Episode 2: SMART Recovery

In this episode, Ben and John talk with Steve Bergier, a certified SMART Recovery facilitator. Steve walks us through the Four Points of SMART Recovery: building and maintaining motivation, coping with urges, managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and living a balanced life.

Transcript

[music] 

00:09 John: And this is My Secular Sobriety. And I am your host, John. And I am here with my co-host, Ben. And we have a guest, our first guest for the podcasts, Steve Bergier. And Steve is a facilitator for SMART Recovery. How are you, Steve? 

00:28 Steve: Doing fine. Thanks. 

00:31 John: And it’s been a while since I’ve talked to you. I think the last time I talked to you was probably three, four years ago, maybe. 

00:38 Steve: I think so. Yeah. 

00:40 John: And you are our very first guest. So thank you very much. So I thought about what I would like to do is have a little conversation with you about SMART, the actual program. I took the time today to read the SMART manual and I went through the four points. And I thought that maybe we could go through that. So I guess to introduce SMART for people who aren’t familiar with it, why don’t you do that for us, Steve? Tell us what SMART is. 

01:10 Steve: Sure, sure. SMART Recovery is a program that started in 1994. It was based on the behavioral principles developed in… Through the 50s, prior to that by Albert Ellis and those folks. And a group of addiction counselors decided to apply these principles for the purposes of addiction recovery. And so SMART was founded. You could say it was preceded a bit by a thing called “Rational Recovery”. But eventually, SMART was formed. 

01:51 John: I was wondering about that. Was the… Did it start from Rational Recovery and then did they just break off from them? Or did they just… Change from? 

02:02 Steve: It changed from. I believe it was more the ideas of Rational Recovery were adopted by the early founders and applied to recovery. 

02:14 John: And I was reading, actually, on the website, there… The five-year plan for SMART Recovery. And one thing it said on there is the number of SMART meetings has actually tripled in the last five years. And I also noticed that where I live here in Kansas City, there are more SMART meetings than there was the last time that I spoke with you about four years ago. Are you seeing that growth also? 

02:39 Steve: Yes, it is slow. Last time we spoke I think I was the only SMART facilitator in our county. I had the only meeting. Now there are seven of them. So it’s grown here. But part of the reason for the slow growth is the facilitators have to go through a six-week online training course. And that costs a $100, although there are scholarships available for people who want to do it, who can’t afford it. So it’s not as easy as starting some other meetings. 

03:19 John: Right. You just can’t go in with a church basement and a coffee pot and start. But you know that’s actually nice to have that training because what you’re dealing with here is science-based techniques. 

03:36 Steve: Yeah. That’s correct. That’s correct. We do try to follow like I said, the CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy techniques which were researched a lot and scientifically established. And SMART Recovery, as the science evolves the program itself evolves. 

04:00 John: So the four points and these are not steps, these are the four points in SMART. And I guess they don’t really have to be done sequentially. But as I was reading the book, it seemed to me like it was kind of a natural progression as you recover, how you go through to these points. But the four points are Building and Maintaining Motivation, Coping with Urges, Managing Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors, and Living a Balanced Life. Can you go through those for us, Steve? And maybe talk about building and maintaining motivation. 

04:33 Steve: Yeah. The four points are… Again, you can work on them all simultaneously, or maybe the first two… Building and Maintaining Motivation and Coping with Urges is probably more important for newcomers, people new to the program and fresh out of rehab or starting recovery. The Managing Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors and Lifestyle Balance are probably more important later. But one of my emphasis is I tend to advise people to start putting their lives back together right away. That would be more the Lifestyle Balance and things. because many people to come into recovery with damaged family relations and financial problems, all kinds of issues. And it’s just my opinion that as you put those together, you build a base of support amongst family and friends and things. 

05:46 Steve: I maybe emphasized earlier, but many people in early recovery have problems building and maintaining motivation. Perhaps, the general interest listener could understand it more as trying to diet. You’re trying to lose some weight. And again, SMART will accept people with eating disorders, but it’s awfully hard to maintain that motivation when there are not dire consequences right away. Like I can go out and grab a banana split right now and no problem, I’ll feel fine tomorrow and stuff. But do that every day. And so it’s difficult to maintain the motivation to, you know, avoid the banana split. So with a person with some drug or alcohol substance disorder, it’s easier to sort of point out the consequences of getting hammered tonight, but even then, it’s sometimes hard to maintain their motivation. 

07:00 John: I like the exercise of looking at the hierarchy of values where you go through… You ask yourself what are my values, what’s important to me in my life. My family is important to me, my marriage is important to me, my job is important to me and then you ask the person, “Is your drinking important to you?” Is that a value? Is your use… Is your addiction a value? And then you see how that addiction is actually… You’re actually betraying your values through your addiction. 

07:36 Steve: Yeah, most people as… Before they get into trouble with alcohol or drugs, and again, it’s often a very gradual process, they’ve had their hopes and dreams and things they wanted to do with their life, be it a good job, education, whatever, and many times these things have all suffered from the substance misuse. And often by pointing that out that if they may really value these other things and put intoxication or having fun drinking should be very, very low on their value list. And unfortunately, for someone who is actively drinking or using, the hierarchy of values is totally flipped. That’s the only thing that’s important to them and everything else is a distant second. 

08:33 John: Ben, did you use something like that when you were a therapist? 

08:37 Ben: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think your first job as a counselor or a therapist is to see where somebody’s at on their motivation for change and then try and at the very least, get them acknowledging that they have the issue so that they can even be a part of the fight. Steve, I had a question, I guess this is my naivete about SMART because I haven’t been to a meeting. It’s been years and years I’m going to say I’m going to go to a SMART meeting and I haven’t gone, but it makes me think that because something like a 12-Step Meeting is often required legally or so many people are told to go to a 12-Step Meeting, who maybe don’t really hardly have any motivation to change at all besides everybody else telling them to, do you find that people start going to SMART… Or do they tend to be a little bit further along the motivation line when they first get there? 

09:30 Steve: You know, we have our share of people coming in on court cards or some other form of coercion. And again, there are various levels of motivation and willingness. I tend to be very straightforward and if they’re just there to get a court card signed, I’ll often get that out of them right away and we’ll talk as if… And sometimes that happens, people feel they were… They got a DUI unjustly or whatever, they just made a mistake and they don’t have a problem otherwise. And I say, “Well, that’s fine. Just… ” I always throw in the little caveat is if these mistakes keep happening, maybe it’s time to reassess what’s going on. Yeah, I ran a meeting once for all young men in their 20s, early 20s to late 20s, and none of them wanted to quit drinking. And they all got in trouble and that’s basically all I could really do is say, “Okay, here’s the deal. If you just keep making mistakes, consider coming back.” 

10:49 Ben: Yeah, and sometimes that’s the only seed that needs to be planted for the future and that’s all you can do. 

10:55 Steve: Yeah. So I like these people to come in because I’ll sometimes really try to dissect what happened. And you know, SMART also uses a lot of a thing they call motivational or… Yeah, motivational interviewing, where you’ll sort of press them, “Well, why do you think that police officer pulled you over?” And they can admit, “Yes, I was weaving… ” Or they really were putting other people in danger. And sometimes just getting them to realize that makes an impact on ’em. 

11:37 John: Yeah. Then another point, the second point is coping with the urges. And that was kinda interesting reading through that. I had some difficulty with it, I guess, but just because there was a lot of information in there. I guess that what I was getting out of it is that you take a look… Okay, the whole idea is that these urges, we have this feeling that these urges are so unbearable that we’ve got to satisfy them. But that discomfort is just a normal part of being a human being, and what we need to do is train our minds to somehow be with that discomfort. And there is a strategy that you employ to do that, and they call it the DEADS and… Can you help me with that? because I might not be understanding all of that, the way that it was laid out. 

12:32 Steve: Okay. Well, urges are from our… Arise from our midbrain. If we’re habituated to alcohol or drugs, the same areas of our brain responsible for thirst and appetite, survival, basic survival and they’re the same parts of your brain that drive us to alcohol cravings or drug cravings. So it’s a very difficult thing to deal with. And people will often have that same feeling of dread with the urge that you have if you’re starving. And so it’s very hard to resist. Now, in SMART, what we’ll try to do is, one, get people to realize that. That, yes, it’s craving and it may be uncomfortable, but you’re not going to die. You’re not going to starve to death. 

[chuckle] 

12:35 Steve: And… And unfortunately, that’s the thing you can… Again, that’s a cognitive thing. The feeling is the same as though you’re starving. But that’s a primitive feeling. And if you get people to make that association and if… One is, urges pass if you just ignore them or you don’t deal with them for a while… 

14:03 John: They do pass. 

14:04 Steve: They just naturally fade away. So, DEADS is a way to deal with it. And DEADS stands and for the delay, escape, the different things. Like for instance, in the second D, they call it a distraction. In other words, if you get an urge, distract yourself. Go off for a walk or do something. And often, it’ll just help you deal with it until it passes naturally on its own. E is escape. Let’s say if you’re at a party and start getting a lot of urges, just leave. 

14:50 John: Because there are triggers. There are things that will trigger us and our desire to use was. And so, the whole idea is that, yeah, you can hopefully identify these triggers and learn to either avoid them or be with them and adapt through them. 

15:11 Ben: And I think one of the great things about SMART too, is that with the CBT is it acknowledges the thought and gets people… because I think a lot of people in the early going, feel those cravings or those urges and they don’t even process it. It’s just a feeling and then you stop and you slow it down a little bit, and then say “Okay, what led up to this? What’s going on? And then what can we do now and move forward?” I think getting people to slow down that process and realize even if you don’t know it, there’s a whole lot of quick impulsive thoughts going on that is leading to that feeling in there somewhere. 

15:47 Steve: One way I try to explain it sometimes to meeting attendees, is you can think of an urge… We suppress urges all the time. Let’s say the boss yells at you or something, and you get upset and you want to stomp your feet and say, “Screw this job,” and walk out. But then you step back, think for a minute and go, “Oh, wait a minute, I need this paycheck. I need this job.” Yeah. The boss can be a jerk, but normally this job is pretty good. So, we suppress that urge to storm out and quit. So our brains really can suppress urges or deal with urges all the time. And I think if you look at your daily life, you probably do that a lot. 

16:38 John: And then, as you get the practice of doing it, you just get better at it and then… And also the urges come less frequently, don’t they? Over time? 

16:44 Steve: Yeah, as your brain sort of heals from… They think your brain gets kind of rewired with the habituation to a drug or alcohol. And the more you stay away from it, the more that corrects. It can take months or years and people can have cravings indefinitely. But they do tend to get less frequent, they’re shorter, they don’t seem as awful, and they’re easier to deal with. So yeah. 

17:16 John: I also noticed in the manual they talked about people… You go to your support group, your SMART support group, and you can talk about these triggers, these situations that trigger your urges. And I read in there that one tool that you could use in a SMART meeting is role-playing. Do you ever do that with your group where you role play? 

17:39 Steve: Not really, but I have done that. One of the other tools for coping with urges, that they call it the disarm tool. I don’t know if you read that in the book? But it stands for basically detect your addict voice in the background. Okay? One of the things that happen when we’re habituated to alcohol or drug is, especially if we had sort of a long period leading up to it, is our brain learns to make excuses or rationalize our behavior. And we’re often very good at that before we get in trouble or break-in into recovery. And so what happens is, your brain your… You get urges of the things you want and your brain will kick in and start making those excuses and rationalizations again. Like, “I can just have one, I know it.” 

18:42 Steve: Whatever you tell yourself. Or, “I deserve a break today.” Or whatever. It’s this destructive imagery and self-recognition. So basically, when you recognize that voice is kicking in, you have counter voices on the ready to get-go. And I guess a simple way to think about it is the old metaphor of the devil on one shoulder whispering into your ear and the angel on the other, trying to talk to you out of taking a drink. And I’ll often assign different roles for different people and say, “Okay, you’re the devil today and what did you tell yourself last time you took a drink?” And then someone else will say, “What would you say to that if the devil told you that? Well, how would you respond?” And the angel might say something like, “Well, last time I drank I ended up with a cop boot on my neck in jail.” So it’s a good way for people to kinda look at both sides of an issue. 

19:55 Ben: Yeah, I do think that type of role-playing can work great. I think in a treatment setting, people are so resistant to it because everybody feels so goofy doing it, and I suppose it’s like that in the Smart Recovery meeting too. But man, people really get into it if you do it and then the participants usually have so much fun trying to come up with all the stuff to throw the person off too, that it becomes a nice group bonding activity too. 

20:21 Steve: Yeah, and I think one of the things that makes it better is to have these things sort of on the tip of your tongue when the next urge, because the next urge could come out of nowhere, and if you have these things on the tip of your tongue or ready to go, it’s very helpful. 

20:42 John: Hey, Steve, tell me about the group dynamics a little bit. For example, do the members of the group, do they kind of bond together and do they talk with each other outside of the group? Would it be acceptable as if you are having an urge or a problem that you could call someone in the group? 

21:02 Steve: Yeah, we do exchange phone numbers and things sometimes. We’re not big enough that we have like big group activities but like the… Like an AA at a Chili cook-out or something. [chuckle] So… 

21:20 John: The big dance, whatever. [chuckle] 

21:22 Steve: They took over our park… [chuckle] But yeah, no, we encourage having some sober friends as a support group. Although we don’t have any sort of formal opinion on outside relationships, it’s up to the individual and we don’t have sort of like a formal sponsorship program or anything like that. 

21:50 John: Right, which I think is smart, actually SMART. [chuckle] But speaking of that too, I was reading, I think actually the website about some of the principles behind SMART, and confidentiality being obviously one of those, and the enforcement mechanism behind that is, if you break someone’s confidentiality, you could actually be asked to leave the group. 

22:15 Steve: Yeah, that’s true. 

22:15 John: So that is taken pretty seriously? 

22:17 Steve: Yeah, yeah, and I think it should be. 

22:20 John: Yeah, absolutely! But what I find interesting about that is the 12-Step Programs enforce it through the concept of anonymity, and the whole anonymity thing has more to do, I think, with public relations. But what I find, what I found refreshing from SMART is they were actually saying, “Hey, we encourage you, go out and tell the public about SMART.” Is that the message that you get from SMART that, “We don’t mind if you go out there and talk about SMART publicly?” 

22:54 Steve: Yeah, to the best of my knowledge. Yeah, they like promotion. 

22:58 John: They like it? [chuckle] 

23:00 Steve: Yeah. 

23:00 John: Yeah, yeah, so anyway, I thought that was kinda cool, because I’m kinda familiar, more familiar with the 12-Step model and that, and I have some questions about that, but anyway. So the next point is Managing Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors, and this is where you really get into some science stuff. Rational emotive behavior therapy, and then the ABC thing which Ben was talking about earlier before you came on, can you go through that? 

23:31 Steve: The ABCs was actually one of the oldest CBT techniques developed in the ’50s by Albert Ellis himself, and the premise of it is that a lot of our reactions to external events are irrational. Like, for instance, let’s say, let’s use the thing where the boss yells at you for some reason and you can react with anger or depression, the reactions to things tend to be anger or depression, and both of them can be dysfunctional depending on what you do. Let’s say, for someone who gets depressed, they might feel like, “Oh, I’m a failure, I could never do the job right.” 

24:25 Steve: In other words, it really hurts their ego to have the boss yell at them. So for the ABCs, the A would be the activating event, which is the boss yelling at you, the B would be your irrational beliefs about the event, and C would be the consequences. Let’s say you get upset or depressed. So after work, you stop by Happy Hour and get hammered even though you’ve been sober for six months and in recovery. Episodes like this can often precipitate relapse, and so we try to teach people how to deal with it. Now, the ABCs, also have a D and an E. 

25:08 John: Yeah, I saw that. [chuckle] 

25:09 Steve: And the D E… [chuckle] The D is for disputing those irrational beliefs, like you might say, instead of getting depressed or feeling inferior or inadequate you might say, “Well, I really didn’t do a very good job at that. I’ll try to do better next time. And the boss does yell at other people too, and he doesn’t pick on me only, and I really am a pretty good employee, otherwise, and I’ll correct this problem.” So thinking more rationally about the activating event can lead to less depression, fewer urges to relapse that sort of thing. And the E stands for effective new behavior, which would again be the, “I’ll do a better job next time,” and etcetera, etcetera. 

25:47 John: So how do people go about learning how to employ this in their daily life? Is it just a matter of trying it out and then coming to the group and talking about it? 

25:47 Steve: Yeah, it’s like a lot of this… To be honest, a lot of these SMART tools are a bit of, it’s a practice. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Like we were talking about the disarm tool. The more you do it, the more you have these things at the front of your head next time you get an urge. The more you think of wanting to drink but you go through your head about your hierarchy of values and what’s really important to you, the easier it is the next time. It’s been said that every time you resist an urge or correct something irrational with an ABC, that part of your brain gets a little stronger and the part of your brain that feels bad about you or wants you to relapse or give in to the urge gets weaker. 

27:05 Ben: It’s very empowering, too, I think to get people in the habit of questioning that first impulsive thought about, as you said, A, the action that happens, and then B, the belief about that action, and then C the consequence. It’s like if you can change the B you’re going to end up with a different result, which is the E and your… So I think getting in that habit is just huge, to say if somebody was doing therapy for a long time you might get to a realization where it’s like, “Oh well, when anybody talks to me in an angry fashion, I tend to go this direction. I need to know that about myself, I need to question my reaction so that I don’t act out in a way that’s going to cause me problems.” 

27:45 Steve: Yeah, we had one and only one in my five years of doing it, but one gentleman who came to a meeting, who, his problem was rage. He was sort of a rageaholic and what brought him in was he was in his car, or he actually had a truck, but he was driving down the freeway and somebody cut him off or something happened, and he went into a rage and was sort of speeding after the guy and yelling at him and stuff. And next thing you know, he looks in his back seat and he’s got two little kids crying, they were just so upset by this. And he said, “You know, I need to do something, I need help.” And so, the activating event can be somebody cutting you off. The irrational belief is what made him act like that, was he felt this guy, “I was infuriated by this guy, so he felt entitled to cut me off. I was… ” Things like that that provoked that feeling, like, “This guy’s not given me a fair shake.” 

28:52 Steve: And a dispute of that might be, “Well, the guy maybe didn’t see me, maybe he just made a mistake himself, and maybe they’re having a bad day, who knows? Even if he’s a jerk, me behaving this way is increasing my chances of having an accident and hurting my kids.” So the more effective behavior is just to kind of just let it go and make sure you stay safe. Yeah, the ABCs can be very empowering in changing your behavior. 

29:27 John: Kind of, you remind me, too, of another little concept and I don’t know under what point it falls under, but the car, the guy, thinking about the guy in the car reminded me of it. It was unconditional acceptance, right? So, and it’s not just unconditional… It’s not an unconditional acceptance of other people, but it’s of yourself too. It’s realizing that “I’m a human being, I’m imperfect, and other people are imperfect.” It was just kind of a nice little read when I was reading that in the manual, I thought that’s something that I could, I could see myself using is just reminding myself that it’s okay to act like that, it’s normal to get pissed off a little bit. 

30:13 Steve: Yeah, yeah, I think they have two things, they call it USA, unconditional self-acceptance, and UOA, unconditional other acceptance. And yeah, it’s to realize, yeah, you’re imperfect but also other people are too, and that we tend to get upset when other people don’t behave the way we’re expecting or we want them to. 

30:42 John: Now if we could go into the fourth point, this is one that actually I need to work on and it was about living a balanced life. And I would really like for you to talk about this a little bit. There are some things that I found very interesting. First of all, the pie chart where you look at, I guess, your values and if you’re imbalanced, but also the importance of finding what they call a vital absorbing creative interest, something that you’re passionate about, that you can do in your life, that’s I guess brings you joy or whatever, but that there’s also a need to not get too carried away with those things, which I find myself doing. I find myself getting involved with a creative interest and find myself getting a little carried away with it, my life gets out of balance. 

31:32 Steve: Well, I think, again, you’re right. The lifestyle balance should be based or integrated with your hierarchy of values and what’s important to you. And again, the balance pie means you take so many sizes of wedges to satisfy living a balanced life, so many hours for good sleep, so many hours for family life, so many hours for friends, so many hours for self-care, like exercise or whatever. Yeah, and part of it should be the creative interest, being what it is. I think it’s kind of self-explanatory, but I think one of the things that often lead to relapse, depression, or other problems is our life getting way out of balance. 

32:37 Steve: And it’s one of those things that can happen very subtly like work might be making more and more demands on your time, and you might get more and more obsessed with overtime and saving money and that kind of thing. The next thing you know the family life starts to suffer and you’re drinking or whatever to deal with the stress. And so living a balanced life is one of the things for sort of maintaining… Again, as I mentioned, it’s probably something more a little later in recovery. 

33:12 John: Yeah. That’s what I’m saying yeah. Now, see, the four points to me they were kind of like a natural progression. I see them that way. I have this habit of seeing things, everything linear. And I know that’s not how everything in the world is, but that’s the way I see things for whatever reason. But I could just see that linear progression of you get motivated, you deal with your urges, you look at your behavior patterns and learn different ways of behaving, and then you have a more fulfilling life that you try to find some balance. And there are all kinds of things that go into that. And I just… I could relate to it, I could see that being like the recovery process. That’s how it kinda seems to me. 

33:58 Steve: Yeah, I think there’s a lot more to recovery than just not drinking or using. And like I mentioned earlier, a lot of people come into recovery with their lives kind of in shambles, they alienated their family, they have a lot of financial legal problems whatever. It’s a process that I think needs to be integrated. I think all of these factors need to be worked on as you go along. I tend to… 

34:31 John: And you know a lot of people… A lot of people might not know, I didn’t know this, but SMART also has an off-shoot for family. 

34:39 Steve: Right. They call it family and friends. Yeah, fortunately, locally, we do have one meeting of family and friends one out seven, so that’s a good thing.

34:49 John: I think so because that is a huge factor with somebody’s recovery is dealing with their family as they’re recovering, and the family needs to understand it and the person needing to understand what they’re doing to their family it can… Yeah, I can see how that’s a big piece of all of this. 

35:09 Ben: Steve what I really appreciate about SMART, that I hear over and over is, it’s about figuring out what your values are and how to go towards those, and figuring out what matters to you and learning how to make your life work in that aspect. Rather than like it’s not prescriptive, as here’s what your value should be or here’s what you should be doing. It’s like, “Let’s find out what works for you.” I find that very refreshing, because especially in the 12-Step world, I don’t always find that to be true. 

35:39 Steve: Yeah, I think, I guess, as a therapist, you probably know it’s best when the person in treatment discovers what’s best for them on their own. And you might just lead them to it without telling them what to do. That’s kind of what we try to do in SMART because we readily admit that everyone’s program is probably a little different. And when things work… Some people want to be musicians, other of us want to-be Ph.D. So their lifestyle balance pies are going to look different, but hopefully, they’ll stay sober. 

36:24 John: Yeah, SMART is also very upfront about a lot of things that I think are important. They were upfront about supporting pharmacological, scientifically-based pharmacological treatments for addiction, that… That’s fully supported. And I think it was important to talk about that. And there are a few other things I just can’t remember that I thought that they made it, they were just, it was wise to be upfront about some of these things. That you’re free to create your own, do what works for you. 

37:02 Steve: Right. And another thing SMART tries to do is meet people where they’re at. A lot of people come in just questioning. We don’t have a requirement that you have to be sober to be here. But the only… You define whether or not you want to be there. And even if you’re just questioning or just wondering and want other people’s opinions, that’s fine too. And anything that gives these people a little insight or lets them discover where they’re at, can be helpful. We don’t insist everybody stay forever and ever in meetings and just have one goal, it’s just meet them where they’re at and help them out. 

37:55 Ben: It seems a lot more inclusive and welcoming than some of the places I know as far as those philosophies and just like you said, meeting people where they’re at and saying, “Hey, if you want to come here sometimes do. If you don’t, don’t. If… There’s not a prescription that’s going to work for everyone.” 

38:10 John: Well, we can do another couple of episodes on SMART because there’s a whole other online component that they have too, which is absolutely incredible. They have online meetings, they have chat rooms. And from what they said on the website, it’s pretty much always accessible. Then, of course, you have the training that you can talk about, that you go through to be a SMART facilitator. I mean there’s a lot of meat to this. There’s a lot of substance behind all of this. And one thing I did want to ask you, Steve, before we leave, do you know how all of this was put together, how they wrote this manual? What’d they do? Did they go to the experts and ask, “What components should we add to this program?” How did this happen? 

38:56 Steve: No, to be honest, I think it was just the therapists at the beginning, like Tom Horvath, and there are several people who… Therapists, who just sort of got together, put their heads together, and, “Let’s give people some other alternative.” 

39:12 John: Okay, okay, I didn’t realize that. So it was actually started by people who were trained therapists? 

39:17 Steve: Yeah, no, some are… Let’s see, like Gerstein, Joe Gerstein, he’s actually an MD, sort of an addiction medicine specialist. Most of the other ones are therapists, PhDs, that sort of thing. Now, to qualify… About, on average, about 50% of the SMART facilitators are also degreed in something else. 

39:40 John: I was wondering about that. Are you? Are you like a therapist? 

39:43 Steve: No. 

39:43 John: No, okay. So you’re a total layperson? 

39:45 Steve: I’m a layperson facilitator. 

39:47 John: Wow. 

39:47 Ben: I never would have guessed. 

39:51 Steve: But some are, yeah, some are like MSCCs and stuff like that. 

39:57 John: And another cool thing too, you don’t actually have to have had an addiction problem to be a SMART facilitator.  

40:04 Steve: Correct. 

40:05 John: And it’s really interesting, you read that, you read… I can’t remember if it was in the manual or if it was on the website, where I was reading about the principles. I think it’s on the website. It says, “We found that it really doesn’t really matter.” And it shouldn’t matter, it really shouldn’t matter. 

40:17 Steve: It really shouldn’t. I think, to be honest, most of the people I know who are not substance abusers, who are SMART facilitators, are the degreed people, okay? The psych social workers, that sort of thing. And one thing I should mention is a person in that category can often take the course and get continuing education.

40:46 John: Oh, okay. 

40:48 Steve: Okay? And a lot of them will host meetings, because as you know, therapists deal with people with substance problems all the time, and it’s a very common problem. And so it helps to have that under their belt even if they don’t… 

41:05 John: Well, before we let Steve go, Ben, do you have any questions or anything you want to mention? 

41:10 Ben: No, I mean, I said I never would have guessed, Steve. I would have anticipated you were a therapist or a counselor, so you’ve… Sounds great. Yeah, I really appreciate you joining us. 

41:22 Steve: Well, I got my degree from the University of adversity. 

[laughter] 

41:27 John: Well, Steve I… Again, thank you so much for coming on here to be our very first guest. I want to have you back on again because like I said, there’s a lot of substance to this, there’s a lot to SMART Recovery. We just barely touched the surface here. You could spend a whole episode on just one of these points. You can talk about the training, oh gosh, all kinds of stuff. I was really fascinated with it as I read the manual and read through the website, so thank you very much for doing this. 

41:55 Steve: Well, if you want to do some podcasts in the future with a focus on something or other, just let me know. 

42:00 John: I absolutely will. So I’m going to play some music to get us out of here. 

[music] 

42:06 John: That’s not the right music. 

[music] 

42:10 John: I’ll have to learn the right button one of these days. So anyway, thank you for listening to and watching My Secular Sobriety. That’s what it’s called. Yeah, thank you, and thank you, Steve. And that’s, that’s a wrap. 

[music]


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