SMART is different from 12-step programs in several important ways. The first is that SMART rejects the disease model of addiction and the idea that we are powerless over our addiction

Instead, SMART sees addiction as a dysfunction habit, a destructive learned behaviour. And just as these dysfunctional habits can be learned, they can be unlearned. Whereas 12-step programs focus on addressing character defects and building mutual support, SMART focuses on the addictive behaviour itself and aims to teach self-empowerment.

A major consequence of this difference is that 12-step programs are abstinence-only, whereas SMART does not insist that abstinence is the only way. For many people, abstinence is a good choice, but it’s not necessarily the only option. SMART also does not have a concept of a higher power and does not emphasize service. SMART’s primary goal is to teach members research-backed tools for controlling addictive behaviour. These tools are not set in stone like the 12 steps, but are meant to change and evolve as new research is made available. The “SMART toolbox” primarily draws from motivational enhancement therapy, or MET, and cognitive behaviour therapy, or CBT, especially a variety called rational emotive behavioural therapy, or REBT.