Should 12-Step Meetings Be Offered Online?

Highest Standards, Nationally Recognized:

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In today’s world, the Internet is everywhere.  We have apps on our phones and links to websites on our computers. Access to information is 24/7/365.  Most individuals in recovery attend 12-step meetings in person.  This allows for personal sharing of recovery through the relationships that are formed and the fellowship that is shared in the meetings.  Attending a 12-step meeting online might have benefits; however, there are both positive and negatives associated with this type of meeting attendance.


Benefits of Attending Online Meetings

One benefit of attending an online meeting would be convenience.  In adverse weather, power outages, or lack of transportation, one can still attend an online meeting.  Another benefit would be the number of meetings available and the times of the meetings.  Some recovering individuals live in rural areas and it might be difficult to find a meeting nearby that works with work and school schedules.  Online meetings can provide the same support through chat functions and allow the recovering person to share.  The online format would also benefit those who might have social anxiety or other mental health disorder that can make in-person attendance challenging.


Challenges with Online Meetings

One challenge to attending an online 12-step meeting would be privacy.  Even though communication is done through an individual’s own phone or computer, there could be an opportunity for others outside of the meeting to listen in anonymously.  There is also an opportunity for a phone or computer to be hacked and private information shared with others outside of the meeting.  Another challenge is mandatory attendance at 12-step meetings.  A judge or other court official may have made attendance at 12-step meetings mandatory as a condition of an offense.  There may be difficulty in providing proof that one was actually in attendance in an online meeting.  12-step meetings were designed as an open forum where thoughts and feelings can be shared about recovery.  There is an element of fellowship and togetherness that occurs when attending an in-person meeting.  This fellowship and togetherness might be missed in an online meeting leaving one feeling isolated.

Online access to 12-step meetings and other recovery interventions is a growing phenomenon.  As the Internet world continues to grow, so will the opportunity to attend 12-step meetings virtually.  Each individual should weigh the pros and cons of online meeting attendance to make an informed decision as to whether online meetings will meet the needs of the individual’s recovery.


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