What Is a Closed Meeting?

The Difference Between Open and Closed Meetings

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On published schedules of 12 step meetings, some are designated as "Open" meetings, while others are shown as "Closed" meetings. What does this mean?

The short answer is, open meetings are open to the public, while closed meetings are for members only.

That brings up the question, who is considered a member of a 12-step recovery group?

Closed Meetings

Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon Family Groups, and Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings are generally closed meetings unless otherwise stated.

Closed meetings are limited to members and prospective members only.

It is up to individuals to determine if they are "qualified" for membership, based on the following criteria from Tradition 3 of the 12 step groups:

Alcoholics Anonymous: the only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.

Al-Anon Family Groups: the only requirement for membership is that there be a problem of alcoholism in a relative or friend.

ACOA: the only requirement for membership in ACOA is a desire to recover from the effects of growing up in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional family.

Narcotics Anonymous: The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using.

Gamblers Anonymous: The only requirement for Gamblers Anonymous membership is a desire to stop gambling.

Debtors Anonymous: The only requirement for D.A. membership is a desire to stop incurring unsecured debt.

Why Closed Meetings?

The spiritual foundation of all 12-step groups is anonymity.

Members of the group can choose to attend closed meetings knowing that everyone in the meeting is guided by the group's steps and traditions which encourage each member to maintain their own anonymity and the anonymity of others in the meeting.

In a closed meeting, members can speak opening and honestly about their problem or situation, knowing that everyone else in the room has experienced similar situations.

Open Meetings

If the meeting is an open meeting, however, members understand that there may be visitors from the public or even the media in the meeting and they conduct themselves accordingly.

Usually, but not always, open meetings are speaker meetings, at which one person has been designated to speak, telling their story - what it was like, what happened, and what it is like now.

The speaker knows ahead of time that the meeting is an open meeting and there may be non-member visitors present.

Open meetings are for anyone who is interested in learning more about the support group program. If a meeting is "open" it will be so designated on the published schedule. Open meetings can be attended by students, professionals, and other non-members interested in learning more about the recovery programs.

Primary Purpose

The designation of a meeting as "open" does not change the meetings primary purpose of the group.

The Primary Purpose from Tradition 5 of the individual fellowships are:

Alcoholics Anonymous : Each group has but one primary purpose - to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

Al-Anon : Al-Anon has but one primary purpose: to help families of alcoholics.

ACOA : Each group has but one primary purpose -- to carry its message to the adult child who still suffers.

Narcotics Anonymous: Each group has but one primary purpose - to carry the message to the addict who still suffers.

Gamblers Anonymous: Gamblers Anonymous has but one primary purpose - to carry its message to the compulsive gambler who still suffers.

Debtors Anonymous: Each group has but one primary purpose — to carry its message to the debtor who still suffers.

Generally speaking, when attending one 12 step meeting, members do not mention their membership in other 12 step groups during the meeting, to keep the meeting focused on its primary purpose.

If a meeting is not designated either open or closed on a published schedule, it should be considered closed.

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