The Difference Between Al-Anon and AA

There are numerous approaches for treating and supporting individuals suffering from alcohol use disorder and their families. Recently, new categories have been created to accommodate people with various difficulties and preferences. With so many possibilities, it might be difficult to distinguish between each type of alcoholism support group. Particularly for AA and Al-Anon, two very distinct groups derived from the same concept.

What is AA and what is it for?

AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) is an international support group for individuals suffering from alcohol use disorder. This self-supporting non-profit has no age or education requirements. Except for private meetings for alcoholics alone, meetings are open to all. While open meetings are open to all, closed meetings are only open to members. To join AA, you must struggle with alcohol and the desire to stop drinking permanently.

Many areas have AA meetings. A typical AA meeting will focus on a topic related to alcoholism. Anyone who wishes to share their views on the subject may do so. Other meetings are for beginners or 12-step study groups.

The 12 Steps are the core of AA. The 12 Steps help people understand and accept their addictions so they can move on. Originally, they were faith-based. While the steps are still spiritual, some have been created without the religious aspect. Depending on the meeting, Alcoholics Anonymous may have religious elements.

What is Al-anon and what is it for?

Al-Anon, on the other hand, is for loved ones who suffer from alcohol use disorder. Alcoholics Anonymous’ initials ‘al’ and ‘anon’ are used in the name. This type of meeting helps AUD spouses, parents, siblings, and other family members. To attend these meetings, you must have a close relative who is an alcoholic.

Al-Anon meetings are spiritual but not religious. Meetings usually include a discussion of a specific addiction-related topic. Al-Anon meetings may cover:

  • Acceptance
  • Alcoholism
  • Choosing
  • Changing minds
  • Managing change
  • Managing anger
  • Getting brave
  • Managing crises
  • No-shows
  • Detachment
  • Enabling
  • Emptiness
  • Forgiveness is vital.
  • Self-focus
  • Honesty
  • Esteem

This global network exists solely to help families of individuals who suffer from alcohol use disorder.

What’s the Difference?

AA is for individuals who suffer from alcohol use disorder, whereas Al-Anon is for their families. AA is also more religious than Al-Anon. Each model’s steps are distinct and have evolved over time. AA and Al-Anon meetings are never combined.


While there are considerable distinctions between AA and Al-Anon, there are a few commonalities as well. First, both styles prioritize group-based meetings above one-on-one counseling. Both types of gatherings are frequently focused on discussion themes or prompts. Someone who is in Al-Anon may also be a member of AA if they have a family member with addiction and are battling with alcohol problems themselves.

Reach Out to Peaks Recovery Today

If you or someone you care about is suffering from alcoholism, it is strongly advised that you seek treatment or support as soon as possible. Consult with your doctor, counselor, or therapist to determine which type of meeting is most appropriate for you. Contact Peaks Recovery today to speak to one of our admissions specialists to help guide you in the right direction. 

Don’t wait. Get in touch with us today.