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APC: Update on SMART Recovery - Tom Horvath, PhD, ABPP

A. Tom Horvath, PhD, ABPP, has specialized in addictive problems since 1985. Dr. Horvath is the founder and president of Practical Recovery Psychology Group in San Diego, past president of the American Psychological Association (APA)’s Society of Addiction Psychology (Division 50; the world’s largest organization of addiction psychologists), past president of the San Diego Psychological Association, and author of Sex, Drugs, Gambling & Chocolate: A Workbook for Overcoming Addictions, recommended as a self-help book by the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT). He has been an instructor of graduate addiction courses at Alliant International University and the University of San Diego. He was a co-founder and was for 20 years the volunteer president of SMART Recovery (established 1994), an international non-profit offering free, self-empowering, science-informed addictive problem mutual help groups. He continues to serve on SMART’s US board of directors, and the Global Research Advisory Committee of SMART Recovery International. He is a Fellow of the San Diego Psychological Association, ABCT and APA. In 2022 he received Division 50’s award for Distinguished Career Contributions to Public Interest. 


Although recent evidence suggests that addictive behavior mutual help groups may work by similar mechanisms, the surface appeal of different groups remains important or very important to many mutual help participants or potential participants. Presentation will 1) review the surface differences between SMART Recovery as a self-empowering approach to change, and AA and other 12-step groups as powerlessness based approaches, 2) overview the evidence about the underlying similarities of these and other mutual help groups, and their effectiveness relative to formal treatment, 3) describe the SMART organization and its related services, 4) describe typical SMART meeting formats and the overall manner and style of SMART meetings (which are significantly different than AA meetings in several ways), and 5) review the scientific evidence about SMART's effectiveness.


Brickman, P., Rabinowitz, V.C., Karuza, Jr., J., Coates, D., Cohn, E., & Kidder, L. (1982). Models of helping and coping. American Psychologist, 37, 368-384.

Horvath, A.T., & Yeterian, J. (2012). SMART Recovery: Self-empowering, science-based addiction recovery support. J. of Groups in Addiction & Recovery, 7, 102-117.

Nowinski, J. (2012). Facilitating 12-step recovery from substance abuse. In S. T. Walters & F. Rotgers (Eds.),
Treating substance abuse: Theory and technique (pp. 191-223). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Rettie, H.C., Hogan, L.M., & Cox, W.M. (2021). Identifying the main components of substance-related addiction recovery groups. Substance Use & Misuse, 56(6), 840-847.

Zemore, SE, Lui, CK, Mericle, A, Hemberg, J, Kaskutas, LA. (2018). A longitudinal study of the comparative efficacy of Women for Sobriety, LifeRing, SMART Recovery, and 12-step groups for those with AUD. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment , 88, 18-26.
Learning Objectives

After participating in the course learners will be able to:

  • Recall the US SMART slogan: “Discover the power of choice”
  • Differentiate self-empowering and powerlessness-based approaches
  • Recall that SMART meetings are conversational
  • Recall that SMART and 12-step appear to be equally effective, apparently because of underlying similarities
Availability: On-Demand
Cost: FREE
Credit Offered:
1.5 CME Credits
1.5 Other Professionals Credits
American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry
The content on this site is intended solely to inform and educate medical professionals. This site shall not be used for medical advice and is not a substitute for the advice or treatment of a qualified medical professional.

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