Mandated Alcoholics Anonymous — Is It Really Helpful?

People with alcohol-related charges may find themselves required to attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings. While some experts view this practice as a positive one for alcoholics, others wonder if it truly helps. At Diamond House Detox, we want to help you understand your treatment options. We do not take a side in the argument, but we will explain each argument's reasoning.

What Is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)?

Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA, began in 1935. This organization offers a support group and a 12-step program meant to help alcoholics recover. Members attend AA meetings to share their experiences and keep each other accountable. AA does not keep a member roster and follows a policy of total anonymity. Someone who goes to a meeting to satisfy court requirements can ask for proof that they came while keeping their attendance a secret.

The organization does not take a stance on whether courts should mandate meeting attendance. They usually do not mind cooperating with the court to prove attendance. However, they do not focus on the way the member found them and instead look at their drinking problem.

Arguments for Mandatory Attendance

Professionals who support mandating a 12-step program like AA point out the following benefits:

  • Cost: AA does not take member dues, so you can attend their meetings for free.
  • Avoiding incarceration: Mandating AA attendance instead of putting the offender in jail puts fewer people in prisons and reduces incarceration costs.
  • Accessibility: Many AA chapters have meetings during a variety of times that suit different schedules. You can even attend meetings online in some situations.

Proponents think that AA support groups work as an alternative option to other punishments that don't create a large burden. It can also help a person recover without entering an intensive program.

Arguments Against Mandated Membership

Other experts argue that forcing someone to go to an AA support group does not work well. They mention drawbacks such as:

  • Ethics: Some people say that making someone go to AA meetings is unethical. They believe that the person should have more than one option to choose.
  • Religious aspects: While AA welcomes everyone, 12-step programs have certain religious elements that critics believe secular people shouldn't have to follow.
  • Non-medical basis: Certain professionals think that it takes more scientific methods to help people recover than the programs that AA offers.

Detractors consider mandatory AA attendance to be morally wrong, but they are not based on evidence.

It's up to You to Decide

As you can see, both sides of the AA argument have good reasons to believe what they say. AA can help many people, but some members don't find it helpful at all. If the court mandates you to attend, your personal experience will depend on many factors.

If you need help deciding on addiction treatment, we can help. Our alcohol detoxification services give you a safe environment where you can recover with fewer withdrawal symptoms. We also offer services and advice related to other forms of addiction. Do you or a loved one need assistance with recovery? Visit our contact page for more information. Call today for same day admittance at (800) 205-6107.



Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on November 23rd, 2018.