Study: Online Support Groups Not as Effective as Face-to-Face Meetings for Sobriety

Online support groups are not as effective as face-to-face meetings in helping people stay sober, a new study concludes. Participants said they were less likely to be dishonest in face-to-face meetings, according to HealthDay.

Because a commitment to honesty is a major part of 12-step recovery programs, being dishonest could get in the way of recovery, according to the researchers.

The study included 141 women and 55 men who used both online and face-to-face support groups. More than 90 percent had been in recovery for more than a year, the article notes. People who attended more in-person meetings were more likely to achieve and maintain sobriety, compared with those who used online support groups more often, the researchers reported at the American Psychological Association annual meeting.

“One of the most hotly debated media issues today is whether our rapidly increasing use of social networking might be supplanting face-to-face-interactions and, if so, what the social consequences might prove for us as a culture,” study author Donald Grant, of Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, California, said in a news release.

The study found that while most participants continued to prefer face-to-face meetings, there was an increase in online use that corresponded with a moderate decrease in meeting attendance.

“With more and more people engaging in online sobriety support, the recovering community and professionals alike wonder what impact these modern platforms could have on both the future of Alcoholics Anonymous and its membership,” Grant said. “When comparing the short amount of time online sobriety support has even been accessible to the number of those participants currently engaging with it, the likelihood that its popularity will only grow seems probable.”