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Sugar House Journal

Group therapy meetings go online, but meet new challenges

Apr 27, 2020 15h23 ● By Bill Hardesty

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

Another fallout from the COVID-19 social distancing is the cancellation of group therapy meetings like those held by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 12-step program.

“A simple hug for some people makes the world of difference,” said Eric, a participant in a 12-step program for over a year.

With social distancing, hugs are no longer part of the process.

Even before the restrictions, AA and others have held virtual meetings to meet people’s schedules and comfort levels and, for many people, virtual groups just work better. But, just like students who have had to learn a different skill set for successful online learning, attendees of face to face group therapy programs are struggling to make the switch to something like a Zoom meeting.

“Zoom meeting for me are hard. People talk over each other and there is really no respect or camaraderie,” Eric said.

He continued, “I know of quite a bit of people who have relapsed and went back to drinking due to not having meetings. The closeness that is there with the meetings is hard to find over Zoom or the phone.”

As a result, Eric has chosen to go it alone. He finds it better to read his dailies (daily affirmations), “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions” and “The Big Book” (both books published by the AA) and The Book of Mormon. He also studies his addiction and recovery program and listens to the “Sober Cast” on Spotify.

However, anyone who has fought an addiction knows going it alone is a risky journey.

“I am most concerned about the new guys,” Jim, a proud holder of a 27-year sobriety chip, said, “They are trying to break a routine and the routine they were developing is being changed again.”

One way the meetings are changing is concern over confidentiality.

One of the foundation points of group therapy meetings is that the meeting is a safe place. What is said in the meeting, stays in the meeting. When a meeting goes online, how safe is that meeting? Not only is there a possibility of being hacked, but a father, for example, might not be as open about a pornography addiction when there is a fear that his child might hear.