SMART recovery for youth: a small, exploratory qualitative study examining the potential of a mutual-aid, peer support addictive behaviour change program for young people

Publication Name

Addiction Science and Clinical Practice


Background: SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training) Recovery is a mutual-aid program informed by cognitive behaviour therapy and motivational interviewing that provides support for a range of addictive behaviours. SMART Recovery has not been adapted to target young people with addictive behaviours despite the potential to overcome important barriers affecting youth engagement in other addiction programs. This study aimed to engage young people and SMART Recovery facilitators in qualitative interviews and focus groups to explore the potential of such a program and gain specific insights for its development. Methods: We conducted qualitative interviews and a focus group with five young people (aged between 14 and 24 years) and eight key stakeholders (including seven SMART Recovery facilitators) to obtain recommendations on how best to reach, engage, and support young people with addictive behaviours in a tailored SMART Recovery program. Qualitative data was transcribed and analysed using iterative categorization. Results: Five key themes were identified when developing and delivering youth-targeted SMART Recovery. [1] ‘Discussing personal experiences to promote a shared identity’ refers to the benefits of creating a forum where personal stories are used to connect with others and validate one’s experiences. [2] ‘Flexible and patient approach’ emphasises a preference for facilitators to take a more gentle, less direct approach that allows for discussion beyond addictive behaviours. [3] ‘Balancing information and skills with the space for discussion’ acknowledges that youth want to connect in a variety of ways, beyond discussion of addictive behaviours, and that they wish to lead skill sharing and development. [4] ‘Conveying a community for youth through language’ highlighted the need to focus on connecting youth and to avoid the use of generic language to engage young people. [5] ‘Group logistics and competing demands’ refers to the logistical considerations of implementing a group program for youth that takes into account their competing demands and group accessibility. Conclusion: The findings point to considerations for developing youth specific mutual-aid groups, in particular a youth-targeted SMART Recovery program, such as by ensuring the conversation is youth-led and with an informal and flexible approach to guide group discussion.

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Hunter Medical Research Institute



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