(return to Guidelines)

AA® Guidelines                                      For A.A. Members Employed in the Alcoholism Field

From G.S.O., Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163
A.A. Guidelines are compiled from the shared experience of A.A. members in the various areas. They also reflect guidance given through the Twelve Traditions and the General Service Conference (U.S. and Canada). In keeping with our Tradition of autonomy, except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole, most decisions are made by the group conscience of the members involved. The purpose of these guidelines is to assist in reaching an informed group conscience.

These suggestions are for the benefit of any A.A. members who are employed as professionals, as paid workers in alcoholism programs or agencies, or who are in training as professionals.
This includes people in three types of non-A.A. jobs in the alcoholism world: (1) direct face-to-face services to alcoholics (such as those given by social workers, counselors, nurses, physicians); (2) program, consultant, administrative, research, planning, and educational positions not necessarily involving actual person-to-person services to alcoholics, and those concerned more with alcoholism than with alcoholics; and (3) combinations of the above.


These suggestions are based squarely on the actual in-the-field experience of scores of A.A. members. Their positions range from recent caseworkers on skid row to heading national programs for many years. A.A. contributors to these Guidelines overwhelmingly agreed that it is professional skill and experience, not A.A. membership, which qualifies one for professional positions.


1. Several years of good, uninterrupted A.A. sobriety would be important in tackling any paid alcoholism job, or enrolling in an alcoholism training program. Five years was mentioned most frequently, but a couple of people suggested three.

2. Some A.A.s have held positions as "trusted servants" in A.A., and at the same time worked for alcoholism agencies. The General Service Conference has affirmed that an A.A. employed in the alcoholism field could be eligible for service within the Fellowship provided he or she has the necessary A.A. qualifications.

3. Understanding of A.A. Traditions and how they developed out of experience is "absolutely indispensable" for A.A.s employed in the alcoholism field.

"To deepen my understanding, I read the books Alcoholics Anonymous, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and A.A. Comes of Age over and over," one man wrote.

4. For information about education, prevention or alcoholism in general, you may wish to contact the following agencies:

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
12 West 21st Street
New York, NY 10010

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857

National Clearing House for Alcohol and Drug Information
Box 2345
Rockville, MD 20852.

5. Some have found it helpful to have a sponsor who does not work in the alcoholism field.


Keep it perfectly clear in your own mind which context you are functioning in: your paid (non-A.A.) job role, or as an A.A. member.

Sticking to one role at a time and clearly demonstrating the difference between your A.A. actions and your job performance are plainly in the best interests of both the professionals and A.A.

One way to do this, several program directors noted, is to be sure that job titles never contain the initials "A.A." Members working in the field of alcoholism tell us that professional agencies save themselves lots of grief by using the term "alcoholism counselor," never "A.A. counselor."


Techniques for keeping roles separate range widely. At one extreme, there are those who are absolutely unyielding in their refusal to discuss their job with A.A. members or at an A.A. meeting (and vice versa). At the other extreme, there are those who talk easily about both in all settings, but always use some simple qualification. For example: "As an A.A. member, I feel so-and-so, but as a professional person, I would recommend such and such . . . ." Several A.A.s wrote: "From nine to five on my job, I am a paid professional. But after hours, I turn into just another alcoholic trying to improve the quality of my sober life."

A recommendation of the 1978 A.A. General Service Conference, dealing with A.A. groups in treatment facilities, concluded: "It was also felt that A.A.s employed by the facility should not run the groups at the facility."

A majority of A.A. members seemed to feel that what is needed most is quiet common sense. Keep it simple. Approach each situation on its own merits. Be sure you are deeply acquainted with A.A. Traditions and their application. Watch your language carefully.

"I never sponsor or Twelfth Step the clients I meet on my job," one counselor wrote. "I counsel them and arrange for other A.A.s to do the Twelfth Stepping. But at my A.A. meetings, I Twelfth Step pigeons like everyone else-being careful, of course, not to confuse my pigeons and my clients. And in A.A., I am careful to avoid all professional‑sounding jargon."

Other A.A, members suggest it is better to give up personal sponsorship of newcomers and let other members do that. Most A.A. members emphasized that the biggest reason for keeping the two identities distinct is protection of your own recovery. "I cannot afford to start mistaking my professional work with alcoholics for the healing process provided me by the A.A. Steps and meetings," as one explained.


1. Recurring ego inflation‑especially if you begin to see good results on your job‑was warned about. "Humility and gratitude are not only more becoming; they are also much safer, more in line with A.A. teachings, and far more helpful in my own growth," one member summarized.

2. Failure to give credit and praise to non‑A.A. pros who perform services for alcoholics is also an easy mistake to lapse into. "Everyone deserves and needs sincere appreciation. I have found that being liberal with praise‑just a decent human courtesy helps foster a climate of friendliness and cooperation."

3. Getting impatient with and criticizing the ideas, practices, and attitudes of non-A.A.s whose ideas are different from your own.

"By all means, curb your eager‑beaver impulses to keep ramming A.A. down everybody's throat. Never get trapped into arguments about A.A., and avoid the inclination to try to defend, explain, or interpret A.A. The Fellowship's results speak eloquently for themselves."

"If and when your non‑A.A. colleagues do express any interest, take them or encourage them to go to A.A. meetings, or offer them one simple pamphlet such as 'If You Are a Professional' or 'A Member's-Eye View of A.A.' You may suggest that local C.P.C. committees are available to make presentations about what A.A. is and is not for staff training sessions."


Experience has shown that these three subjects can cause misunderstandings between A.A. and the professional world. However, such problems can easily be solved, if not avoided.

1. Fund Raising. There is agreement that A.A. members' names should never be used in fund raising or in any way that might imply A.A. endorsement of or affiliation with any program or organization.

According to Tradition Seven, no A.A. office or group accepts money or gifts from non‑A.A. sources. In accord with Traditions Six and Ten, A.A. is not allied with and does not endorse or oppose any other organization or program.

A.A.s who understand the reasons for and principles behind these Traditions can prevent many problems. See pp. 155-165 and 176-179 in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions and pp. 107-114 and other sections in A.A. Comes of Age.

2. Research. When a professional agency wants to use A.A. members in research projects, it can be ticklish. Some A.A. members are not interested in alcoholism research, and some even fear that such research could publicize their A.A. membership. Some professional agencies do not yet understand A.A.'s primary purpose, or that no A.A. office, group, or any other unit can require A.A. members to do anything!

However, a number of worthwhile research projects involving A.A. members as private citizens have been accomplished. Available from G.S.O.: Memo on A.A. Cooperation With Research Projects and Non-A.A. Surveys.

3. A.A. Directories. The purpose of these directories is to enable A.A. members to get in touch with each other in regard to A.A. matters only.

The 1994 General Service Conference recommended that G.S.O. not provide A.A. confidential directories outside the Fellowship. However, the Directory of Central Offices/Intergroups and Answering Services is available to treatment facilities and alcoholism agencies.


Saying "I am in A.A." or otherwise revealing your own A.A. membership, using full name and/or identifiable photo, is a breech of our Tradition Eleven when done at the level of print, TV, radio, films, or other public forums.

The values of this Tradition for individual recovery, as well as protection of our Fellowship, are clearly spelled out in A.A. Comes of Age, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and the pamphlets "A.A. Tradition‑How it Developed" and "Understanding Anonymity."

For A.A. members employed in the field, it is an ethical responsibility never to reveal the A.A. membership, or alcoholism, of any other A.A. (just as no one questions the privileged confidential nature of the doctor‑patient, lawyer‑client, priest‑parishioner relationships). As you know, A.A. publications, offices, groups, and committees make every effort never to reveal in any way the identity of another A.A. member.

However, whether or not you disclose your own A.A. membership is your own affair; and if you do, it does not violate the Eleventh Tradition as long as you do not do it in a public forum.

It has always been left strictly up to your own desires and judgment to decide about telling family, friends, employer, or colleagues . . . in private conversations, in speaking engagements, or when trying to help an alcoholic into A.A. It still is.

An entirely different matter, of course, is saying publicly in print, on TV, or anywhere else, simply, "I am a recovered` alcoholic." This statement alone is never a break of any A.A. Tradition-as long as A.A. membership is not revealed.

So, although it is perfectly okay (1 ) to say anywhere, "I am a recovered alcoholic"; and (2) to reveal A.A. membership on a personal basis, we found a wide range of thoughtful opinion on when and where it is a good idea to do either of these.

Some A.A. members said they often identify themselves simply as "recovered alcoholics," because this may help chip away at the stigma surrounding alcoholism, and in the long run may contribute to changing the stereotype of the alcoholic and attitudes toward alcoholics.

On the other hand, other A.A. members pointed out a disadvantage. They said if it is known you are a former victim of active alcoholism; you are immediately viewed in some circles as a "special pleader with a vested interest," and this may lessen your influence as a supposedly objective, professional person.

Aside from strict adherence to Tradition Eleven, and to a policy of never revealing either the alcoholism or the A.A. membership of anyone else, practically no one recommended setting up a rigid policy for yourself and never deviating from it no matter what the circumstances. "Speaking to troubled alcoholic clients," one man wrote, "maybe you could help them with your own story-but it is also possible this might hinder their own affiliation with A.A. They may not understand your motive.

"Remember that what you do can affect yourself, your listeners, and A.A. as a whole for years to come," he advised. "To sum up, I'd say examine your conscience fearlessly, then pray for guidance in each case."

Maybe you would also profit by discussing specific instances with other A.A.s who have faced such questions. And you are certainly urged to write or telephone G.S.O. if you think we can be of any assistance.


From the wealth of good experience shared with us, we've also culled a few miscellaneous tips you might find helpful:

1. "Remember that your basic training in alcoholism is subjective, personal experience. Non-A.A.s naturally have to see the illness objectively, from other, outer directions, not from the inside. This does not necessarily mean one view is better than the other," one man wrote. "They are different, but both can be true, good, and helpful to the sick alcoholic."

2. "Be sure to maintain, outside or in addition to your job, a personal A.A. life of your own."

3. "Go regularly to A.A. meetings, not as a guest expert or big shot, but as a listening 'newcomer' trying to stay sober. It's fun ! "

4. "Never be afraid to say you are wrong, you're sorry, you don't know, you goofed, or you need help."

5. "If you speak as an A.A. member be sure to emphasize that you speak only for yourself, since no A.A. member can speak for or represent A.A. as a whole."

'Some A.A. members prefer the term "recovering alcoholic," instead of "recovered alcoholic." Within A.A., it is probably clear that the former term means we are always trying to get better. However, it is doubtful if non-A.A.s appreciate this fine distinction, so the term recovered alcoholic is probably less confusing to the public.


For more than 50 years, A.A. members have been working professionally in the field of alcoholism. Our co-founder, Dr. Bob S., in addition to his personal A.A. twelfth-stepping, also treated alcoholics in his professional capacity as a physician. Marty M. pioneered in 1944 in starting to educate the public about alcoholism. She had the full support of Dr. Bob, Bill W., and other early A.A.s. They saw then that the organizing and fund raising necessary for public education on alcoholism were outside A.A.'s ability and primary purpose.

By 1957, as Bill W. pointed out in A.A. Comes of Age, many A.A.s were already successfully employed to work on alcoholism problems by non-A.A. organizations in such capacities as social workers, researchers, educators, nurses, personnel advisers, treatment facilities counselors, and other professions.

"We see that we have no right or need to discourage A.A.s who wish to work as individuals in these wider fields," according to Bill W. (A. A . Comes of Age‑p. 117). "It would be actually antisocial were we to discourage them."

Looking back we can clearly see now that it would be unreasonable and futile to try to prevent A.A. members from using any professional skills they have in institutions and programs concerned with alcoholism. Many A.A.s have now made remarkable professional contributions to the world's knowledge and understanding of alcoholism, while acting fully within both the letter and the spirit of the A.A. Traditions. It can be done; it has been done.

Another long-sober A.A. wrote, "As A.A. members, we do not speak with professional authority. Nevertheless, our A.A. experience with thousands of cases shows certain things very clearly, and we can make a valuable and meaningful contribution to the field of alcoholism by using our understanding and dedication with gratitude."


(return to Guidelines)

A.A.® Guidelines                                                                          Treatment Committees
from G.S.O., Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163

A.A. Guidelines are compiled from the shared experience of A.A. members in the various areas. They also reflect guidance given through the Twelve Traditions and the General Service Conference (U.S. and Canada). In keeping with our Tradition of autonomy, except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole, most decisions are made by the group conscience of the members involved. The purpose of these guidelines is to assist in reaching an informed group conscience.


In trying to help the alcoholic who is in a treatment facility, A.A.s work together, insofar as possible, by using suggestions from those who have already had experience carrying the message into treatment facilities.

These guidelines provide a summary of shared experience of A.A.s who have carried the message into treatment facilities. A Treatment Facilities Workbook available from the General Service Office contains detailed information about carrying the message into treatment facilities, including ways to approach treatment center personnel, presentations and workshops, temporary contact programs, and other helpful information. The workbook is sent to committee chairpersons at no charge and is listed in the literature catalog.


Treatment facilities committees are formed to coordinate the work of individual A.A. members and groups who are interested in carrying our message of recovery to alcoholics in treatment facilities, and to set up means of "bridging the gap" from the facility to an A. A. group in the individual's community.

A treatment facilities committee may function within the structure of a general service committee on the area or district level or it may serve within the structure of a central office/intergroup. Prior to forming these committees, this Twelfth Step work is sometimes handled by an individual group or member. As A.A. groups grow in number in a community, experience suggests that a committee works more effectively.

In some parts of the country, A.A.s interested in carrying the message into treatment and correctional facilities work together on Hospitals and Institutions committees independent of, but in cooperation with, general service and intergroup committees. This structure also works well ‑ especially in areas where lines of communication between the various service entities remain open.


Since A.A.'s co-founders first stayed sober by carrying the A.A. message into hospitals, many other alcoholics have discovered the great value to their own sobriety of working with suffering alcoholics in treatment facilities.

In 1934, Bill W. kept trying to help drunks in Towns Hospital in New York City. None of them seemed interested at that time, but Bill stayed sober. Dr. Bob worked with thousands of alcoholics at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio. In 1939, Rockland State Hospital, a New York mental institution, was the site of one of our first A.A. hospital groups.

Today many A.A. meetings take place in treatment facilities all over the world. Twelfth Stepping and sponsoring other alcoholics - where they are - has long been one of the most important and satisfying ways of keeping ourselves sober.

Services to treatment facilities used to be combined with corrections facilities under the title Institutions Committee. In 1977 the General Service Conference voted to dissolve its Institutions Committee and form two new committees, one on correctional facilities and one on treatment facilities. For more information on A.A.'s work in hospitals and treatment centers, see the book A.A. Comes of Age.


Since hospitals and treatment facilities do not permit unauthorized visitors to enter their facilities, the first step is to establish contact with administrators. In some areas, the initial contact may be by a committee on cooperation with the professional community (C.P.C. committee). A meeting to discuss ways A.A. can cooperate with the facility within our Twelve Traditions will help avoid numerous pitfalls later.

If possible, arrange for informational presentations to the facilities' staff for the purpose of explaining what A.A. is and is not. The General Service Office can provide service material offering suggestions for informational programs. The video "Hope: Alcoholics Anonymous" explains the principles of A.A., our primary purpose and many other aspects which will be of interest to administrators, counselors and patients.

The pamphlet "A.A. in Treatment Facilities" describes different types of meetings in treatment centers. In some instances, regular A.A. groups meet in facilities where they rent space in the tradition of self-support and function in the same way as groups which meet in church basements, schools, etc. The patients are welcome to attend the meetings and this is a practical and simple way of introducing patients to A. A. while they are still in treatment.

Treatment facility meetings differ from those of the regular group. They are A.A. meetings held for patients and residents, and they are usually not open to A.A.s in the community. A.A. members are sometimes invited to arrange these meetings for the patients, and these members often bring in one or two other speakers. Such meetings are often the responsibility of a local treatment facility committee. Other times these meetings are arranged by the treatment facility administrators.

Alcoholics in treatment are often able to go to regular meetings of A. A. groups in the community. Care should be taken to ensure that groups receive adequate notice so they can be prepared for the visitors.

All A.A. groups and members should be given the opportunity of sharing in and doing this type of Twelfth Step work. It has proved a good idea to have members from many groups serve on these committees. A chairperson is then elected and plans are developed so that each treatment facility in the area will be assured of A.A. help and cooperation.

Treatment facilities committees usually convene every month to make assignments and handle other related business. Some of the committees have shared the following activities with us. Perhaps some of these ideas and programs might be used in your area.

1. Workshops have proved an effective way of informing and preparing new committee members for their work with patients and in sharing the experience of the member already involved in this form of service.

2. Other areas have developed sets of guidelines that are helpful for A.A.s newly involved in taking meetings to patients.

3. Many committees have sent letters to all treatment facilities in their areas explaining what A.A. does and does not do.

4. The videos "Hope: Alcoholics Anonymous" and "A.A.-An Inside View" have been useful tools for carrying the message to both staff and patients in many parts of the country.


1. With approval of administration, takes A.A. meetings into facilities within its area.

2. Encourages group participation. In some areas each group has a representative on the T.F. committee.

3. Coordinates temporary contact programs.

4. Arranges purchase and distribution of literature for these groups and meetings.


1. Seeks to understand, respect, and adhere to all treatment facility regulations.

2. Makes information about A.A.'s function and purpose available.

3. Assists in the formation of new A.A. meetings in treatment facilities.


In some areas, groups are assigned to specific times at specific facilities and this system works very well. However, sometimes commitments are not followed through. The major problem seems to be deciding who is responsible for finding speakers. The specific responsibility can be given to:

1. The contact chairperson or "meeting sponsor" for each facility, who then seeks out individual speakers.

2.  An individual appointed by the chairperson.

3. The chairperson of the committee, who arranges for rotation among groups in the area.

4.  Committee members who assume the total responsibility, rotating the assignments among themselves, but obtaining other speakers as well.

All people responsible for meetings at treatment facilities concur that the more outside members who participate, the better. The patient then has an opportunity to hear varied A.A. talks, and has a better chance to identify.

The importance of dependability cannot be overemphasized.


Most committees feel that adequate literature supplies and audiovisual materials are essential for treatment center meetings. It is especially important that each patient is supplied with a list of local A.A. meetings. Supplies are financed and obtained in several ways:

1.    Donated by area or district general service committees or local intergroups.

2.    Purchased with group contributions designated for this purpose.

3.   Provided by groups through their T.F. representatives (where the committee is organized and functioning to this extent).

4.   Donated by members of the committee.

5.   Special funds:

        a.  Buck of the Month Club ‑ members contribute funds used for treatment facilities literature.

        b. Special meetings or dinners, at which a collection is taken.

        c. Special containers at regular meetings, marked "For Treatment Facilities Literature."

Note: Treatment Facilities Discount Packages are available from G.S.O.


Experience shows that even though a patient may have been participating in a group or meeting in a treatment facility, there is anxiety about the transition to a regular group on the outside. With the reminder that A.A. has only sobriety to offer, many committees do try to provide some additional personal contact, so this transition period can be made easier. In many places, this is referred to as "bridging the gap" between treatment and a home group. The pamphlet "Bridging the Gap" is available from G.S.O.

1. A growing number of areas have established temporary contact programs. Contact G.S.O. for details.

2. Where there is a local intergroup, newly released patients may be put in contact with an A.A. member who may act as a temporary sponsor or contact.

3. In some areas, patients are allowed to attend outside meetings and this makes "bridging the gap" easier.

4. The contact chairperson or meeting sponsor meets the patient when he or she is discharged from the facility. Since sponsorship is personal, many areas have found it helpful to have patients select their own sponsors once contact with the outside has been made.

The initial contacts do not necessarily continue as sponsors, but do serve as a vital link between the facility and the outside A.A. group.

When G.S.O. receives a request for A.A. contacts from a treatment facility professional, a friendly letter of explanation about anonymity is sent with a list of central offices, intergroups and answering services enclosed. The request is sent to the area delegate for information and follow up as recommended by the 1994 General Service Conference.


As in all A.A. activity, communication of needs and progress is important. Such communication can be maintained through:

1. Group representatives at district, area or intergroup/central office meetings.

2. The use of newsletters or bulletins distributed by the area, district or intergroup/central office. We have heard of one treatment facilities committee attempting to share information through its own newsletter.

3.  Announcements at regular A.A. meetings by T.F. committee members.

4. Treatment facilities workshops at area assemblies and regional or state conferences and conventions.

5. Monthly committee meetings to which all A.A.s are invited. Committee minutes help keep everyone well informed and provide a good record of committee activity and progress. G.S.O. appreciates receiving committee minutes, if possible.


Many areas report it is helpful to cooperate with AI‑Anon Family Groups, in order that the family of the patient may gain a better understanding of our Fellowship. For information, contact AI‑Anon Family Groups, P.O. Box 862, Midtown Station, New York, NY 10018-0862.


G.S.O. maintains a mailing list of treatment facilities chairpersons and committee members (U.S. and Canada). All are sent a Treatment Facilities Newsletter, distributed semiannually, which shares information and ideas from committees.

Committee chairpersons receive the Treatment Facilities Workbook, A.A. directories and are on the mailing list for About A.A., a newsletter for the professional community, and Box 4-5-9 that sometimes contains a section on treatment facilities news..

  Please keep in touch so that your activities may be shared through Box 4-5-9 or the Treatment Facilities Newsletter, and add your experiences to the files, to help others who are involved in this rewarding area of service.

(return to Guidelines)



A.A.® Guidelines                                 Cooperating with Court, D.W.I and Similar Programs
from G.S.O., Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163

A.A. Guidelines are compiled from the shared experience of A.A. members in the various areas. They also reflect guidance given through the Twelve Traditions and the General Service Conference (U.S. and Canada). In keeping with our Tradition of autonomy, except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole, most decisions are made by the group conscience of the members involved. The purpose of these guidelines is to assist in reaching an informed group conscience.


In 1942, members from San Francisco brought the first A.A. meeting into San Quentin Prison at the request of Warden Clinton T. Duffy. This example led to A.A.'s cooperation with court systems, including direct communications with judges and parole and probation officials. The sole purpose of this Twelfth Step work, then and now, was to carry A.A.'s message to the still-suffering alcoholic. To fulfill that purpose, A.A.s have learned how to share A.A. information within court systems.

Probation and parole officers, as well as judges, often require people involved in alcohol‑related offenses to attend A.A. meetings. Some A.A. members find it difficult to accept this "outside" policy in light of our Third Tradition, "The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking." Perhaps it's helpful to remember that our Traditions apply to us, and aren't affected by the regulations established by outside institutions‑we cooperate without affiliating. By adhering to all Twelve Traditions, many groups welcome each newcomer regardless of how they got to the meeting.

In recent years, a larger number of "safe driving" programs have been set up for drivers in trouble with the law because of some episode related to drinking. These programs have many different names‑such as Alcohol Safety Action Project (A.S.A.P.), Driving While Intoxicated (D.W.I.), and the like. Many A.A. committees that cooperate with these programs, offer attendees a chance to learn about A.A., and many are now members of A.A. as a result.

From Page 89 of the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous: "Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail .... You can help when no one else can .... because of your own drinking experience, you can be uniquely useful to other alcoholics. So cooperate; never criticize. To be helpful is our only aim."

Therefore, as long as carrying the message helps those of us already in A.A. maintain our own sobriety, this kind of message-carrying is a success.

Our responsibility is to make the seed of A.A. freely available. What the sufferer does with it is not our responsibility. Only one "statistic" interests us in A.A.‑the next person who may need our help.


In most cases, this general outline is followed by all court programs for "alcoholic" offenders:

• Pretrial interview

• Release, conviction, or case continued (if conviction, sentence or probation comes next)

• Court classes on alcoholism, regular (outside the court) A.A. meetings, or incarceration

The offender under suspended sentence or on probation may be required by the judge to attend meetings of one type or another.

The court class (sometimes called an honor court meeting) usually meets in the court building, and may be one of three types:

1. Meetings about A.A., usually run by A.A. members, though sometimes an officer of the court presides.

2. Meetings handled by several agencies, with a doctor explaining alcoholism, and other professionals and/or volunteers talking about alcoholism. Usually, at least one session is turned over to A.A. members, who put on a "sample" A.A. meeting. They tell briefly their own stories, and also tell how A.A. works. A.A. members experienced at this say it is important to avoid criticizing anything. These classes seem to work best when A.A. speakers emphasize the benefits of sobriety and the A.A. way of life.

3. Meetings sponsored by domestic relations or family courts, which may include sample AI‑Anon and Alateen meetings held for the spouse and children of the offender. These are separate from the A.A. meetings, of course.

It is important to explain the difference between these court classes and regular (outside) A.A. meetings, and to have A.A. literature on hand at each session.

Meetings Outside the Court

Sometimes meetings become so big that they lead to the formation of new, "outside" groups‑regular A.A. groups which meet away from the court building and choose a new name with no relation to the court.

When some judges require offenders to attend regular A.A. meetings, as a condition of the suspended sentence or probation, they may be legally required to have each offender offer proof that he or she attended the required number of meetings.


All of them, but these have been specially mentioned:

One-Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.

Two-For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority‑a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.

Three-The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.

Five-Each group has but one primary purpose-to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

Six-An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

Ten-Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.

Eleven-Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.

Twelve-Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.


A. Getting A.A. members involved

Many A.A. members are not aware that this kind of Twelfth Step work is available and that they can participate in it.

In some locales, this service is coordinated by the Committee on Cooperation With the Professional Community (C.P.C.). Often ongoing Twelfth Step work within the court system leads to a subcommittee connected to the district or central office/intergroup. It's important to include enough A.A. members to cover A.A. commitments in the court system without detracting from other service work.

Usually, it is up to members of these committees to share this experience with other A.A.s, so that more A.A.s understand how to take part in this kind of Twelfth Step work. (See Which A.A. Members are Best Suited... p.3)

  B. Misunderstanding of these programs by A.A.s, and by the offenders.

  Some A.A. members are upset when they hear about this Twelfth Step service. For instance:

1. When such a program first starts, a small A.A. group may have more newcomers than regular members at its meetings. Some members feel their group is being "invaded."

This can usually be solved by setting up a meeting with the judge and members of several nearby groups, asking the judge to spread the newcomers around among several "open" meetings. One option, when many newcomers under court order turn up at a meeting, is for the members to divide into small discussion groups, with a few regulars sitting with each set of newcomers. In any case, it is probably a good idea for the judge to refer people to "open" A.A. meetings, in the event that some of those referred do not believe themselves to be alcoholics. Often, providing the court with a list of "open" meetings will avoid referrals to "closed" meetings.

2. Some members have the mistaken impression that such programs "affiliate" A.A. with outside enterprises, or constitute "endorsement" by A.A. of a court or D.W.I. program. However, A.A.'s cooperation with these programs no more constitutes "affiliation" or "endorsement" than do A.A. meetings held in hospitals and prisons.

A.A. members involved in court classes, or meetings about A.A., explain that these are not regular A.A. meetings. It is pointed out that A.A. is self‑supporting, so A.A. groups do not accept rent‑free meeting rooms or literature furnished by any non‑A.A. source, and are totally independent of a court or other enterprise. It is shown that A.A. groups do not force attendance, or keep attendance records. Courts can do these things as they are not bound by the A.A. Traditions.

C. Mandatory attendance at A.A. meetings

All of us sober in A.A. know that to get well we really had to want it for ourselves‑‑eventually, if not at first. We could not stay sober just because we were "required" to, or for anybody else.

Yet, in a real sense, every A.A. member is at first "sentenced" to A.A either by their employer, family, friends, doctor, or by their own inner suffering. In A.A., we are not concerned about who or what first sends the alcoholic to us. Our responsibility is to show A.A. as a way of life, so that all newcomers who need it might want it.

D. The hostile attitude of some who are required by a law enforcement agency to attend A.A. meetings.

Some of these newcomers originally approach A.A. very resentful at having to be there. This is easy to understand. It is up to us to be patient and tolerant toward the sick and angry newcomer.

When sending offenders to A.A., one judge tells them about the Fellowship and hands each one a small card showing information about meetings, plus suggestions for behavior at A.A. meetings including being on time, staying for the entire meeting, not being disruptive, etc. When a judge is willing to do this, it helps to prevent offenders' arriving late, interrupting to demand signed attendance cards, and otherwise disturbing the meeting.

E. Proof of attendance at A.A. meetings.

It is important for the judge to understand that attendance at A.A. meetings does not guarantee anybody's future sobriety. Nevertheless, some judges require legal, written proof that offenders have attended a certain number of meetings. Often, when the court ordered newcomer attends an A.A. meeting, the group secretary (or other group officer) is happy to sign their first name, or to initial a slip furnished by the court saying so-and-so was at the meeting on a particular date.

All involved recognize that neither the group nor the members are "bound" in any way by the signature, nor does this courtesy signify affiliation of the group with any other program. It simply illustrates cooperation.

In some areas, courts furnish cooperating A.A. groups with sealed, stamped envelopes addressed to the court. The secretary of the group announces at the meeting that the envelopes are available, and anybody needing one can get it after the meeting. The newcomer takes the envelope, privately writes his or her name and/or return address on it, and mails it.

In other areas, each cooperating group has a sheet, furnished by the court, that the secretary announces is available for court-ordered newcomers to sign after the meeting. The secretary mails the sheet (in envelopes fumished by the referring agency) to the office, sending prospects to A.A. Thus it is not the A.A. group, but the prospect's own signature which affirms he or she was at the meeting.

It is important to note that an Advisory Action of the 1983 Conference Committee on Cooperation With the Professional Community states "A.A. does not provide letters of reference to parole boards, lawyers, court officials, social agencies, employers, etc."

F. Offers by an agency to pay A.A. members for taking prospects to and from A.A. meetings.

It is important for A.A. members to explain to the agency officials that A.A. is strictly self‑supporting (see Tradition Seven) and that A.A. members do not accept money for Twelfth (or any other) Step work (see Tradition Eight, on non-professionalism). We work with other alcoholics for our own sobriety, not for money. It is our responsibility to make this clear to court‑ordered newcomers, too.

As A.A. members, we are not qualified to judge, endorse, or oppose any other program in the field of alcoholism, nor is it a good idea to give the impression that we are professional, scientific experts. We can help only with our own experience.

(Note: A.A. members who are hired to work as professionals in the field of alcoholism are, of course, a different matter, since they are paid for professional services. Even so, they are not paid to do Twelfth Step work.)


Any A.A. member may join with other A.A.s in this valuable asset to service. It seems that those who have been most successful at it are A.A. members who:

- have several years' continuous sobriety, serenity and steadfastness, mixed with a clear grasp of the purpose of Twelfth Step work;

- have had wide A.A. experience, not only in more than one group, but also in central office (intergroup) and general service affairs;

- have an understanding of A.A. experience recorded in the Big Book, A.A. Comes of Age, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and other A.A. publications.


You've already made a good start by familiarizing yourself with this material. Follow that up by finding out whether any other A.A.s in your community are interested in and knowledgeable about such programs.

See whether your local central office or area general service commit­tee knows where such help is needed.

Talk it over with other A.A.s, and meet with some groups in the community to inform them of your plans, and to see which groups would be willing to cooperate, and in which ways. (Be patient‑not all mem­bers may be interested in this work; their feelings need to be respect­ed, as yours are.)

Once you have a nucleus of A.A.s, two or three of you might visit with a local court official. Take along A.A. information, such as the pam­phlets "if You Are a Professional" and "A Brief Guide to A.A.," and offer to take the court person to an "open" A.A. meeting.

Relax. If this is the right time, the program will happen. If it doesn't, wait for a more appropriate opportunity.


"How A.A. Members Cooperate With Professionals"

"A.A. Tradition‑How It Developed"

"The Twelve Traditions Illustrated"

"A.A. In Correctional Facilities"
"If You Are a Professional..."
"A.A. Membership Survey"
"Speaking at Non‑A.A. Meetings"
"A Brief Guide to Alcoholics Anonymous
"Let's Be Friendly With Our Friends"
"It Sure Beats Sitting in a Cell"
"A.A. and Employee Assistance Programs"
"A.A. in Your Community"
"Members of the Clergy Ask About Alcoholics Anonymous"

Service Material and Guidelines

A.A. Fact File
Information on Alcoholics Anonymous
Sharing Experience on Coping With Influx of New Members
Guidelines (on) Cooperation With the Professional Community


Hope: Alcoholics Anonymous
It Sure Beats Sitting in a Cell
A.A.-Rap With Us

(return to Guidelines)