Alcoholics Anonymous: The Self-Help Group

Specific Types of Self-Help Meetings

The attended self-help group meeting was Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) concerning the issue of alcohol dependability. The main goal of this community is to maintain a sober lifestyle. In these groups, participants try to share success, avoiding painful moments. There are no lists or attendance reports kept for AA or anyone else. Moreover, there are no social, religious, economic, ethnic, gender restrictions on entry into the community.

It is a group of people who share their experiences, strengths, and hopes. Members try to solve their common problem and help others get rid of alcoholism. The only condition for membership in AA is a desire to stop drinking. AA members do not pay entry fees or membership fees. They keep themselves on their voluntary donations.

All of three meetings were held online through the particular website. A self-help group that aims at mutual support can have from 3 to about 20 participants. More significant numbers make communication more difficult and less effective. The facilitator’s duties include transmitting a word from one participant to another. Besides, this person monitors compliance with group rules and meeting schedules.

Initial Perception of the Meeting Format, Individuals Attending, and Facilitation Process

In the first and second AA meetings, at the beginning, there were greetings from the facilitator and participants. It began with a moment of silence in memory of those who died from this addiction. Moreover, this minute was dedicated to frustrated people and those looking for a way to help. At first, the facilitator presented the 12 traditions of anonymous alcohol-addict.

Then, he invited those present to speak and tell their recent experience. For a while, they were silent, gathering their thoughts to tell their story. While the narrator shared his experience, other group members were listening attentively. One of them told only about his problems, but not about strangers.

As a rule, every participant speaks about personal achievements and experience. People usually tend to express their thoughts, feelings, hopes, or expectations. Sometimes, it was impossible to exclude from the story relatives or friends who played an essential role in the group member’s life. However, all attention was focused only on their own experiences and actions.

At the end of the monologue, former drug addicts did not discuss what they had heard. They did not give advice but applauded after the speech of each member. The topics discussed in the self-help group do not go beyond the boundaries of the group. Mutual trust is a crucial factor for good cooperation within the team.

The third meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous was dedicated to one of the 12 steps – examining past errors. It was clear that there are generally accepted rules for organizing a self-help group process. For instance, the start and end of the group meeting are explicitly set. Group members know when the work begins and can tune in to their concerns.

A sponsor being an experienced member was invited to this meeting. During the session, two new attendants remained silent at all times of the meeting. After the session, the participants had time to switch from the group’s work to other vital issues and to relax. There was also an opportunity to support each other with friendly advice and get closer individually.

Participation in groups is voluntary without any laying under the necessity of attending a self-help group. There should be the presence of dependence. It also means that each participant can voluntarily stop visiting the self-help group. Representation in the form of third parties is not allowed.

Group members used to openly and frankly discuss their situation. They should be sure that what they say remains an internal secret. Some people experience an adverse psychosocial situation. The principle of anonymity is recorded in the list of 12 traditions of the community.

One of the central principles was equality between all participants. All members of the self-help group are endowed with equal rights. They collegially determine the style of their activities. The problems are solved together following the principles of democracy.

The Strengths and Weaknesses

The First Meeting

On the first meeting, it became clear that Alcoholics Anonymous self-help group has several positive features. People in such groups find universal understanding, and therefore do not feel psychologically lonely. Besides, commonality leads them to lower protection, prompting self-disclosure. This accompanies the reduction or removal of anxiety and shame.

It is not enough to refuse to take drugs; people need to learn how to live without them, which is almost impossible alone. Self-help groups rationally supplement or support medical or psychotherapeutic treatment. The continuous and active participation of group members in the process of its activity is essential. Therefore, the social exchange of reception in the group should be harmonious.

Concerning the weaknesses, the group has more passive than active members. Inactive members of the group expect the actives to support the group; consequently, the latter feel overwhelmed. In the self-help group, particular tasks and responsibilities emanating from active members are taken as a basis. As a result, they might be perceived as unofficial leaders.

The alcohol addict starts dividing human society into friends and strangers. Usually, the image of the society is splitted into two parts: who drinks alcohol and who does not. In the future, psychological isolation may be aggravated to a greater extent. Сonfidence is formed that a healthy person, in principle, is not able to understand the experiences of an alcoholic, which means that he or she can not help an alcohol addict.

The Second Meeting

The program consists of principles that are simple to follow in everyday life. The help of one alcohol-addict to another has no analogs and has incomparable therapeutic value. Having come to a meeting, a person sees that there are other people with the same problem. Addicts can talk with those who understand and share their situation.

Besides, the structure of the self-help group should remain informal. The participants themselves are engaged in their self-development voluntarily. Group meetings are governed by a unique set of rules that are developed by the participants themselves. Support is provided, and people can contact other members of the group by phone.

The integration of new members is difficult since the core of the group already exists. The opposite phenomenon is not excluded in terms of the ambiance changes. The adoption of new members of the group is complicated by the group’s lack of internal stability. The fluidity of group members can harm it and prolong the healing process.

One of the crucial factors for working together in a self-help group is mutual sympathy. It arises in an open, honest atmosphere between group members. If the resulting antipathy between those present is not eliminated by explanation, it significantly complicates the group’s relationship (Kelly, 2017). Significant discrepancies between expectations from a self-help group and the possibilities for their realization lead to a feeling of frustration and disintegration of the group.

The Third Meeting

As a rule, at first, self-help groups attract people because they expect to find answers to their questions. Over time, people realize that their experience is also useful. It can play a significant role in another person’s life faced with the same problem. The ability to help others becomes no less important for many group members than getting help for themselves.

Self-help groups are not a place for criticism and conflict. At all group meetings, participants are welcomed, respected, and appreciated. Personal victories may seem insignificant to outsiders as they do not see the process. Nevertheless, everyone in the group pays tribute to all individual achievements.

However, the 12 Steps program, having a significant share of advantages, also has its drawbacks. Alcohol is still considered as the central issue of life. It moves from the category of “love” to the rank of “hate.” There might be an obsession with the aim of abstinence.

The self-help group ignores the consequences of changes in the body at the physiological level in alcoholism cases. Medical intervention is not provided; a narcologist is not involved in the rehabilitation process. There are no necessary exercises, dietary features, or relaxation activities. The help of a medical professional should be implemented in some severe cases of addiction.

What I Learned About Attending the Self-Help Meetings

The primary focus of the self-help group is on psychotherapeutic treatment. There is the desire to help participants overcome the crisis. One of the purposes of these self-help meetings is to give them moral strength to fight for their health and well-being. The group needs to stay consistent in order to follow their goals. Frequently, the formed group becomes an excellent way to spend free time.

In the self-help group, a person can be a participant in the events and a spectator. People can identify themselves with active participants and use these observations to assess their emotions and actions. Feedback creates a reflection of the personality at once from many angles. It allows people to evaluate behavior and attitudes regarding the people’s experience. This can help identify the psychological problems of each member of the group.

The third observance of self-help groups is the ability to promote personal growth. In a group, a person is inevitably placed in a position that forces him or her to self-study. Often people know what they want and can identify their life goals. Meanwhile, they need participation and support from others to make it publicly known. Each attempt to self-disclose or self-change a member of the group is supported by its other members, thereby increasing the individual’s self-esteem.


Kelly, J. F. (2017). Is Alcoholics Anonymous religious, spiritual, neither? Findings from 25 years of mechanisms of behavior change research. Addiction, 112(6), 929-936.

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