Is SMART Recovery Effective?

There are no studies that directly address the effectiveness of SMART Recovery. However, a number of studies indirectly support the effectiveness of SMART Recovery.

By comparison, there are several studies that attempted to address the effectiveness of AA, but it is difficult to draw conclusions about AA itself because in most of these studies the participants were coerced to attend. Based on these studies we can conclude that coerced AA attendance is not usually helpful.

Significant Publications about SMART Recovery

Hester & Miller

An excellent overview of alcohol treatment effectiveness may be found in RK Hester & WR Miller’s Handbook of Alcoholism Treatment Approaches: Effective Alternatives (3rd. edition, 2003). This volume summarizes the result of all the randomized, controlled clinical trials of alcohol treatment available at that time (over 350). To summarize their findings, most of the treatments that work are consistent with the SMART Recovery approach.


Similarly, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has published the Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment. SMART Recovery is consistent with these principles.


In the largest psychotherapy study ever conducted to that date (1997), the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s Project MATCH compared 12-step based treatment, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and motivational enhancement therapy (MET). In this study these approaches were about equally effective. SMART Recovery implements ideas and techniques from both CBT and MET.

Brooks & Penn

In 2003 Brooks & Penn found that a 12-step based approach to day treatment for dual diagnosed population, and a SMART Recovery approach, yielded comparable results:

Walsh Group

In 2007 the Walsh Group did a study on religiosity and mutual-aid groups. They found that SMART Recovery participants did well regardless of their religious orientation or lack of religious orientation.

Horvath & Yeterian

In 2012 Horvath & Yeterian published an overview of SMART Recovery, including a review of publications to that date. – .VFr-uIt4pGU

Behavior Therapy Associates Study of Overcoming Addictions Webapp

In 2013 Reid Hester and colleagues reported on three-month outcomes for Overcoming Addictions, a web-based method for learning about SMART Recovery. For more information:


SMART Recovery is recognized by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the American Society for Addiction Medicine, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Center for Healthcare Evaluation, and other organizations. Links to these organizations can be found on the home page of SMART Recovery,