AA Online vs. In-Person: How Does It Compare?

Last Updated on October 3, 2023

Going to meetings is one of the most important ways you can invest in your recovery from addiction. But if you’re new to this whole thing, you might be wondering: Is there a difference between AA online or in-person AA meetings? If so, how do they compare, and which one is right for you?

In this blog, we’ll discuss what makes online AA different as well as some of its unique benefits to help you determine what’s best for you and your recovery.

What Is AA Online?

AA Online is a nonprofit organization and a community of AA members. It is overseen by an organization called the Online Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous or OIAA. The OIAA is run by AA members and its primary goal is to connect people to online AA meetings by promoting and regulating all online gatherings.1

The OIAA also provides the following services:

  • Information about AA online meetings
  • General guidance on AA principles and philosophies
  • Resources for people who need help to overcome addiction
  • An OIAA 12th Step Committee (volunteers who are available 24/7 via email to offer help and advice)

The very first online AA group, the Lamp-Lighters, was formed in 1990 and still meets via email today. Now, there are hundreds of online AA groups with thousands of members.2

How Are Online AA Meetings Different From In-Person Meetings?

There are a few main differences that set online AA meetings apart from in-person meetings:

  • They require a computer or phone, internet access, and the ability to use a computer.
  • It’s easier to get distracted so online meetings require a different kind of focus and concentration.
  • In many instances, online AA meetings are more convenient because you can attend from anywhere at any time when you need it.

Despite these differences, online AA meetings can be just as effective and helpful as in-person meetings if you attend with the intention of learning, listening, and growing. Some people view online meetings as supplementary and generally, newcomers are encouraged to attend in-person AA meetings first. But attending an online meeting is certainly better than not going at all!

What Are the Benefits of Online AA Meetings?

  • Convenience: If you are traveling, sick, have physical disabilities, are concerned about health risks, work a demanding off-hours schedule, or cannot find any meetings near you, online meetings are an excellent alternative.
  • Privacy: If you’re concerned about anonymity, an online meeting may be a more comfortable option to start.
  • Comfort: If you struggle with severe social anxiety, attending online meetings first may be a good way to become more comfortable with AA. You don’t even have to turn on your camera if you don’t want to.
  • Flexibility: There are many different online AA meetings to attend at any given time and they are all in different languages and time zones across the world.

Types of Online AA Meetings

There are more than 1,000 online AA meetings taking place at any given time all over the world in different languages. They also offer a variety of different formats, including:

  • Phone conferences
  • Video conferences
  • Chat rooms
  • Message boards
  • Email communications

The size of an online AA meeting will vary but can be anywhere from just three or four people to hundreds. The discussion topic of an online meeting will also depend on the meeting itself and can range from Big Book discussions and meditations to information about addiction or just general recovery information.

As an AA member, you can also choose to attend a few different types of online meetings: open meetings, closed meetings, or a mixture of the two.

  • Open AA meetings are open to others outside of AA, such as people who aren’t alcoholics or addicts, people who just want to observe, people who are considering joining AA but haven’t yet, or family members and friends of AA members.
  • Closed AA meetings are for AA members only.

The variety of AA online meetings is astounding so if you want to connect with an online group, you have plenty of options. Those who want to can even create a new AA meeting online.

How to Sign Up for an AA Online Meeting

To begin, you’ll want to visit the OIAA website and browse their extensive online directory of meetings. This huge list of meetings is updated regularly and you can easily search by day, type of group, and language preference.

From there, you can read about each group and select the one you feel is right for you or that you’re interested in trying out. (Remember, you can always switch groups and try new ones in the future! You are not locked into anything.)

Once you select a group meeting to attend, you’ll be prompted to sign up and register for the group. This helps ensure that all meetings are run privately and anonymously because someone browsing the internet won’t be able to accidentally find the group meeting.

The OIAA will provide all the information you need to sign up and access the meetings, including links to AA group websites and the group organizer’s contact information so you can get in touch if you need to.

Get Help to Overcome Your Addiction

Online AA meetings became more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic as many venues that previously hosted meetings were closed down. Now that there are more safety precautions in place and many venues have reopened, more in-person meetings are available. However, you may still want to attend meetings online. That’s great! As you try out different ways of connecting with sober peers, you’ll eventually learn what works best for you and what doesn’t.

If you’re struggling with drug or alcohol addiction and you need help to get sober, 12-Step meetings are a great supplement to a professional and individualized addiction treatment program. Nova Recovery Center offers residential drug rehab, intensive outpatient rehab (IOP), and an online rehab program for individuals who need help overcoming addiction. Our programs use research-based and evidence-based treatment methods to help you address the causes of your addiction, make positive life changes, and establish a stable, sober life for yourself with the support of caring professionals. When you’re ready to make a change, we are here for you. Please call (512) 605-2955 to learn more about your treatment options.


  • https://aa-intergroup.org/about-aa/history-of-oiaa/
  • https://aa-intergroup.org/

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Nova Recovery Center is dedicated to helping you or your loved one get help. Please call or fill out this form for a confidential consultation. One of our understanding, dedicated advisors will contact you about your options. Begin healing today.

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