Pros and Cons of Online Support Groups

Support groups are a very common feature of addiction treatment. As part of rehabilitation programs and for years after as post-care, support groups allow people to get advice, empathy, and other kinds of support from people who are going through the same thing. There are groups for all types of addiction, including those that don’t involve intoxicants, and for all types of people. Many addiction support groups use a 12-Step model or program or a secular version of it. Others are simply for sharing stories and offering any help they can to members.

Unfortunately, there is no denying that interacting with people online is different from interacting in person. Online support groups may not be for everyone, though they can be an incredible resource for those who find it difficult or impossible to attend in-person meetings. They can also be used to supplement in-person meeting attendance. There is a long list of pros and cons when it comes to online addiction support groups, and it’s important to consider both options before settling on one.

Pros of Online Support Groups

mobile group chat for recovery support

For many years, people had to travel to a predetermined location in order to attend addiction support group meetings. Today, with the increasing availability of digital services, these groups can now meet online. Chat rooms and now even video chat conferences can be used to hold meetings. Others may use open message boards or Facebook groups where members can go any time of the day to post questions, share stories and emotions, and give advice to one another.

The most obvious advantage to online addiction support groups is accessibility. Though not everyone may have internet access at home, but many public libraries offer computers and Internet access.  For folks who cannot afford home Internet or a computer, using publicly available resources can help them stay connected. Particularly, this is important for at-risk communities — especially people struggling with homelessness. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, one in five homeless individuals is suffering from a substance abuse problem.

Other advantages include:

  • Physical accessibility: People with chronic illness or mobility issues can have significant trouble leaving the house on a regular basis to get to in-person meetings. Also, people who live in rural areas may be too far from the location of these meetings to make them reasonably accessible.
  • Emotional accessibility: People with social anxiety, agoraphobia, and other anxiety disorders can feel much safer talking to people online under an anonymous username. Additionally, people may feel more comfortable sharing experiences with each other with their peers online than in-person.
  • Constant availability: Chat rooms and message boards remain open 24 hours per day, allowing members to ask questions and seek support at any time. If they are in crisis, they may be able to find advice and somebody who knows how to help them immediately instead of having to possibly wait days until the next meeting.
  • Empowerment: Message boards and Facebook pages are another way that can allow people to work collaboratively, potentially for hours at a time, to solve problems. This cooperative helps to build relationships, self-esteem, and positive ownership of one’s issues.
  • Diversity: Online support groups can offer a wealth of diversity which can help people feel seen, heard, and accepted. For marginalized groups, such as women and minority groups, diversity can provide a sense of inclusion and community.
  • Safety: In many cultures, substance use or addiction is frowned upon or completely unacceptable. Not only may addiction support groups not be available in all areas, but going to a meeting could expose people to harassment, ostracism, and being disowned by their families.

Cons of Online Support Group

Though there are plenty of advantages to holding meetings online, for many people, there is no replacement for face-to-face relationships. There are a lot of different opinions about online interaction. Studies have been conducted on the issue with varying results. Some people find that they are much more comfortable interacting online, while others feel that they can’t make a real connection by chatting with people.

If they are easily accessible, in-person meetings may very well be a better option for many people. The opportunity to form a network of people on their sobriety journey who are going through the same experiences, is an invaluable resource for many While online groups may be right for some, there are some disadvantages to them as well, including:

  • Miscommunication: It can be difficult to convey tone in writing — especially online. People tend to have significantly more misunderstandings when interacting over the Internet because they can’t hear each other’s tone of voice or see facial expressions in chat rooms or on social media groups.
  • Online bullying: Unfortunately, cyberbullying can be a problem in online forums. While moderators are doing their best to weed out individuals who harass or bully members, cyberbullying still occurs. People don’t tend to try this kind of thing at in-person meetings as they would have to deal with immediate consequences and would not be anonymous.
  • Misinformation: It’s easy to post links to online articles that may seem legitimate but are completely wrong, which can be dangerous when it comes to addiction.
  • Lack of commitment: Though easy accessibility can be an advantage, it can also make it harder to form an attachment to the group and the individuals in it. When a person has to make a time and energy commitment to get to meetings, it helps make them feel more committed to attending.
  • Lack of stability: People recovering from addiction need stability. Online support groups tend to be more subject to changes in leadership and members, and the disappearance of online friends can be a relapse trigger. Meeting times may also change more often because it’s easier to do so, and meetings may be canceled more frequently.

It may be best to try both online and in-person meetings to figure out which approach fits you best. For many people, using both online and in-person support combines the best of both worlds and provides a wealth of resources to help them in their continued recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Addiction Treatment Rehab in Hollywood, FL

Addiction can take a heavy toll on your life. With effective treatment and the right aftercare tools, it is possible to live a rich and rewarding life in recovery. Recovery First knows that treatment doesn’t end when you leave rehab, and we offer both virtual and in-person options for you to get the support and encouragement you need on your recovery journey.

Contact our admissions navigators today at to learn more about our South Florida drug and alcohol rehab. Our navigators can answer your questions about the admissions process, paying for treatment, and walk you through signing up for our alumni app — which can help you stay connected to your recovery community anywhere.

The Price of Not Getting Help
When contemplating the costs of addiction treatment for yourself, child, or loved one, consider the costs, or consequences, of “things as they are now.” What would happen if the substance abuse or addiction continued? Contact Recovery First, and we will help you or your loved one get the treatment needed to stop the dangerous, progressive effects of addiction.