A.A. Meeting Types and Formats
The Difference Between Open and Closed A.A. Meetings
The purpose of all A.A. group meetings, as the Preamble states, is for A.A. members to “share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.” Toward this end, A.A. groups have both open and closed meetings.
Closed meetings are for A.A. members only, or for those who have a drinking problem and “have a desire to stop drinking.”
Open meetings are available to anyone interested in Alcoholics Anonymous’ program of recovery from alcoholism. Nonalcoholics may attend open meetings as observers.
Special Interest Meetings
Some A.A.s come together as specialized A.A.groups—for men, women, young people, doctors, gays [LGBT] and others. If the members are all alcoholics, and if they open the door to all alcoholics who seek help, regardless of profession, gender or other distinction, and meet all the other aspects defining an A.A. group, they may call themselves an A.A. group.
“Each group should be autonomous,” our Fourth Tradition says, “except in matters affecting other
groups or A.A. as a whole.” So, predictably, each meeting held by our thousands of groups has its
own imprint. The most common kinds of A.A. meetings are:
Discussion. Whether closed or open, an A.A. member serving as “leader” or “chair” opens the
meeting, using that group’s format and selects a topic for discussion. Background for many topic meetings derives from A.A. literature, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (Big Book), Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, As Bill Sees It, Daily Reflections, and from the A.A. Grapevine.
Speaker. One or more members selected beforehand “share,” as described in the Big Book,
telling what they were like, what happened and what they are like now. Depending upon the group conscience for general guidelines, some groups prefer that members who speak have a minimum period of continuous sobriety. Speaker meetings often are “open” meetings.
Beginners. Usually led by a group member who has been sober awhile, these are often
question-and-answer sessions to help newcomers. Beginners meetings may also follow a discussion
format, or focus on Steps One, Two, and Three.
Step, Tradition or Big Book. Because the Twelve Steps are the foundation of personal recovery
in A.A., many groups devote one or more meetings a week to the study of each Step in rotation;
some discuss two or three Steps at a time. These same formats may be applied to group meetings
on the Big Book or the Twelve Traditions. Many groups make it a practice to read aloud pertinent
material from the Big Book or Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions at the beginning of the meeting.
Other Literature. May include A.A. literature such as Living Sober, As Bill Sees It, Came to Believe, Daily Reflections, the A.A. Grapevine and other selections.
Reprinted from The A.A. Group…Where It All Begins, with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.