“Finding Nemo” introduces himself in a fish addiction meeting by saying, “Hi, my name is Bruce” and receives a collective greeting in response.
Cultural recognition when someone talks about addiction and the recovery process is possible due to the 12-step programs that dominate the recovery environment. A person struggling with addiction traditionally finds his or her identity through programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, constantly referring to themselves as alcoholics upon group introductions. While AA and other 12-step programs can be constructive, they have also created a “one size fits all” recovery plan.
Alternative options for those struggling with addiction are necessary, and the Self Management and Recovery Treatment program, also known as SMART, sets out to do just that.
“SMART was born as an alternative to 12-step traditions,” Assistant Director of the Counseling Center Robert Scholz said. “There is also more connection between members during sessions that set it apart from traditional meetings.”
Unlike 12-step programs that forbid cross-talk during sessions, SMART recovery sets out to engage dialogue as a group, which is one way it creates a space for group benefit.
Pepperdine has offered 12-step programs in the past, but Scholz said the Counseling Center is always looking for additional resources for students who may need to make changes and have tailored opportunities.
“Often times, young people have a hard time connecting with the 12-step program, and our goal is to offer a range of options,” Scholz said.
He said sometimes students have a difficult time finding the relevance to their own lives in traditional programs, and that the program provides an extension to normal practices of recovery.
One of the reasons Scholz said students may not fully benefit from traditional programs is due to the ambivalence of their situation. Scholz pointed toward the perception that recovery programs are designated to those who are truly ready to give up their current lifestyle.
“We hear phrases about needing to hit rock bottom or be desperate and living on the streets before being ready for help, but that is simply not true,” Scholz said.
One difference between traditional programs and SMART is it gives the opportunity to explore their situation if someone is unsure whether their habits are a problem. Scholz hopes that by gaining help earlier rather than later, students can avoid getting to the cliche’d rock bottom moment.
SMART is based on a four-point program, focusing on motivation practices, dealing with urges, managing emotions and creating a balanced lifestyle. Scholz said that each week participants direct the discussion, addressing the point of the program they feel most prevalent each week. Additionally, SMART has free worksheets available online that students can access and work on throughout the week.
“The structure of the program provides a clear basis of where [the group] is going each week,” Scholz said.
Weekly group sessions that have structure while also giving students a voice in how that structure takes form is something Scholz said he likes about the program.
Collectively we joke about being addicted to Netflix and Instagram, but drug and alcohol addiction is nothing to laugh off. People think of drug and alcohol problems as being worst-case scenario, hearing of addicts on the street and losing everything, but that is not necessarily the situation. For SMART at Pepperdine, this program is a place that “meets people where they are,” and provides a more realistic program that fits addicts in different stages.
Currently the Pepperdine SMART group meets at 4 p.m. Friday in order to help with possible weekend temptations. If you or a friend may benefit from this group, contact the counseling center for more information at (310) 506-4210.
Follow Ashlie Benson on Twitter: @Ashie_Corina