In This Article
What is Families Anonymous?
Families Anonymous (FA) is a 12-step program. It is designed specifically for the family and friends of those suffering from substance abuse and other addictive behavioral issues.1
These issues include:
- Substance use
- Sex addictions
- Gambling problems
- Other behavioral compulsions
The program began in 1971 on a premise similar to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
FA started with in-person meetings. It has since integrated an online meeting system in recent years. Meetings are free to attend. However, donations are welcome.
Similar to other programs, FA aims to encourage members to go through a 12-step series. This series helps members heal from psychological issues that contribute to substance abuse problems.
The steps are based on twelve traditions and twelve promises. Each provides guidance and focused statements about healing.
Like other 12-step programs, FA respects member anonymity. It provides literature to educate families on offered programs. They also provide additional information on addiction and addiction-related issues.
These similarities are designed to help Families Anonymous members better understand what loved ones have gone through on the road to recovery. Many recovering users have attended Alcoholics Anonymous or other 12-step programs.
FA also works to prevent members from engaging in the following destructive forces that often prevent healing:
- Religious discussion
- Gossiping about members
- Dominating or taking over meetings
- Dwelling on or constantly revisiting the past
Who Can Attend These Meetings?
FA meetings are primarily for family members and friends of people suffering from addiction or currently in recovery.
The goal of FA is to allow loved ones to gather and share experiences.
Sharing is believed to be purifying for members. It often helps people heal from experiences caused by substance abuse and the behavioral issues of loved ones.
What Takes Place at Families Anonymous Meetings?
Families Anonymous meetings follow a similar structure to other 12-step programs.
However, they come with some additional benefits that cater to flexibility and inclusivity.
For example, they allow any FA member to lead a meeting. In fact, it is encouraged to have different people lead each session.
FA provides a suggested meeting format for leaders to refer to when conducting a meeting. However, this is just for guidance.
Leaders are encouraged to host meetings in a way that makes them feel most comfortable. It should also best support the people in the group.
A typical meeting may begin by welcoming newcomers and making announcements. This is followed by asking attendees if they would like to share their own announcements.
If there are new members present, they may also describe the goals and structure of Families Anonymous.
Members often start by reading FA's:
- Twelve steps
- Twelve traditions
- Twelve promises
Members may also share information about drug abuse. They can also provide contact information to others.
Meetings usually feature "discussion time". This is often centered around any piece of FA literature.
- A bookmark
- A reading from Today a Better Way
- One of the twelve steps, promises, or traditions.
Everyone present in FA meetings is encouraged to participate in discussions. However, crosstalk is discouraged.
Examples of crosstalk include:
- Talking without recognition from the leader or while someone else has the floor
- Having side conversations during the meeting with others in a one-on-one setting
- Counseling other members
- Questioning the decisions or actions of other members
During discussion sessions, members request to be recognized by the leader to make comments. This allows everyone to contribute while making sure the focus is on the current person speaking.
The practice lets the speaker know they can be truly heard. This helps to provide a strong emotional boost at an often critical time.
Following discussion time, baskets are usually passed around for voluntary donations like in typical churches. At this time, newcomers are usually asked if they have questions or comments. Then, the host asks if anyone else has something they would like to share.
Near the end of meetings, leaders often remind members that Families Anonymous values anonymity. They strongly discourage sharing anything that was said or discussed in meetings or in any other setting.
Families Anonymous meetings often close with a Serenity Prayer. This is similar to the format that other 12-step programs offer.
Types of Families Anonymous Meetings
There are three main types of Families Anonymous meetings:
- Phone meetings, online, or virtual meetings
- Email meetings.
All of these meetings are designed to allow members access to the help and support they are seeking.
Families Anonymous began with face-to-face meetings. It remains the most popular type of meeting in the organization.
There are in-person FA meetings across the United States and throughout the world.
After face-to-face meetings, phone meetings were the next form of FA gathering to be introduced.
Phone meetings occur at a set time each week. This is on Saturdays at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).
They can be joined by dialing 1-855-641-0395 in the United States. Then, you must enter the access code 164804#.
Online Meetings (Virtual Meetings)
Online meetings have grown in popularity during the 21st Century. Virtual meetings began for people that lacked access to in-person gatherings in their area or because of other mobility issues.
These meetings are referred to as Meetings Without Walls (MWW). They enable real-time voice chats with members over the internet. Script templates are available for MWW online sessions.
Families Anonymous email meetings are designed for people who prefer writing about personal feelings and thoughts on their own time.
These are email discussion support groups that allow members across the world to help one another heal.
Families Anonymous vs. Al-Anon: Which is Right For You?
Both Al-Anon and Families Anonymous share much of the same traditions and structure. The main difference between the two is their focus:
- Al-Anon focuses on alcohol use disorder and its effects on the family.7
- Families Anonymous focuses on a wider range of addictive behaviors.
Each of these programs offers an anonymous, safe space to share how addictive behaviors affect loved ones and their families.
Supporting members is the core goal of Al-Anon and Families Anonymous, rather than controlling loved ones' behaviors.
Finding which program is right for you primarily depends on the type of behavior that is affecting you. If alcohol abuse and alcoholism is the main issue, Al-Anon is likely the better choice.
Any other type of addictive behavior is probably better dealt with through Families Anonymous.
How to Find a Meeting
Everyone is welcome to join Families Anonymous. Finding meetings that best fit your needs is simple and straightforward.
You can find nearby face-to-face FA meetings by visiting the Families Anonymous website. You can also find information on how to join an online, phone, or email meeting.
FA is active in all regions of the United States and across the world. This makes it very easy to attend meetings in most cases.
Call to find out how much your insurance will cover
- Families Anonymous. About FA: What is Families Anonymous? FA
- National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (UK). Drug Misuse: Psychosocial Interventions. Leicester (UK): British Psychological Society; 2008. (NICE Clinical Guidelines, No. 51.) 13. ABBREVIATIONS.
- Eells MA. Interventions with alcoholics and their families. Nurs Clin North Am. 1986 Sep;21:493-504. PMID: 3638703.
- Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse: Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2006. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 47.) Chapter 6. Family-Based Services.
- Sussman S. . A review of Alcoholics Anonymous/ Narcotics Anonymous programs for teens. Evaluation & the health professions, 33, 26–55.
- National Health Services. Advice for families of people who use drugs. NHS.
- Timko, Christine et al. “Social processes explaining the benefits of Al-Anon participation.” Psychology of addictive behaviors : journal of the Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors vol. 29,4