Online 12 Step Meetings

meetingThere is no shortage of formal and informal 12 step meetings online. The best selection comes with the groups that have been around awhile – AA and NA – but there are meetings for most 12 step programs.

There are too many to list here, but directories are available here and here. So what are the upsides and downsides of attending a meeting online?

A few. On the positive side, they are completely anonymous and free to attend. If an email address is required to register, that doesn’t even have to be your “main” email. You can set one up just for that purpose.

Online meetings are also more convenient than offline. In most cases, even if a meeting isn’t scheduled when you have free time, you can still find a chat session in progress and participate. You will be able to attend a step meeting focused on the step you are doing without having to search out a meeting in your local area. They are more popular with younger people who are used to interacting by text and already go to the Internet for advice and counsel.

Unfortunately, there is also a downside to online. Meetings are often sparsely attended and not very well directed. There can be a battle for the “screen” or, when available, microphone time. Here the anonymity works against the group effort. There’s no way to “shush” a member with a hard look…

There’s also something missing with text communication. Typing out your thoughts just isn’t as spontaneous for some and miscommunications are often the result. When tempers flair, an online meeting can degenerate into a flame war. When you are looking for a meeting, keep this in mind and look for good moderation – a firm but fair hand.

Another problem with online 12 step meetings is the lack of community that comes with face-to-face. Regular attendees will eventually come to know your screen name and something about you, but it doesn’t come as quickly or in the same way as the famous, “after the meeting chat” you find offline.

It’s also important to be aware of scams – someone who wants to exchange personal information in private. It can happen offline as well as online, but it is very easy for someone to victimize an emotionally vulnerable person through the Internet. Just be careful.

The best use of online meetings is as a supplement to a solid relationship with an offline group. Some group members even arrange to meet up at an online site, which is a nice way of combining the two. And when you are pressed and just need to touch base for a little clarity, an online meeting can be just the thing.

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