Brancome said Alcoholic Anonymous and other recovery programs help many people, but not everyone responds to their methods.
SMART Recovery, which stands for Smart Management and Recovery Training, is based on science, Brancome said.
“It was started in 1994 by a group of psychiatrists and counselors and recovery people who wanted to see the latest science-based, evidence-based recovery techniques,” he said. “They wanted a secular program for people who don’t like or thrive in A.A. or other recovery programs.”
The free program is held on Thursday nights at 7 p.m. at the Center for Mental Health at 605 East Miami Drive. Drop-ins are welcome, no pre-registration is required, and each class lasts about 90 minutes. To learn more, call Brancome at 970/210-3547.
SMART is a short-term therapy program, designed to teach people how to get rid of dysfunctional beliefs and adopt more functional behavior patterns.
The philosophy behind the program is fairly simple, Brancome said: Because thoughts and beliefs steer our feelings and behavior, SMART addresses those thoughts and beliefs.
“If you don’t like a behavior, you have to go through a process of what thoughts and beliefs are behind it, and once you do that, you can change them,” he said. “It centers on trying to elicit a person’s own affirmative statements about a willingness to change.”
SMART is a four-part program, Brancome said. The first part involves teaching people how to enhance and maintain motivation to abstain from alcohol or drugs, and the second teaches them how to cope with urges. The third part concerns how to manage thoughts, feelings and behavior by using effective problem-solving techniques, and the fourth teaches how to maintain a balanced lifestyle.
The recovery program is based in part on the work of psychologist Albert Ellis, who developed Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, Brancome said.
“His principles are called ABCD,” he said. “A is for an activating event, B is for understanding, C is consequences, D is disputing belief, and E is finding an effective behavior.”
People’s interpretation of events that happen to them affect their thoughts, which guides their behavior, he said, but sometimes giving an event a different interpretation can have a totally different outcome.
For example, say your boss chews you out one day, which makes you feel worthless, so you go home and start drinking. But you could dispute that in your mind, Brancome said, by thinking instead that maybe the boss just had a bad day, and it’s not evidence that you are worthless. In other words, don’t let what other people think determine your feelings of self worth. Your thoughts determine your behavior.
The SMART Recovery program started in July, and averages about 17 people per class, Brancome said. He said he’s hoping to find another facilitator to go through training and start a class in Gunnison, and in other area towns.
“We’re always looking for people with experience in counseling, and would like to start meetings in Telluride, Ouray and Ridgway,” he said.
At present there are six SMART Recovery programs operating in Colorado, but the one in Montrose is the only one on the Western Slope.
The Sinclair Method, another recovery program, is run by the Center for Mental Health. It uses medications to help with recovery, and has been endorsed by psychiatrists in this area, Brancome said, and by criminal justice systems administrators as a possible alternative to jail. To learn more, call Patsy Boyle at the Center for Mental Health at 970/252-3214.
Facilitators in the Sinclair Method have been trained to use the latest medications to help with detoxification and recovery, Brancome said. The principal medication used is Naltrexone, which works on the brain in a fashion similar to Chantix, the stop-smoking pill. Unlike Chantix, however, Naltrexone has no side effects.
“You take it one hour before drinking and over three to six months, you get pharmacological extinction,” he said.
That means that over a period of time, the craving for alcohol and drugs gradually diminishes.
“It’s a remarkable way to detox, because you don’t have to go through the shakes and turmoil,” Brancome said.
For most people, it takes three to four months to stop the craving, and for some as long as six. Then the person can make a decision to abstain entirely, he said.
Naltrexone is generic and inexpensive. Although it was approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 1994 for the treatment of alcohol problems, early studies had mixed results. New results of studies in Finland have had much more positive results, he said, and now the drug is taking off in Europe and getting wider use in this country.
Both the SMART Recovery program and the Sinclair Method are being helped by funding from the Montrose Community Foundation, of which Brancome is a board member.
Brancome, a retired journalist, said he ran into problems with alcohol in his mid-30s, and that his own recovery motivated him to become involved in drug and alcohol rehabilitation. He has served on the boards of several national organizations concerned with combating drug and alcohol abuse, and has worked locally to help people to get sober.
There’s only one hitch with both the SMART or Sinclair methods, Brancome said: the person has to want to be helped.
“If an individual is not motivated, nothing is probably going to work,” he said. “There is no magic pill or recovery program. But for people who want to change their lives, the [Sinclair] program is probably the most innovative, and this is the only place in Colorado where it’s being done.”