Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Sobriety Support Groups

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.

We’ll discuss how virtual support groups work, the pros and cons of online support groups, and how to get help for you or a loved one that is struggling with addiction.

What Is an Online Support Group?

mobile group chat for recovery support

Online support groups are meetings or group therapy conducted virtually, either online or through a mobile app. Whether in-person or online, group therapy and other support groups are a foundational element of recovery. In these settings, individuals can find encouragement, support, and community from a network of people who are going through similar circumstances.

How Do Online Support Groups Work?

Online support groups for addiction function similarly to in-person events. Meeting times are typically scheduled, like face-to-face sessions, though there are often more flexible times available. 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.

12-Step Zoom Meetings

During the Covid pandemic, many 12-step meetings needed to find a way to stay connected during lockdowns. Like many businesses and schools, NA and AA meetings started happening remotely, too.

12-Step Zoom meetings continue to be an invaluable resource for many people, even as the world opens up post Covid. They offer flexibility and greater accessibility — especially for individuals who may have limited in-person options. For individuals who are immunocompromised or caring for older folks, online support groups can be an important lifeline to their recovery networks.

Pros of Online Support Groups

There are several benefits of online support groups. They can help people to stay connected with their online sobriety support networks while traveling, if unable to attend in-person sessions due to illness or conflicting commitments, or if they can’t reliably get to a meeting.

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 use 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.

How to Find an Online Support Group

If you’re not sure how to find an online support group, many groups offer resources on their websites, as well as mobile apps that can offer even greater access to support networks. Some of these support groups include:

  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA) provides a robust web-based tool to help connect to online and telephone meetings. They also have an app that you can download to locate a meeting near you.
  • Al-Anon — a support network for families and loved ones of people struggling with addiction — has meetings across a number of platforms, including Google Meet, Skype, and their mobile app. You can search for the one that works best for you on the Al-Anon website.
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) is a support group for the adult children of individuals who struggled with substance use disorders. Their online calendar provides times and days for different kinds of online and telephone meetings.

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.

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