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This particular article is primarily about high school and college students who are in recovery for substance abuse, addictions and alcoholism. Much of it would also apply to people of all ages in recovery.
In most cases, the online Twelve Step Program chat room should be just as useful as a face to face meeting. In fact, it may be more useful for people who are too shy to speak in front of others. The chat room allows them the opportunity to speak without worrying about facial reactions, such as shocked looks or even giggling. It gives them the protective barrier they need. Regardless of which type of meeting is used, it would still take time for all members to feel comfortable enough to participate.
Another advantage to meeting online is that no one is seeking transportation to get to a meeting. Some of the participants may not have a car or money for transportation. Not all family members are willing to get their loved one to a physical meeting in a brick and mortar building. In this respect, the virtual meeting solves a problem for many people.
The challenges an online chat room presents are that the person in charge of the group meeting is unable to view the participants’ physical reactions. Therefore there are no facial clues, body movements or uncomfortable movements that can be noted and addressed.
It could also present challenges to those who prefer to be in an actual physical group where they can smile, hug and connect energetically to others. Some people need the physical human connection more than others. Also, some of them may just want an opportunity to get out of the house.
I believe both options should be available whenever possible. However, the online chat room offers a viable method of getting people into group sessions and Twelve Step meetings when other methods are not an option.