Millions of people each year struggle with alcohol and drug misuse. In fact, it has been shown that 1 in 12 Americans are in need of substance misuse treatment. Unfortunately, many of these people do not seek treatment, for reasons that could include cost, inconvenience and stigma.
In an effort to increase the accessibility to treatment options, new technology-driven recovery resources have been created to provide guidance, track and monitor urges, and help individuals create and follow a plan that leads them to success. Designed to complement recovery meetings, evidence-based, online programs are scientifically proven to help participants stop drinking and maintain their abstinence. These online apps and tools can also serve as a confidential and convenient first step to change for recovery newcomers who aren’t ready for face-to-face or online mutual help group meetings.
A pioneer in his field, Dr. Reid Hester is one of the nation’s leading substance misuse experts. He’s also the co-founder of CheckUp & Choices, SMART Recovery’s online program and partner. For over two decades Dr. Hester has been dedicated to researching and applying the best technology, science and analytics to support people in realizing their full potential by reducing alcohol-related problems for over two decades.
Programs such as CheckUp & Choices continually evaluate participant feedback to measure the positive effects of their online programs. Here Dr. Hester shares actual (anonymized) feedback from SMART participants who have used CheckUp & Choices. Dr. Hester explains how the self-empowering program features of online self-management programs can speed up and support recovery success.
Q & A with Dr. Reid Hester
“Seeing the results in a scientific way makes it real” — B.A.
Q. How can seeing results in a scientific manner have a positive effect on recovery?
A. Self-monitoring is an important step in achieving abstinence. Using an effective online program allows you to monitor and track urges, which allows users to see patterns and progress, and is one of the best ways to know if your recovery efforts are working. An evidence-based, self-management program should measure the frequency, duration, and intensity of drinking urges, as well as provide you with methods and mindfulness techniques to build effective coping skills that can help deal with urges. As you effectively deal with urges, you’ll start to see a decline in their frequency and intensity. The resulting data will confirm your positive progress: recovery efforts are working.
“This was great. It helped me clearly see where I am and make a plan.” —C. P.
Q. Why is a plan important in the recovery process?
A. Goal setting is fundamental to success. You’re more likely to achieve your goal if you have a plan. We recommend finding a program that will help you build a personalized plan of action to help you stay on track throughout the recovery process. The development of this plan should include action steps that will support your recovery goals and should be updated and refined again and again for the duration of the program. Making a plan reinforces the change process and enhances your efforts to stop drinking and maintain abstinence.
“I can’t say I was shocked with how bad my drinking has become, but seeing it in comparison to others – in charts and graphs and words –impacted me more than anything has so far.” — D.P.
Q: What is it about comparing our own drinking against others that is so effective?
A. For individuals who are concerned about their drinking behavior, an online accountability program can be their first step to change. A program that helps monitor and track your urges may also be able to provide a detailed look at your drinking, alcohol-related problems and risk factors compared to others your age and gender. The motivation for change increases when you can see and evaluate your drinking in comparison to others. Considering feedback in comparison to others is a reality check. For people who are either at risk for or are already having alcohol-related problems, personalized normative feedback helps them resolve ambivalence about drinking, and to consider whether to cut back on drinking or stop.
Adjusting long-standing behaviors like drinking takes time, patience, thought, and determination. Research shows that using a self-management online resource can positively affect your ability to stop drinking. It can build self-confidence and strengthen your motivation to change. With 24/7 access to urge-tracking tools, coping exercises, personalized feedback charts and self-empowering game plans, an online program can focus your recovery efforts for ongoing success.
Looking for online resources on your path to recovery?
CheckUp & Choices is a confidential self-led online program that has been clinically proven to help SMART Recovery participants. The “CheckUp” includes a comprehensive alcohol self-assessment. The “Choices” programs include 12+ weeks of ongoing motivational exercises, drink, mood and urge trackers, guided emails and change plans. With Checkup & Choices, you are never labeled and you will be treated with respect and without judgment.