About our program

What is SMART Recovery?

What is SMART Recovery?

SMART Recovery is a group program offering a supportive environment for people to achieve behaviour change goals of their choice around alcohol & other drug use, or any behaviours of concern. 

Guided by trained peers and professionals, participants come to help themselves and help each other using a variety of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and motivational tools and techniques. 

SMART Recovery meetings are free and run weekly for 90mins. Each meeting is guided by a trained facilitator. Meetings are available online or in-person. 

4-point program

1. Build and maintain motivation
2. Cope with urges and cravings
3. Manage thoughts, feelings and behaviour
4. Lead a balanced life


- Weekly group meetings
- 100% online
- Run by a trained facilitator
- Practical and evidence-based recovery tools


- Focus on behaviour, not substance
- Self management
- Harm minimisation
- No labels ('addict', 'alcoholic', etc)


- Recovery journey defined by you
- Healthy, happy and meaningful life
- Deeper relationships with yourself, family & friends


About the SMART Recovery program

Our acronym ‘SMART’ stands for ‘Self-Management and Recovery Training’ and is a person-centred strengths-based way of working in support of empowerment and enduring behavioural change. 

We do this by:

  • Using evidence-based tools and techniques, including principles and strategies drawn from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.
  • Updating our thinking as the evidence changes.
  • Offering non-clinical, community-based meetings that mobilise togetherness, social emotional support as well as experiential knowledge and information exchange.
  • Training all our facilitators for all meetings (both professional clinicians and peers who have attended the program).
  • Offering mutual aid face-to-face and online meetings.
  • Being practical and solution focused.
  • Working with compassion and without judgement.
    prioritising wellness and harm minimisation.
  • Encouraging participants to engage in the work of change, supported by peers and trained facilitators.
  • Tailoring information, support and strategies to enable participants to work towards enduring behaviour change, their way.
  • Playing a role in filling significant gaps in service delivery, supporting continuity of care and growing recovery capital.

How is SMART different from other mutual-aid models?

SMART Recovery:

  • Utilises evidence-based principles and strategies, including Motivational Interviewing and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.
    is facilitated by trained facilitators.
  • Utilises a ‘4 Points’ structure to support participants to become motivated for change, cope with urges and cravings, problem solve and attain lifestyle balance.
  • Offers support for a range of behaviours of concern, without judgement, shame or the need for religious thinking (or belief is a higher power).
  • Is empowering and non-judgemental for participants
  • Participants set their own goals, which may or may not include abstinence.
  • Focuses on the ‘here and now’ and supports enduring behaviour change starting with the present, irrespective of how the behaviour of concern arrived.
  • Encourages active participation, engagement and problem solving.
  • Participants learn to build and exercise an internal locus of control, rather than relinquish control to an external locus/ ‘higher power’. Locus of control refers to the degree to which a participant attributes successes or failures to their own behaviour (Li., et al., 2000).
  • Groups have the added benefit of accessibility, with no cost incurred, no waiting list, and a range of groups available across a variety of accessible locations.

Where are SMART meetings held / who are meetings for?

  • SMART Recovery groups are widely available in Australia across a range of regions and health districts to anyone wishing to attend. Meetings are free to attend.
  • SMART Recovery groups are held in the community as well as inpatient, outpatient and clinical health organisations including private, public and not for profit mental health, AOD, general and Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander health services. SMART can be integrated within a range of treatment settings.
  • Meetings happen face-to-face and online.
  • SMART Family and Friends meetings provide SMART and five-step tools and techniques to supporters of people experiencing behaviours of concern.
  • SMART Inside Out supports participants to change behaviours while incarcerated.

How does SMART Recovery work?

The research shows that SMART meeting attendance can:

  • Provide social, emotional and practical support by building cognitive and coping skills as well as a sense of community.
  • Support problem solving and action planning (each participant works towards an individualised seven-day plan)
  • Encourage active coping and practice
    help participants attain goals via behavioural activation and between session work
  • Build self-efficacy (including self-efficacy to refuse) and confidence
  • Support practical cognitive restructuring and grow flexible thinking
  • Grow self-esteem
  • Build and expand social networks beyond addiction service-related settings/reduce social isolation
  • Grow group cohesion and connection within the group supports change
  • Confer hope through providing positive role models and concrete examples of tenacity, mastery and successful social network negotiation
  • Provide a formal structure for enacting behaviour change.

Who accesses SMART Recovery?

Pre-COVID there were 352 groups meeting face-to-face nationally (including 13 in New Zealand), reaching over 2500 individual participants weekly. Commonwealth funding in 2020 enabled SMART Australia to support the transition to online participation. In August 2021, 71 online groups and 144 face-to-face meetings had resumed, as well as SMART Family and Friends groups. Worldwide, SMART meetings are held across over 25 countries, supporting more than an estimated one million participants.

We learned from weekly self-reported facilitator data collection that:

  • On average six participants attend each face-to-face group each week.
  • 20% of participants are new to SMART each meeting.
  • Pre-COVID, the average age of a SMART participant in Australia was 41 years of age, the majority has been attending groups for about nine months, and attend groups on a weekly basis (73%).
  • 59% of participants are 35-54 years of age.
  • There is a higher proportion of men (66%) than women (34%) attending SMART Recovery groups face-to-face.
  • More women than men attend SMART online. (On the basis of this, we are growing the number of meetings specifically for women).
  • The majority (just under 50%) of participants attend SMART in relation to behaviours around alcohol use, around 26% in relation to methamphetamine use and 25% in relation to other behaviours of concern, (including cannabis, cocaine, heroin, pharmaceutical medications, gambling, tobacco, sex, and other behaviours).
  • 66% of participants have previously attended mental health treatment, with 47% having used prescribed meds to manage mental health symptoms and 48% having experienced clinical depression.