Participation in a support group along with other medical and professional alcohol and drug treatment programs can have many potential benefits. A support group can help you recover by offering social support, helping you develop recovery management skills, increasing your motivation, reducing depressive symptoms, and increasing your mental well-being.
What to Expect
If you or a family member is dealing with an addiction or a mental disorder, a support group may be the ideal place to feel less isolated and learn from others with similar problems and shared experiences.
Often times, you don’t have to speak to a support group – you can share as little or as much as you want – so that you can observe the group before deciding whether it is right for you. It is important that you feel comfortable in the group so that at some point you can open up and get to know your colleagues.
If you or a loved one is struggling with mental illness, contact the National Substance Abuse and Mental Health Agency (SAMHSA) helpline at 1-800-662-4357 Information about support and treatment facilities in your area.
Additional mental health resources can be found in our National Helpline Database.
How to join a support group
For most support groups, only a desire to begin recovery is all that is required to become a member. Most people join a support group simply by walking through the door of a meeting near them. No invitation is required and there are no fees. There is often a voluntary collection for members.
However, there are “open” sessions for members and non-members and closed sessions for members and prospective members only. Depending on the type of meeting, you may come across some of the following codes that indicate a more exclusive support group or additional services offered:
- (ASL) American Sign Language
- (BS) book study
- (CF) Child-friendly
- (D) discussion
- (G) Gay / Lesbian
- (M) For men only
- (P) participation
- (SS) step study
- (W) Women only
- (WA) Wheelchair access
How to find the right group for you
Your family doctor or psychiatrist is often the best place to start when finding a local support group. You can also search for a local meeting through the websites of the various support groups.
Some organizations have apps that you can use to find meetings. You can still find an old-school meeting by looking up a phone number in the white pages of the local phone book – or online.
Some databases are detailed and allow you to see, among other things, which meetings are newcomer or wheelchair accessible, smoke-free or LGBTQ + friendly. Other pages are less detailed and might just contain phone numbers or listings that you can use to contact the meeting organizers.
Here is a list of the mutual support group’s official websites and their meeting lists. If you can’t find an in-person meeting near you, there are many online meetings available.
A note on COVID-19
Many of these organizations have suspended their in-person meetings due to the COVID-19 crisis and are now offering virtual meetings, phone calls and emails.
Alcohol, drug, and prescription drug abuse
These include 12-level groups and those with other philosophies, as mentioned:
- Anonymous alcoholics:: Find the AA central offices and intergroups phone numbers by zip code or state. The site does not give you locations for local meetings, but the local intergroup sites do have this information. You can find meetings all over the world which can be very useful when traveling.
- Celebrate recovery: A Christ-centered 12-step recovery program for “those struggling with injury, pain or addiction of any kind” The group offers both Zoom and Facebook Live meetings.
- Chemically dependent Anonymous:: Find a CD review by searching for state. It is a 12-step program that “promotes abstinence from all mood-altering and mind-altering chemicals, including street-type drugs, alcohol, and unnecessary medications.”
- Cocaine anonymous: A 12-step program for cocaine, alcohol, and other mind-altering substances.
- Crystal Meth Anonymous:: Search for CMA meetings by zip code and distance. They are a 12-step program.
- Dual Recovery Anonymous:: A 12-step program for people with a psychiatric disorder and a drug problem.
- Worldly restoration of the ring of life: Find a Life Ring Drug or Alcohol Recovery meeting by location, or join an online meeting. The Ring of Life philosophy differs from the 12-step programs in that you do not have to rely on a higher force, but rather want to support your ability to strengthen your sober self and weaken your addicted self.
- Marijuana anonymous:: Search a list of in-person and online meetings by location. There are also apps for iOS, Android and Windows that can be used to search for meetings. It’s a 12-step program.
- Moderation management:: See a list and map of meetings around the world, or take part in phone meetings. Moderation management supports responsible drinking rather than a philosophy of total abstinence.
- Narcotics anonymous:: Search the meeting database by location. You can also download an NA Meeting Search app for iOS or Android.
- Pills anonymous: A 12-step program with meetings around the world.
- SMART recovery:: Search the SMART Recovery Meeting database by country or state. SMART is not a 12-step program, but a self-help program for addiction recovery in the case of drug and alcohol abuse.
- Women for sobriety: WFS is an abstinence-based group for women affected by drug or alcohol addiction. It offers face-to-face meetings as well as video conference meetings and an online support forum.
Sex addiction, dysfunctional relationships, and abuse
Support groups for sex addiction, dysfunctional relationships, and abuse include:
- Love addicts Anonymous: A 12-step program for those who “have distorted thoughts, feelings, and behaviors about love, fantasies, and relationships”.
- Sexaholics Anonymous: A 12-step program for those who “want to stop lusting and get sexually sober”.
- Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous:: Find a meeting by searching by state or province. This is a 12-step program for those “addicted to or avoiding sex, love, or emotional attachment”.
- Sexual compulsions anonymous: A list of international SCA meetings in person and online. This is a 12-step program.
- Sexual recovery anonymous:: A 12-step group for those looking to end compulsive sexual behavior.
- Incest Survivor Anonymous: A 12-step program for anyone over the age of 18 who was sexually abused as a child.
Behavior with food and nicotine problems
Support groups for behavior with food and nicotine problems are:
- Food addict in recovery Anonymous:: A 12-step program for those who have had an eating problem, including overeating or bulimia.
- GreySheeters Anonymous:: A 12-step program for compulsive overeating.
- Overeating Anonymous:: A 12-step program for overeating, malnutrition, anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders.
Restoring emotional and mental health
Support groups for restoring emotional and mental health include:
- Depressed anonymously:: A 12-step program for those recovering from depression.
- Anonymous Social Fear / Anonymous Social Phobia:: A 12-step program for people with social anxiety disorder, shyness, preventable personality disorder, and paruresis (fear of using public toilets).
Conduct with financial and acquisition problems
Support groups for dealing with financial and acquisition problems include:
- Debtor Anonymous:: 12-step program for debtors.
- Player anonymous: A group in support of recovery from problem gambling based on 12-step principles.
- Donor anonymous: A 12-step program for those looking to recover from compulsive spending and take on debt.
- Workaholics Anonymous:: WA meetings include phone meetings, online meetings, or face-to-face meetings in the US or internationally. This is a 12 step program for those who work compulsively.
For families and dependents
These meetings are for those who have relatives and friends with addictions and problem behaviors. In addition to these groups, the websites often have links to Family Recovery Groups for specific dependencies or behaviors for the programs dedicated to them.
- Adult children of alcoholics:: Find an ACA meeting by location search. They also have online meetings and phone meetings.
- Alanon and Alateen:: Find an Al-Anon Family Group meeting by location in the US and Canada. You can also use the website to find online meetings, international meetings, or phone meetings.
- Codependents Anonymous:: A 12-step program for restoring unhealthy relationships.
- Families anonymous:: Get a PDF of FA Sessions by State. This is a 12 step program for those who have a family member with an addiction or problem behavior.
- Nar-anon: A 12-level group for friends and families of people with substance use disorders.
- Restore anonymous pairs:: A 12-level group for couples looking to restore and maintain their relationship in recovery.
A word from Verywell
Remember, support groups are what you make of them. If you’re willing to be open and honest, and be a good listener who supports other members, you will get a lot out of your group, including hope and motivation for a healthier you.