A huge part of the SMART Recovery program’s success is our rock-solid research base. This required a deep understanding of what makes the program work, and what can improve SMART meetings. Of course, members of our Research Advisory Committee were more than up to the task, identifying and testing a critical measure for success within a SMART framework: group cohesion.

Group cohesion was found as an important factor to cognitive restructuring amongst SMART Recovery participants in early research, as reported in the article titled, ‘Group Cohesion and Between Session Homework Activities Predict Self-Reported Cognitive-Behavioral Skill Use Amongst Participants of SMART Recovery Groups‘ by (Kelly P., Deane, F. & Baker A. 2015). SMART Recovery Australia commissioned the University of Wollongong to do some follow-up research.  

Group cohesion is, as the name suggests, the sense of belonging and connectedness within a SMART meeting, between SMART participants. Professor Frank Deane from the University of Wollongong discusses this below.

What was the study about?

The aim of the study was to clarify the relationship between several measures of group cohesion and session impact.

Group cohesion refers to the extent that group members feel they have a bond and are working together toward similar goals. Such cohesion has previously been found to be related to positive outcomes from group therapy and support groups. This has never been studied in SMART Recovery groups before and will help in better understanding what it is about the groups that works to help participants make change.

The study also assessed group participants’ perceptions of how much they got out of the group session, that is, the extent that they felt that the session they just attended helped them move closer to the goals they chose.

Who participated?

Participants consisted of 270 group members and 55 group facilitators from 38 different groups in Australia.

What were the results?

Overall, group members felt they had high cohesion in their groups.

The different measures of group cohesion and in particular the visual method below, were related to each other when completed by group members. This is helpful to know because it comprises just one item and in future could be used as a quick check on how group members feel their groups are working together.

Facilitators’ ratings using the single visual item were related to other group members’ ratings on the same scale.

How helpful did participants find their group session?

Overall, group members felt the sessions had positive impact on their recovery. They rated the helpfulness of the session 4.5 out of 5. Detail about other ratings are in the graph.

Group cohesion was important in SMART Recovery groups. The higher group cohesion, the more participants find the groups helpful.



  • Groups were cohesive and helpful
  • Most group members felt supported
  • Findings will help in maintaining the quality of

SMART Recovery groups.