Choosing the right addiction treatment program can be a difficult decision, given the variety of options available. Residential and outpatient rehab centers, treatment centers, and support groups like SMART Recovery and 12 -Step Program all have different approaches to helping individuals overcome their addictive behaviors. SMART Recovery is based on a scientific approach to self-management and recovery training, while Twelve Steps focuses on admitting powerlessness over addiction and seeking help from a higher power. Ultimately, the choice of program depends on an individual’s needs and preferences; Cliffside Malibu offers personalized programs tailored to each client’s stage of addiction.

What is the difference between SMART Recovery vs 12 Step?

If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction and have made the decision to get help, choosing the right program can be difficult. There are so many options available as far as treatment centers, residential rehab, outpatient rehab, whether to go out of town, stay at home and more. There’s also the decision of whether SMART Recovery or 12 Step might be right for you. Finding a program that clicks for you will make all the difference, so read on to find out more about SMART Recovery vs 12 Step.

Understanding SMART Recovery

According to, SMART is an acronym that stands for “Self-Management and Recovery Training.” It has a scientific foundation and reaches the importance of self-reliance. In an effort to break the stigma surrounding addiction, SMART Recovery discourages the use of labels, such as “alcoholic” or “addict. The SMART Recovery approach to recovery is summarized in the Four-Point program, which teaches how to:

  1. Enhance and maintain motivation to abstain
  2. Cope with urges
  3. Manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  4. Balance momentary and enduring satisfactions

Stages of Change

SMART Recovery works by progressing people through the six stages of change. Depending on where you may land on the stages of change, your approach and treatment will be completely different from those in other stages than you. The stages include:

  • Precontemplation – The person suffering from addiction does not yet realize they have an issue.
  • Contemplation – Addiction is now realized in this stage, but no action has been taken to help it.
  • Preparation – A decision has been made to get help for addiction.
    Action – Literally, the action is taken to get help by entering treatment, rehab or joining a support group.
  • Maintenance – The person who suffered from addiction is now seeing the positive change in their life and is working to keep up those personal gains.
  • Graduation – Once a person has achieved an abundance of personal change, they can choose to graduate from SMART Recovery.

Understanding 12 Step

The oldest and most widely used approach for addiction, the 12 Step Program was developed in the 1930s by two recovering alcoholics. The basis of the 12 Step Program is to admit that you are completely powerless over your addiction, that your way of doing things isn’t working and that you need help from a higher power. For many, this higher power can mean God. However, it does not need to be spiritual. The higher power can be the “you” that you wish to become.

The 12 Steps are as follows:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

What’s the difference? SMART Recovery VS 12 Step

While both the SMART Program and 12 Step Program have successfully helped many people through recovery, they do have their marked differences. Knowing these differences will help you make the decision to find which one is right for you and help carry you through long-term recovery and sobriety.

Progression vs Stages

The 12 Steps progress you through different steps that you need to achieve. Once you complete one step, you move on to the next. With the SMART Recovery program, your particular phase in your addiction has its own approach and treatment.

Graduating vs Ongoing Recovery

SMART Recovery allows for the opportunity to leave addiction in the past. Once you have overcome your addiction, you are able to move on with your life. The 12 Step Program believes that you are in recovery forever and that you will never be able to rid yourself of your addictive behavior. You are an “addict” or an “alcoholic” for the rest of your life. SMART Recovery does not believe in labels. This allows you to be free and grow from your addictive behaviors.

Higher Power vs Locust of Control

The 12 Step Program believes you need to surrender yourself to a higher power to help you through your addiction recovery. This makes SMART Recovery can be attractive for people who do not connect with that spiritual aspect. SMART Recovery believes in empowering the individual to overcome their addictive behaviors and to shape their own futures.

About Cliffside Malibu

Making the decision to get help will be the most important decision of your life. Finding a treatment program that works for you will make all the difference. Just because a treatment method has been around for a long time doesn’t mean it’s the only one that works. Try a treatment program based on scientific tools and methods that continues to evolve and see how SMART Recover vs 12 Step works for you.

Since no two addictions are the same, Cliffside Malibu offers an individualized treatment plan for each and every client. Treatment plans are created based on a client’s current stage of the Transtheoretical Model: Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, or Maintenance. This model helps ensure that all patients receive the best treatment path possible based on their own specific need. Moving our clients through this model to completion successfully is our goal each and every single day.

Cliffside Malibu’s policy is to ensure that all people who choose treatment with us receives the best care possible. We strive to provide a continuum of care including medically supervised detox, residential treatment, day treatment, and outpatient services. Our program includes not only evidence-based behavioral therapy but family therapy and holistic therapy, as well. Whether an individual is suffering from substance abuse and/or alcohol addiction, our programs are designed and structured to be a supportive environment in order to maintain sobriety.

In addition to world-class treatment, Cliffside Malibu offers luxury accommodations, a serene environment, five-star dining, and plentiful amenities. We understand that addiction treatment is a rigorous process. Therefore, we provide for your comfort and relaxation at every turn, allowing you to rejuvenate, to meet the demands of treatment with your greatest energy and attention.

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