in the latter part of the last century, there emerged a growing segment of the therapeutic community that realized the “cookie-cutter” approach to lasting recovery was not the answer for a large part of the population. As a result of this paradigm shift, several groups broke away from the 12-step model and began introducing people seeking help from unwanted behaviors to some of the basic tenets of modern psychology based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
And a whole new cottage industry was born, based on the premise that when you provide people with new information, techniques and tools to help them work through their own pain, anxiety, depression and impulse control, you not only offer immediate, short-term relief but you also teach them coping skills they can use the rest of their lives.
Marc F. Kern, Ph.D., explains on his web site (AAalternatives.com): “People are individuals. It is not realistic that any, single one-size-fits-all approach could help everyone… My training as an architect taught me that things needed to make rational, logical sense for me to utilize the tools. Like designing and constructing a building, I needed to feel a sense of control about the direction I was taking and have a blueprint to guide me and envision the final product…” Kern goes on to say that after years of following the traditional approach to solve his personal issues with alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, food and procrastination, he went back to college to train as a psychologist. Only then, was he able to understand why he and so many others struggle with harmful addictions.
Another psychologist, Tom Horvath, the founder of two Practical Recovery rehabs in San Diego, also grew disillusioned with the concept of powerlessness being proselytized by many members of the “Anonymous” recovery groups. He is currently president of SMART Recovery, which stands for Self Management And Recovery Training, a non-profit organization that boasts more than 700 group meetings worldwide. SMART is based on Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT), a subcategory of CBT popularized by renowned psychologist Albert Ellis.
According to Horvath: SMART Recovery has a self-empowering approach to recovery. This approach, he writes, is ideal for individuals who look at the future and think, “whatever happens, I’m going to do my best to make it work for me.”
As one SMART Recovery facilitator likes to say: “SMART doesn’t tell you what to think, it teaches you how to think!”
Experts and researchers agree that it is nearly impossible to accurately track successful results of any of these programs – 12-step or non-12-step – because there are just too many variables. One study may track membership and numbers of those attending meetings, while others collect data from internal AA surveys stating how long members have remained sober without taking into consideration what one researcher calls “spontaneous remission” and yet another calls “maturing out” of the addiction cycle.
The answer, of course, to the rhetorical question whether cookie-cutter recovery programs work for everyone is a resounding: No. So, if you are seeking helpful information on addiction recovery, do your homework and find one that matches your set of values because – in the end – it is your choice, your decision and your life. Find whatever works for you!
If you would like more information on local SMART Recovery meetings, visit www.SmartRecoverySouthFlorida.com.
For more information on REBT and the Albert Ellis Institute, visit: http://albertellis.org/