What Do You Think of SMART Recovery?

Dear Stanton:

What are your opinions about Smart Recovery? Jack Trimpey's AA Bashing was/is opposed by the Smart Recovery Board, but now there is a ground swell of "Let's give it back to them." What are your opinions about this?

Dick Brockman


I'm on the scientific advisory board of SMART, but I welcome all input. You sound well-informed. Tell me where you're at and what you think is going on and your reactions to it.



I am here in Texas, Fort Worth, which has been in the heartland of AA country since the beginning. We have the largest Baptist Seminary here and major beliefs that Smart Recovery is probably sinful because it is Ungodly! Albert Ellis is of course an Atheist, ergo REBT can not be abided. Well, not really — we have some enlightened folk here, but the majority are so hard core AA that you can barely talk to them about alternatives to AA without them covering their ears and humming to drown out the anathema. I have been a maverick for many years and was an enthusiastic supporter of Jack's from the beginning and was one of the first Certified Rational Recovery Specialists. We met when he was in our area and he, Lois and I appeared to get along fine. I licensed my agency to be called a Rational Recovery Agency and I was going about giving talks about RR as an alternative to AA for a long time. Then Jack appeared to go off the deep end and do exactly what he criticized AA folks for — saying that the only ones who could help are those who have had the problem and since I am not a recovering anything, I fell out of grace and finally said enough of this Non-Rational Thinking. I was very glad to see SMART Recovery get off the ground and now we carry that banner and have a meeting at our facility weekly.

addiction-articles-54-healthyplaceF.A.C.T.S. is a non-profit agency I started in 1985 with one of my professors, since retired, and we specialize in Family Violence, Anger and Substance Abuse. I am a twenty year retired Air Force Officer, who specialized in Substance Abuse Education and Rehabilitation and Equal Opportunity in the Service. At that time I believed all the propaganda and said the AA was the only way, but was always doubting this. When I retired I went back to school for more Degrees (Social Work) and training and got turned on by REBT and the reasonableness of identifying problems based upon thinking rather than powerlessness, loss of control and higher powers. This whole process fit into our organization with regards to the "Batterers Intervention Programs" and "Anger Control Program" which we have developed. We are again on the outside of some of the approved thinking in these areas, because we are not "Object Relations" oriented, and do not attribute these problems to Unattached or Unbonded childhood experiences. I was trained in this process, especially in Rage Reduction Therapy, by Foster Cline, MD of the Evergreen Associates program in Colorado. In most all these programs people are trying to find the cause or justify the behavior and I find that to be either bullshit or a waste of time. What are we going to do about the behavior? Substance abuse is probably the easiest to measure in that quantities, number of times, and outcomes can be measured, but not by the AA method — a behavioral problem, attributed to a medical disease and cured by a spiritual method!

So anyway! The latest newsletter from SMART Recovery had articles about the abuse we have taken from AAers and Vince Fox's articles about how we should stop being the nice guys and start bashing back. I asked your opinion because I respect you authorship and reasoning and argumentation. I have trained with Albert Ellis in four programs and Michelor Bishop and, although this is my philosophy in general, I can not altogether agree with him and Michelor on the idea that REBT can co-exist with the Twelve Step Approach and that we should be nice guys about the whole affair. The only time I have found acceptance from the Twelve Step Community is if I agree that REBT and Twelve Step can work together. I am a purist in that I can not abide by the Irrational thinking of the Twelve Steps and see how I can agree with them in my therapy. It is rather like you have pointed out in your books and articles, not necessarily in this manner but, if it's bullshit, it's bullshit!

So there you have small input of what I think is going on. I believe that the nice guy approach has not really worked with the Twelve Steppers, although the Criminal Justice System is siding with us more and more and not supporting the AA approach as strongly as in the past. I am frustrated that things are not going as fast as I want them to go. I recognize that this frustration is my making and I can handle that.

I am always looking to learn and improve my mind and do research in these areas. I read a lot and have read several of your works and agree with what you believe. I appreciate your answering me so quickly.


Dear Dick:

I like the cut of your jib (even if you were in the Air Force)! I hate it when military guys are irrational — I thought that was their primary professional claim — that they see through the bullshit.

Anyhow, I liked the story of your Odyssey very much. You hang out there, do what you think is right, take heat, and roll with the punches. You might actually be doing some good! (Every once in a while, I read something that makes me think psychology works. Like, in the book Fatal Vision, when the defense attorney brings the murderer, Captain MacDonald, to a psychologist for testing, and the guy gets MacDonald to a T! Says he can't comprehend anyone's feelings outside his own, and views any interference with his urges as a personal assault that he feel he can eliminate as he chooses.)

Your experiences with Jack are, of course, fascinating and consistent with those of others. (Have you seen the section on my website where Jack accuses me of being the devil?) I admire your ability to float with the punches and to come out swinging. I admire your nondogmatic, sensible approach to things (I don't even know what "Object Relations" are, but they are obviously bullshit). And you tell me you're making headway within the criminal justice system. I would hope that a guy with a military background could swing a little weight there.

Meanwhile, you may know that my main problem with SMART Recovery is that most human beings in the world are struggling to continue using, and most will continue to do so. So I wish there was a group that dealt with the majority of people — even including those who keep using without much reduction in use, but who could nonetheless still improve their lives and eventually get in a position to ameliorate or eliminate their substance abuse (I'm talking harm reduction).

As for the particular dispute you describe, between the appeasers and the warriors (a la Vincent Fox), my natural disposition is very much, like you, on the side of the latter. It's just laziness and fear of doing battle with those crazy AAers that makes Albert Ellis (whom I know slightly) accept their bullshit (this, from a man whose favorite analytic phrase over the decades has been "bullshit"). But, I found myself agreeing with the accommodators as well — why look for problems when you just are offering to expand the array of services? I can't argue with someone who takes a peaceful approach to reform. And, I might add, sometimes people liken my battling ways to Jack's, and I don't want that as my epitaph.

Keep in touch. Make headway. Get in trouble. These are the words I live by.


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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2009, January 5). What Do You Think of SMART Recovery?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: June 27, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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