SMART: an alternative step to addiction
Just as people learn and think differently, they can also go through the addiction process in various ways, which is one of the reasons why Sharon Fritz said the University of Idaho Counseling and Testing Center began the Self-Managing and Recovery Training program.
Though there are already successful 12 step group meetings in Moscow, students often times had trouble fitting into the AA structure, Fritz, the coordinator of Outreach, Consultation and Substance Abuse Services for the UI CTC said.
She said one of the main reasons for this is that AA is based around the belief that a higher power has some control of their thinking and actions, which many students could not relate to. Also, in AA if a person relapses, it is considered a failure, which she said students also had difficulties with.
“With SMART, for us relapse is part of recovery, we use it as a learning opportunity,” Fritz said.
SMART is a nationwide recovery program, and is based around cognitive behavior therapy.
The program is based around a group setting, with facilitators sometimes leading discussions or providing a 15 to 30 minute psycho-educational aspect to the meeting, she said.
Fritz said SMART is not topic based, meaning the group of people at the meetings can ranging from drugs and alcohol to sex and gaming.
Dan O’Donnel, a co-facilitator for the SMART program, said a lot of the underlying issues of addictive behavior are similar, so even though people may be addicted to different things, they are going through similar processes.
“It’s a very open conversation around the struggles people are having,” O’Donnel said.
Fritz said they begin their group meetings talking about how the week has been for everyone and then develop an agenda based around what people shared.
Besides a variation of what people may be addicted to, the program also has various levels of what people are trying to change.
Fritz said they do not require sobriety in the program, so they have some people who may be trying to stay sober, while others are trying to moderate their behavior to a more manageable state.
There are four goals within the program — mainly to help students continue to make progress on becoming sober, but also to help deal with urges and cravings, manage irrational beliefs and to have students manage their lifestyle.
“We are helping these students recognize how their thoughts and their behaviors either reinforce their drinking behavior or enhance their sobriety,” Fritz said.
The program has been offered for three or four years and sometimes there is a demand for it, while other times there is not, she said.
Reflectively, she said though the program is small — it currently has three to six students — it has been a success because when people start the program they usually stay with it.
Also, the group is open, so people can start the program whenever, and if they are busy with classes or meetings they can miss a week or two and then come back, she said.
Fritz said that at UI, 31 percent of the students meet the criteria for alcohol abuse and 6 percent of students are dependent on alcohol.
SMART is a free service that gives students who are addicted to anything, including video games and gambling, an opportunity to meet people who are going through the same things, she said.
“Having support in your life is really important to be successful in making changes,” O’Donnel said.
He said the SMART groups help give people that support.
It also gives people a different outlook on how to come up with solutions to their behavior, and look at the different ways people are coping with their struggles.
O’Donnel said that he was worked at other universities, and only one besides UI offered the SMART program.
“Having a SMART group on campus is a pretty unique opportunity,” he said. “It provides an alternative to the 12 step method, or can be used alongside it.”
The program is free to students and meetings are from 3:30- 5:30 p.m. on Mondays.
Fritz said it is preferred if students touch base with the CTC before going to the meetings so they can discuss that individuals goals.
Allison Griffith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org