RELEASE: Harvard’s Atheist Center Honors Founder of Secular AA

RELEASE: Harvard’s Atheist Center Honors Founder of Secular AA

Harvard Medical School Faculty Retiree Honored for Founding Worldwide Nonreligious Addiction Recovery Group

CAMBRIDGE, MA: The Humanist Community at Harvard (HCH) will present Dr. Joseph Gerstein with the 2016 Humanist of the Year Award on October 9, honoring him for 25 years as the President and founder of SMART Recovery.

SMART, which stands for Self-Management Addiction Recovery Training, is an evidence-based, secular alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous. With its focus on recovery from addictions, it operates both as a support group and as a tools-based group which helps individuals clarify their thinking so they can make better decisions for themselves.

“Dr. Joe Gerstein’s work creating SMART Recovery is one of the most important and underrated community service projects of all time,” said Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard, and the Executive Director of the Humanist Hub — the community center that houses HCH, and that serves hundreds of nonreligious persons each week with programs and counseling.

“Without any financial gain or attention-seeking, [Gerstein] has helped hundreds of thousands of people to recover from addiction through scientifically based, nonreligious techniques, and his work may reach millions in the future,” Epstein continued. “He is a true hero for our time.”

Gerstein brought the SMART Recovery Program to Massachusetts in 1990. Since that time, there have been more than 28,000 free SMART Recovery meetings in Massachusetts, including 29 weekly SMART meetings in hospitals, churches, synagogues, VA facilities, sober houses, jails, prisons, and community centers.

Gerstein has facilitated more than 3,000 of these meetings himself.

“Dr. Gerstein was a clear choice for this award,” said Sarah Chandonnet, Program Director at the Humanist Hub.

“We at the Hub view his work among the greatest examples of community service in the history of modern humanism.”

In recent years, SMART Recovery has also been offered in prisons worldwide.

A recent study in Australia on 6,000 inmates demonstrated a dramatic decrease in reconvictions for violent crimes after release for those exposed to the SMART Recovery program versus those with standard programming.

SMART Recovery is now available in 22 countries on six continents, and its Handbook has been published in nine languages.

“[His] passion, care, and commitment to people and to SMART Recovery is unparalleled,” said Shari Allwood, the current Executive Director of SMART.

Other recipients of this award have included entertainers Seth MacFarlane and Steve Allen; human rights heroes Gen. Romeo Dallaire and Taslima Nasreen; and world-renowned scientists Steven Pinker and E.O. Wilson

Gerstein will accept the award and deliver an acceptance speech at 1:30 PM at the Humanist Hub, 30 JFK Street in Harvard Square. Visit for more information.

For information on SMART Recovery, visit