25 in 25 Volunteer Spotlight: David Koss

Throughout SMART’s 25th anniversary year, culminating in our National Conference September 20 – 22 in Itasca, Illinois, we will honor volunteers representing many types of individual service.


“A force of nature” is how Joe Gerstein, MD, FACP, founding president of SMART Recovery, describes David Koss. As regional coordinator of the Greater Washington Area of SMART Recovery, which includes Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., Koss has been instrumental in facilitating face-to-face meetings, coordinating a successful Regional Conference, promoting the organization through marketing and outreach activities, and communicating with members of Congress and their staffs, with the goal of bringing about greater awareness of SMART Recovery’s work in addressing the addiction crisis.

A successful participant of the SMART Recovery program and a lawyer by profession, Koss was mentored by Bill Greer, president of the SMART Recovery Board of Directors. “He was attending so many meetings and he was so enthusiastic, that I picked him as my successor to be regional coordinator,” Greer says. “He was a natural to take on the position.”

Koss also turned out to be a natural for just about any activity that would promote SMART Recovery. “He manned an exhibit table at a conference that was very helpful, and that’s where I got to know him,” Dr. Gerstein recalls. “He’s been very aggressive as a coordinator, and he’s been able to attract very competent, high-powered speakers to the Greater Washington area’s Regional Conference.”

Initially envisioned as a way for facilitators and professionals to discuss SMART Recovery’s tools to recovery, the conference has begun to gain a wider audience. “Last year, David got John F. Kelly, Ph.D., a Harvard Medical School professor, and an internationally known expert on addiction and recovery, to speak, and this year, he’s bringing in Joshua Sharfstein, MD, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, to discuss the opioid epidemic,” Dr. Gerstein notes. “David has been very organized, working closely with several of the Greater Washington area’s best clinicians and SMART Recovery facilitators. During its four years in existence, about 100 people have attended each Regional Conference, and word has begun to spread beyond the region.”

Koss tapped into his previous work as a staffer for a member of Congress. “I had no idea about his political background,” Greer notes. “He’s been extremely active in helping us as we try to secure funds from the federal government.”

Federal funds would go a long way to expand SMART Recovery’s 25-year role in helping individuals with substance use disorders, especially given SMART Recovery’s strong support of medication-assisted treatment in the case of opioid addiction. “It would be lifesaving for us to multiply our number of meetings across the country,” Dr. Gerstein explains.

Dr. Gerstein approached the Secular Coalition for America to consider supporting SMART Recovery. Through that connection, SMART Recovery was invited to give a talk to the influential Mental Health Liaison Group. “David offered to do the talk, and it was very successful,” Dr. Gerstein says. “They invited us to join. Shortly thereafter, David was asked if SMART Recovery would like to join the Coalition to Stop Opioid Overdose. Being a member of both organizations has helped SMART Recovery in Washington.”

That’s just Koss’s way: diving right in to meet the next opportunity to help SMART Recovery. “He is skilled and assertive, and he has become a frequent presence on Capitol Hill,” Dr. Gerstein explains.

“David knows how the process works,” Greer adds. “He’s been on the inside, and he brings a special level of knowledge.” In addition, Koss does his research and is able to speak about addiction and the recovery process intelligently to researchers and influential people in Washington.

When he’s not lobbying for national exposure of SMART Recovery, Koss can be found coordinating the Greater Washington Area, leading meetings and helping others to become facilitators. His efforts, on a volunteer basis, strengthen SMART Recovery’s presence at regional and national levels. “Hats off to David for putting his heart into his role,” Greer says.

Professor Kelly told us at the 2018 Regional Conference in Maryland that in successful SMART Recovery meetings, it is easy to find evidence of legendary psychiatrist Irvin Yalom’s “11 therapeutic factors” of group therapy.  SMART Recovery meetings are more than just another type of peer-based mutual aid. Our meetings are consciously based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and the Stages of Change. We use the techniques and the spirit of Motivational Interviewing, and we are expressly supportive of medication-assisted treatment. For those reasons, SMART Recovery meetings support the best of modern addiction treatment. SMART Recovery meetings are expressly warm and welcoming non-judgmental places to share, where individuals are free to articulate and create their own highly personal recovery journey. – David Koss 

David, the awareness you continue to drive for SMART Recovery is immeasurable. We are grateful to have you and your energy on our team!

About the 25 in 25 Volunteer Recognition Program

The heart of SMART’s 25th anniversary celebration in 2019 is the story of an extraordinary community of volunteers who have built a worldwide organization devoted to supporting individuals recovering from addiction, as well as their family members and friends. These volunteers include addiction scientists and treatment professionals who designed a self-empowering 4-Point Program®and joined people with the experience of recovery and trained them to lead mutual support group meetings.

Together they have created and refined a peer-professional mutual-support group model that combines the best science for treating addiction with the lived experience of recovering from addiction – the world’s largest and only community of its kind with more than 3,000 group meetings held each week in 23 countries. Each year, participants in these groups help each other recover at more than 150,000 meetings, in-person and online, led by volunteers trained how to use the SMART program.

Throughout SMART’s 25th anniversary year, culminating in our National Conference September 20–22 in Itasca, Illinois, we will honor volunteers representing many types of individual service.

Click here to nominate a deserving individual.

Click here to learn more about the program and to see all who have been recognized.

About SMART Recovery

Founded in 1994, SMART (Self-Management And Recovery Training) uses science-based techniques that have proven to be effective in helping people recover from addiction problems involving any substance or behavior, including such things as alcohol, drugs, gambling, over-eating, shopping, and internet use.

Each week, thousands of people discuss recovery progress and challenges at more than 3,000 in-person meetings in 23 countries, daily online meetings and 24/7/365 message board forums and chat rooms.

Participants use SMART to assume responsibility for their own recovery and become empowered using its 4-Point Program®: building motivation; coping with urges; managing thoughts, feelings and behaviors; and living a balanced life.

For more information, please visit www.smartrecovery.org.

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