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What are the Typical Formats of Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings?
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What are the Typical Formats of Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings?

Written by Seth Fletcher on May 27, 2024
Medical editor Dr. Chintan Shah
Last update: May 27, 2024

Stepping into your first AA meeting can be intimidating, but knowing what to expect eases the nervousness. The meeting is meant for people to relate their struggles and successes in conquering alcoholism. Meetings are formatted differently to help members find different ways to connect and find their support.

There are several types of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings: open and closed meetings, speaker sessions, and Big Book meetings. All aim to include and meet everyone's needs. Knowledge of the format can help one choose the right meeting and get the most out of the AA experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Meeting Formats: Understand the various AA meeting types open, closed, speaker, discussion, step, and Big Book to find the best fit for your recovery.
  • Closed Meetings: Provide a confidential space for individuals focused on quitting drinking, fostering support and open sharing.
  • Speaker Meetings: Feature members sharing their recovery stories, offering hope and motivation to attendees.
  • Specialized Meetings: Include gender-specific, LGBTQ+, and online sessions, addressing unique needs and promoting inclusivity.
  • Choosing the Right Format: Consider your needs, try different types, seek recommendations, and pick meetings that fit your schedule for optimal support.

AA Closed Meeting Format

Understanding the different formats of AA meetings is extremely important for anybody who is setting out on the path to recovery. Among these, the AA Closed Meeting Format holds significant importance. Closed meetings are for people who want to quit drinking. They keep the meeting space safe and confidential so that members feel comfortable sharing their experiences and difficulties. This will ensure that the members are surrounded by people who will genuinely understand what they are going through and provide a supportive environment where members can speak openly and honestly without judgment or stigma.

The closed meeting format has a lot of advantages. For example, AA meetings Toronto offers are so cherished that they create an environment where the community bonds. The members are allowed to explore their personal journeys deeply in sessions. They offer support and receive it from others who have similarly fought the same battles with alcohol. The AA meeting format in these closed sessions typically involves structured discussions, where members can share their stories, discuss coping strategies, and explore the principles of the AA program in a focused and intimate setting. This focused network of support could be a strong motivator for people at every stage of their recovery.

The AA Closed Meeting Format also plays a critical role in adhering to the anonymity and privacy that define AA meetings. This assurance about confidentiality encourages members to be more frank in sharing their experiences, to make more meaningful connections, and to engage in more meaningful exchanges. If you are new to AA or have been going there for some time, the value of understanding and participating in closed meetings can amplify your recovery journey in that it will give you strength and support to stay sober.

Types of AA Meetings

Exploring the peculiarities of different types of AA meetings will help you find the format that will suit you best in your recovery journey. AA meeting types vary from open and closed meetings to speaker sessions and Big Book studies. AA meetings offer a variety of formats and benefits, providing different approaches to sobriety. Knowing the format of the meeting will give you direction in choosing the meetings that will provide you with the most meaningful support and effects in recovery.

Open Meetings

Open meetings can provide an open-armed, friendly reception to your first time AA meeting, helping to demystify the modus operandi of the program and put newcomers at ease. Open meetings are specifically aimed at being as inclusive as possible and, hence, open to anyone interested in the purpose of the work of Alcoholics Anonymous. Some key things about open meetings are:

  • Inclusive: It is for everyone, from friends and relatives to people with an interest in the program and community observers.
  • Education: This is a good place for a person entering AA with insight into the program and its benefits.
  • Shared Stories: Members share their experiences of fighting alcoholism and tell their recovery stories with hope and inspiration.
  • Supportive Environment: An atmosphere that encourages newcomers to become comfortable and supported in learning about AA.

An open meeting can be a very good way to break into the AA community and understand how the program can help you or your loved one on your way toward sobriety.

Closed Meetings

Closed meetings are one of the most critical components of AA for members who wish to quit drinking. These meetings are limited only to people addicted to alcohol; hence, everyone will have a common aim in their mind and can understand the plight of another. Critical benefits derived from closed meetings:

  • Confidentiality: A safe space where the members are able to talk about their situations without being judged.
  • Discussion Focused: The discussions are oriented around recovery and experience with alcoholism.
  • Stronger Bonds: Builds a lot of camaraderie among members working together for the exact cause.
  • Personal Growth: Encourages deeper sharing and connection, which can be very important for those who become addicted to AA meetings for their supportive environment.

Closed meetings are the basis of AA, providing a unique and cozy atmosphere that facilitates personal growth and mutual support in the journey toward sobriety.

Speaker Meetings

Speaker meetings are vital components of AA, where selected members share their stories of addiction and recovery. Usually, members who have already celebrated some time in sobriety share their experiences. Attendees can be hopeful and motivated by listening to such experiences, seeing that it is possible to recover. Besides showing that AA is transforming, speaker meetings emphasize belonging and shared purpose - two aspects that define Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Discussion Meetings

Discussion meetings are one of the cornerstones of AA and the platform on which members get to share their thoughts and experiences on a selected topic. Such sessions help open up dialogue and provide the opportunity for genuine conversation about struggles and successes in recovery among the participants. The format is interactive and encourages everyone to contribute, making it a supportive and collaborative environment. In such a discussion, the members share valuable insights and practical advices, enhancing the collective strength of alcohol anonymous meetings.

Step Meetings

Step meetings are anonymous meetings for alcoholics that involve a detailed study of the Twelve Steps, which are the spine of the recovery program. The members discuss their experiences and insights about applying these principles in their daily lives. Such systematic working of the recovery process through these steps helps gain a deeper understanding of the steps. Alcoholic Anonymous meetings in my area, including step meetings, can provide necessary support and guidance throughout your journey toward sobriety.

Big Book Meetings

Big Book meetings are where members of the group come together and read through the base inspirational book that AA members have been called to know by, the Big Book. Here, stories and principles that have helped so many men and women achieve sobriety are shared among people. The shared readings offer a connection and collective wisdom that provides lessons for people in their recovery. Many people have found themselves addicted to AA meetings like this, drawn in by the power of the narrative and practical guidance provided in the Big Book.

Specialized AA Meetings

There are also specialized AA meetings that are designed to overcome the particular challenges of special groups of people, including gender-specific, LGBTQ+, and online meetings. These special AA meetings make it safe and supportive for members to share their experiences and struggles with others who understand their particular issues. For instance, gender-specific meetings allow men and women to discuss subjects that may be more comfortable or relevant in a single-gender setting. Likewise, LGBTQ+ specific meetings offer an inclusive environment where people can speak openly regarding their experiences without the fear of discrimination, contributing to a more profound sense of community and support.

Such meetings, therefore, enhance the recovery process by offering tailored support and fostering deeper connection and understanding. Another example of specialized AA meetings is online meetings, which allow flexibility and access to those who cannot attend in-person sessions. Such meetings guarantee that everyone has access to support, no matter the circumstances. Specialized AA meetings tend to make the recovery process quite effective, making everyone feel heard and supported, which is crucial in sustained recovery.

How to Choose the Right AA Meeting Format for You

Choosing the proper AA meeting format is crucial for your recovery process. There exist different formats, so it is essential to find the one that serves you best. Here are some tips that can help you choose the best meeting type:

  1. Understand your needs: Reflect on what you want out of the meeting. Are you interested in learning more about the AA first step meeting, or do you just want a general discussion?
  2. Try different formats: Attend different meetings, open, closed, speaker, and discussion meetings, to see which suits you.
  3. Personalize your experience: Feel free to mix and match meeting types. For example, you may want to have a first step AA meeting while also doing the Big Book study.
  4. Ask for recommendations: Other members will have more experience, especially if it is your first AA meeting ever.
  5. Logistical considerations: Choose meetings that fit your schedule well and are easily accessible, either in-person or online.

Personalizing your AA experience by selecting the proper meeting formats will provide optimum support and really boost your recovery journey.


What is the purpose of AA closed meetings?

Closed meetings are exclusively for individuals who have a desire to stop drinking, providing a confidential and supportive environment for sharing and recovery.

What can I expect at my first AA meeting ever?

At your first AA meeting, you can expect a welcoming atmosphere where members share their experiences. Open meetings are incredibly inclusive, allowing anyone to attend them.

What are specialized AA meetings?

Specialized AA meetings cater to specific groups, such as gender-specific, LGBTQ+, and online meetings, addressing unique challenges and providing tailored support.

How do I choose the proper AA meeting format for me?

Consider your personal needs, try different meeting formats, ask for recommendations, and choose meetings that fit your schedule and accessibility.

What happens at a Big Book meeting?

At Big Book meetings, members read and discuss the foundational text of AA, sharing insights and experiences to enhance their understanding and recovery.

Certified Addiction Counsellor

Seth brings many years of professional experience working the front lines of addiction in both the government and privatized sectors.

Dr. Chintan is a Board Certified Family Physician with an interest in holistic and preventative care as well as healthcare systems. Credentialed Physician with both American & Canadian Board of Family Medicine. Adjunct Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. Telemedicine clinician.

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