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Support Groups

Support groups are an essential part of addiction recovery. Whether an addict is fresh out of an addiction treatment program or undergoing addiction therapy, support groups can help reinforce skills learned in treatment for better recovery outcomes. Countless support groups are available that cater to certain types of substances or experiences, and some are even support groups available to help the loved ones of addicts too.

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What Is an Addiction Support Group?

Support groups are typically peer-led meetings for those who are in recovery from an alcohol addiction or drug addiction. These groups provide a safe, supportive place for addicts to discuss their struggles with addiction and addiction treatment with fellow addicts with similar experiences.

A support group usually serves as a complement to treatment programs, although some addicts find support groups are all they need to enter recovery. Where some will require a treatment center, others may find sobriety through a support group alone.

That being said, a support group is not intended to replace substance abuse treatment. Most support groups (sometimes also called self-help groups) are very clear about offering support for treatment, not to replace it.

Here are a few quick meeting locators you can use:

Support Groups VS Group Therapy

Support groups are often held in community spaces and are led by an appointed recovering addict. While support groups may bring in experts to give presentations to the group, the core of support groups is about peer support and recovering together.

Alternatively, group therapy is a form of psychotherapy typically led by a licensed mental healthcare provider as part of a treatment program. It uses evidence-based methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).

Key Benefits of Addiction Support Groups

Support groups are very flexible options for people recovering from substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder. Many attend support groups to complement existing treatment, while others start with a support group before entering treatment.

Regardless of an individual’s entry to support groups, these groups can be vital to recovery.

The biggest benefits of addiction support groups include:

  • Attendance is usually free
  • Open for anyone to attend (excluding groups like Al-Anon, which focus on loved ones of addicts)
  • Provides a safe place to talk about the more traumatic or intense parts of recovering from addiction
  • Increased accountability to stay committed to recovery
  • Learn better coping skills to handle challenges and temptations
  • Access to other support services like self-help books, audiobooks, and information on treatment facilities in the area
  • Complements and supports existing recovery programs
  • Provides socialization and connection for isolated individuals
  • Improve self-understanding and education on drug abuse and alcohol abuse

What Are The Types of Addiction Support Groups?

Each support group is different, although most tend to be divided between spiritual and non-spiritual. Some support groups use belief in a higher power in their ideologies, while other groups are completely secular and focus on behavioral health strategies in their meetings.

There is no right or wrong approach to recovery and support groups. Each person will respond better to particular ideas than others, so it’s worth learning what each one offers and focuses on to see what best suits you.

12-Step Programs

Twelve-step programs are usually what most people think of regarding support groups. These programs are based on the original Alcoholics Anonymous, which was developed in the 1930s by founders Bill Wilson and Bob Smith.

In the modern day, 12-step programs do not require attendees to  belong to any particular religion but are spiritual and often mention surrendering to a “higher power.” While each group uses some variation on the original 12 steps, some have altered them to make them their own.

Common 12-step programs for substance abuse include:

Common 12-step programs for the loved ones of addicts include:

SMART Recovery®

SMART Recovery® (Self-Management and Recovery Training) is an evidence-based secular support group often marketed as an alternative to 12-step groups. Rather than surrendering to a higher power, SMART meetings emphasize self-empowerment and the underlying issues of addiction.

During SMART meetings, attendees will learn cognitive-behavioral techniques, how to cope with cravings, and better understand that the substance doesn’t just cause addiction.

One of the key takeaways from SMART Recovery is the understanding that the mechanisms of addiction are often rooted in repeated, compulsive behaviors and unhealthy beliefs about yourself.

SMART meetings focus on the application of their 4-Point Program®, which includes:

  • Building and Maintaining Motivation
  • Coping with Urges
  • Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors
  • Living a Balanced Life

Moderation Management™

Moderation Management (MM) is a support group and behavioral change program that focuses on helping individuals abusing alcohol make positive lifestyle changes. MM empowers individuals to take personal responsibility for their actions and make better choices.

The goal of MM isn’t necessarily complete abstinence; MM helps participants determine the best path for them, whether it’s abstinence or moderation, and stick to it. MM also provides a non-judgmental environment for individuals to share their experiences and make informed decisions.

MM is held through either in-person or online meetings and is free to join for anyone who has issues related to drinking alcohol.


Al-Anon and Alateen are part of the umbrella organization Al-Anon Family Groups and provide support for friends and family members of alcohol addicts. Al-Anon is an adult-focused organization, while Alateen focuses on helping young people aged 13 to 18.

Al-Anon Alateen both follow 12 steps similar to those of Alcoholics Anonymous. Meetings provide a safe and supportive environment for loved ones of alcoholics to discuss trauma, learn new skills to cope with the challenges around alcoholism, and better advocate for their own needs.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety

Secular Organizations of Sobriety (SOS) was a support group created to be a secular alternative to the spiritual approach of the 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous. SOS is a network of peer-led meetings around the country, providing a safe place for addicts to open up about their experiences.

SOS is open to any addict, regardless of the type of substance or behavior they are addicted to. Meetings are free to attend and focus on the goal of maintaining abstinence from drugs or alcohol.

SOS encourages attendees to emphasize a daily, three-part Cycle of Sobriety to meditate on.

The Cycle of Sobriety includes:

  1. Acknowledgment of their addiction
  2. Acceptance of their addictions
  3. Prioritization of maintaining sobriety

Faith-Based Support Groups

For addicts who are religious and want their recovery to include elements of their faith, a faith-based support group may be a highly effective option. While Alcoholics Anonymous takes a spiritual approach by believing in a higher power, AA does not align itself with any particular faith.

Faith-based support groups combine traditional addiction treatment approaches with a spiritual aspect from their religion of choice. Faith-based support groups can be found based on every major religion.

Common faith-based support groups include:

Other Support Groups

Although support groups that focus on alcohol and drug use are essential, other serious issues can arise from addiction, such as sexual assault, grief, mental health crises, racism, sexism, homophobia, and violence.

Thankfully, there are other support groups and helplines available to provide support for these issues and for marginalized communities who are often hit hardest by addiction.

Other common support groups include:

Addiction Support Group Meeting Styles & Formats

Each support group meeting may vary from organization to organization. However, there are a couple of meeting types to consider when joining a support group.

Common styles of addiction support group meetings include:

  • In-Person Meetings: Meetings are held face-to-face, often seated in a circle.
  • Online Meetings: Meetings are held through video call or audio call, often through services like Zoom. These meetings can provide more flexibility to individuals in underserved areas or with mobility or transportation limitations.
  • Open Meetings: Open meetings are welcome to anyone who would like to attend, including friends, family, and the addict.
  • Closed Meetings: Closed meetings are intended for regular members of the support group and are designed only for addicts themselves. These types of meetings can provide a safe environment for addicts to open up about more intense subjects.
  • Beginner Meetings: Beginner meetings are designed to welcome brand-new attendees and allow them to learn more about the organization and ask questions.
  • Step Meetings: For 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, step meetings are usually closed meetings meant for regular members, and the focus of the meeting is on one of the 12 steps.
  • Speaker Meetings: Speaker meetings are led by a speaker brought in to share their story or present to the group. During speaker meetings, only the speaker talks, and the attendees listen.

Find a Support Group That’s Right for You

If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction, a support group might be a valuable resource for you and your loved ones. Almost all support groups are free to join and welcome newcomers to learn more.

Many support groups have meeting locators on their websites that allow you to enter your address or zip code to find the nearest meeting.

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FAQs About Addiction Recovery Support Groups

How do I find a local addiction support group?

You can start by asking your doctor, addiction specialist, or therapist what support groups they know of in your area. The next step is to visit their website; many support groups have a meeting locator option on their website, as well as information for online meetings.

What is the difference between AA and NA?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is for addicts who abuse alcohol and/or are in recovery, while Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is for anyone seeking recovery from a substance use disorder or drug addiction, not just alcohol.

Are there support groups for families of addicts?

There are! Common 12-step programs for the loved ones of addicts include:

Why are addiction support groups helpful during recovery?

Addiction support groups provide a safe and supportive environment for addicts to share the sometimes harsh and difficult reality of addiction. In a support group, addicts can meet people with similar experiences and stories and feel less alone in their challenges.

Support groups also add an element of accountability, especially for addicts who no longer have loved ones supporting them through recovery. Many addicts struggle with social isolation, as well, so support groups can provide much-needed socialization.

Are there online sobriety support groups?

Yes. Many support groups have online forums or chat rooms available for online support in between meetings.

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. is a founder of Addiction HelpReviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of and ensures the website’s medical content and messaging quality.

Jessica Miller is the Content Manager of Addiction HelpWritten by:

Editorial Director

Jessica Miller is the Editorial Director of Addiction Help. Jessica graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with an English degree and combines her writing expertise and passion for helping others to deliver reliable information to those impacted by addiction. Informed by her personal journey to recovery and support of loved ones in sobriety, Jessica's empathetic and authentic approach resonates deeply with the Addiction Help community.

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