All Calls Are Confidential


Man leading group meeting at a 12 step fellowship program offered by The Counseling Center on the east coast

Choosing The Right 12 Step Fellowship Programs

February 23, 2023

When some people think of 12 step fellowship programs, they imagine a group of sad people sitting in a circle in a church basement bemoaning their inability to use alcohol or drugs. This image has found its way into pop culture, but its depiction couldn’t be less accurate. While it’s true people often sit in circles and meetings can be held in churches, the overall feeling is quite different.

You will find smiles, laughter, acceptance, and love permeating the room. While the mood can vary, the benefit of 12 step programs is consistent and unmistakable. They save thousands of lives each year, bringing hope to the hopeless and restore families on the brink. If you are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, they are proven to help. Learn more about the programs available and see what they offer.

Choosing the Right 12 Step Fellowship Program

Eighty years ago, programs based on the 12 steps did not yet exist. People suffering from drug addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders, and any number of maladies were relegated to psychiatric units. Essentially, society didn’t know what to do with them. Then came the 12 steps and the way we deal with addiction was revolutionized.

Today there are hundreds of 12 step programs. Pretty much any addiction a person could experience has a meeting somewhere that can help them. While these iterations are based on the original 12 Steps developed in AA, there are differences to address specific issues. Below are some of the largest and most well-known 12 step fellowships in the world today.

Different 12 Step Fellowships Available

Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous focuses exclusively on alcoholism. The first 12 step program, it was founded in 1935. AA published their eponymous book in 1939, and by doing so, the 12 steps were introduced to the masses. AA meetings can be found in over 170 countries with a reported membership of over 2 million.


Al-Anon wasn’t officially founded until 1951, but it originated around the time AA started. Al-Anon is a fellowship whose goal is to help relatives or friends of people who suffer from alcoholism or addiction. They incorporate the 12 steps into their program and focus on overcoming the damage caused by a loved one’s addiction.

Alateen is the Al-Anon program directed at teenagers. It typically serves teens with a parent addicted to alcohol or drugs. It offers the same support as Al-Anon but for a younger audience.

Narcotics Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous started in 1953 in California. It was initially an offshoot of the AA 12 step fellowship program, but with the focus on drug addiction. Early members found that being in a setting where everyone suffered from the same affliction seemed to be helpful in overcoming it. In 1982, they published Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text. Today, there are NA meetings in 139 countries.

Cocaine Anonymous

Cocaine Anonymous is one of the largest of the 12 step-based fellowships that focus on specific drugs. Cocaine Anonymous started in 1982 and uses the AA book in their fellowship. Like the other fellowships, they employ the tenets of the 12 Steps in order to help their members overcome cocaine addiction.

Gamblers Anonymous

Gamblers Anonymous is a 12 step fellowship program for those addicted to gambling. It is not commonly known how destructive an addiction to gambling can be. People often lose their homes, careers, and even their families. It is estimated that over 1 million Americans have a gambling addiction. Gamblers Anonymous is smaller than AA or NA but it can still be found in over a dozen countries.

Overeaters Anonymous

Overeaters Anonymous uses the 12 steps to address problems with food such as compulsive overeating, under-eating, food addiction, anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, or over exercising. Overeaters Anonymous began in 1960 in California and now has around 54,000 members over 80 countries. It has helped countless people regain control of their eating and saved thousands of lives.

Sex Addicts Anonymous

Sex Addicts Anonymous was founded in 1977 in order to help those who had an addiction to sexual behavior. Sex Addicts Anonymous is interesting because celibacy is not necessary for the 12 steps to be worked. Instead, members create their own definition of what sexual sobriety means based on their personalized list of compulsive sexual behaviors.

Adult Children of Alcoholics

Adult Children of Alcoholics began in 1973 in Long Island, New York. It differs from Al-Anon and Alateen in that it focuses on helping adults overcome the effects of growing up in a home with an alcoholic. There are an estimated 40,000 members in ACOA.

Call The Counseling Center for Outpatient Substance Use Treatment

If you are looking for substance use treatment in addition to your 12 step program, The Counseling Center is pleased to help. We offer outpatient services from licensed professionals in a welcoming environment. Call 866-850-5001 or fill out our form today. We’ll help you stay on a path to recovery.