Clinical guidelines recommend Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART Recovery) and 12-step models of mutual aid as important sources of long-term support for addiction recovery. Methodologically rigorous reviews of the efficacy and potential mechanisms of change are available for the predominant 12-step approach. A similarly rigorous exploration of SMART Recovery has yet to be undertaken. We aim to address this gap by providing a systematic overview of the evidence for SMART Recovery in adults with problematic alcohol, substance, and/or behavioral addiction, including (i) a commentary on outcomes assessed, process variables, feasibility, current understanding of mental health outcomes, and (ii) a critical evaluation of the methodology. We searched six electronic peer-reviewed and four gray literature databases for English-language SMART Recovery literature. Articles were classified, assessed against standardized criteria, and checked by an independent assessor. Twelve studies (including three evaluations of effectiveness) were identified. Alcohol-related outcomes were the primary focus. Standardized assessment of nonalcohol substance use was infrequent. Information about behavioral addiction was restricted to limited prevalence data. Functional outcomes were rarely reported. Feasibility was largely indexed by attendance. Economic analysis has not been undertaken. Little is known about the variables that may influence treatment outcome, but attendance represents a potential candidate. Assessment and reporting of mental health status was poor. Although positive effects were found, the modest sample and diversity of methods prevent us from making conclusive remarks about efficacy. Further research is needed to understand the clinical and public health utility of SMART as a viable recovery support option.
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