SMART Peer Support and Treatment Study

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Peer support involves people with a lived experience of similar issues sharing experiences, knowledge, support, and practical recovery strategies. Peer support, as a free and easily accessible community resource, is critically important to those in recovery from alcohol and drug use disorders, as people in this group often experience disconnection from their family, the community and sources of social support. Peer support is viewed as an important source of ‘recovery capital’ – the strengths and resources that people draw on to initiate and maintain recovery.

SMART Recovery, a form of peer-support, was founded in 1994, and now takes place in more than 23 countries worldwide, with more than 300 meetings run on a weekly basis in Australia. Unlike other common forms of peer support, SMART Recovery® draws on empirically validated techniques such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Motivational Interviewing (MI) to address the problematic behaviours that underlie substance use. SMART Recovery® does not focus on spirituality or a ‘higher power’, and is not substance-specific (Li et al., 2000). Instead, it aims to tackle addiction and problems arising as a result of addiction using a four-point recovery program designed to enhance members’ motivation and teach techniques that help members manage lifestyle and behavioural difficulties.

SMART Recovery® meetings are co-facilitated by trained peers (previous members who have ‘graduated’ from SMART Recovery) and AOD clinicians. During meetings, which typically last for approximately 90 minutes, participants set goals and develop plans and strategies for achieving them.

Turning Point is piloting SMART Recovery groups within five alcohol and drug (AOD) treatment services in Victoria. Broadly, the project explored perceived barriers and facilitators to embedding SMART Recovery in AOD treatment services, from the perspective of facilitators, service managers and group members. Turning Point aims to understand “How AOD treatment providers can support the delivery of mutual aid (MA) in a way that supports treatment retention and sustained recovery.”

Project team

Turning Point team

Associate Professor Victoria Manning, Ms Katherine Mroz, Dr Alison Cheetham, and Professor Dan Lubman.

Participating sites

Turning Point Addiction Medicine Unit, Ballarat Community Health, and the Odyssey House.

Learn more about this project

Learn more about SMART Recovery at Smart Recovery and Smart Recovery Australia