The Difference Between “Closed” and “Open” 12-Step Meetings

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Navigating your local community resources can get complicated if you are unfamiliar with the terms various organizations use. 12-Step meetings are among the most common self-help options for people returning home after attending a private rehabilitation for a substance use disorder (SUD). Even after you get the contact information for your local Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotic Anonymous (NA), or other 12-Step support groups, you might have some questions about how their meetings work.  If you are looking for nearby groups and find yourself confused about the difference between an “open” and “closed” 12-Step meeting, do not worry. We will explain the difference and go over a few other practical details to help you feel comfortable attending your first meeting. 

What are “Open” 12-Step Meetings? 

The “open” 12-Step meetings are an excellent option for anyone who is very shy or anxious about attending their first meeting alone. You can bring a friend or family member for moral support. Anyone can attend an “open” meeting, including:
  • Curious local community members
  • Individuals contemplating treatment
  • Sober peers
  • Friends and family of someone with a SUD or AUD
  • Anyone who wants to learn more about the 12-Step process 
If you are looking to attend your first meeting and want to keep it casual and not feel any pressure, then an “open” meeting is an excellent way to get a taste of what to expect. 

What are “Closed” 12-Step Meetings?

“Closed” meetings are not for your friends, family, or the general public to attend. Instead, they are dedicated times for people who want to stop misusing substances. Only individuals who want to become or remain sober should attend. Depending on where you live, these meetings may have fewer attendees, making them ideal if you do not enjoy being around large groups of people. The people who attend “closed” meetings include:
  • First-time attendees who want to get sober
  • Individuals contemplating treatment
  • Individuals currently in treatment
  • Sober peers
  • Meeting Etiquette and Expectations
New and potential members can attend either “open” or “closed” meetings since they are both accessible for newcomers who genuinely want to recover from their SUD. If you want to know specific information about either, you can reach out to the meeting leaders and get details about what to expect. While you are interacting with the group, you should follow common sense etiquette by following the golden rule, “treat others how you want to be treated.” Everyone has expectations when they step into the meeting space. You should feel physically and emotionally safe, and confident other group members will respect your privacy. Treat everyone with respect and try to be polite and civil to anyone you interact with by doing the following:
  • Try not to speak over others
  • Extend grace to others in the group
  • Do not become argumentative, confrontational, or aggressive with other members
  • Respect their privacy and boundaries
  • Locating Online 12-Step Meetings 
Since the initial Covid lockdowns in 2020, many community organizations have moved online. On the one hand, this provides a convenient way for you to try out 12-Step meetings without leaving the comfort of your home. The Department of Health and Human Resources has a list of online meetings you can attend, including:
  • Families Anonymous
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Smart Recovery
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics
  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • My Recovery
Many other online directories exist, and you can always call or email your local community resource center, therapy office, or doctor’s office to find out more about 12-Step groups with an online presence. 

How to Find a Local 12-Step Meeting 

You will want to reach out to local group leaders before attending if you find information online about meetings near you because some areas have not yet returned to in-person meetings after the Covid lockdowns. Your state and county public health laws will play a part in determining when they will reopen, and some areas have permanently moved online. You can find local 12-Step meetings using the following methods: 
  • Reaching out to a doctor or therapy office
  • Community resource center
  • Community newsletter or newspaper
  • Online meet-up directories
  • Online support group directories
  • Official AA, RA, etc., sites
  • Local recovery organizations
You can often find independent self-help groups based around the 12-Step principles but with more precise group criteria. For example, if you have a dual diagnosis of SUD and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you can look for a self-help group in your area or online that covers both conditions. Larger cities are more likely to have niche in-person meetings.  Community resources can help you connect with in-person meetings in your area or online. Your recovery will benefit from the fellowship that comes with 12-Step meetings like AA and NA. White House Recovery and Detox offers several evidence-based treatments, including therapy with some aspects of 12-Step facilitation. We want you to succeed in your long-term sobriety. During treatment at White House Recovery and Detox, your case manager assists you in preparation for continuing care by finding ways to access local groups and therapy services. Our experienced staff will tell you what to expect when you join a group and give you more information about “closed” and “open” meetings. Take control of your future today and find a group near you or online where you can get continuing support from peers who have shared similar experiences. Find out more about what we have to offer by calling us today at (800) 510-5393.