Al-Anon Family Groups is a “worldwide fellowship that offers a program of recovery for the families and friends of alcoholics, whether or not the alcoholic recognizes the existence of a drinking problem or seeks help.” Alateen “is part of the Al-Anon fellowship designed for the younger relatives and friends of alcoholics through the teen years”.
Al-Anon/Alateen literature focuses on problems common to family members and friends of alcoholics such as excessive care-taking, an inability to differentiate between love and pity and loyalty to abusers, rather than the problems of the alcoholic. The organization acknowledges that members may join with low self-esteem, largely a side-effect of unrealistically overestimating their agency and control: attempting to control another person’s drinking behavior and, when they fail, blaming themselves for the other person’s behavior.
Participation in Al-Anon has been associated with less personal blame by women who, as a whole, engage in more initial personal blame for the drinking than men. Family members of alcoholics begin to improve as they learn to recognize family pathology, assign responsibility for the pathology to a disease, forgive themselves, accept that they were adversely affected by the pathology and learn to accept their family members’ shortcomings.
Al-Anon members are encouraged to keep the focus on themselves, rather than on the alcoholic. Although members believe that changed attitudes can aid recovery, they stress that one person did not cause, cannot cure and cannot control another person’s alcohol-related choices and behaviors.
Treatment of alcoholism
Al-Anon’s primary purpose is to help families and friends of alcoholics, rather than stopping alcoholism in others or assisting with interventions. When an alcoholic’s spouse is active in Al-Anon and the alcoholic is active in AA, the alcoholic is more likely to be abstinent, marital happiness is more likely to be increased and parenting by both is more likely to improve. A 1999 clinical analysis of methods used by concerned significant others (CSOs) to encourage alcoholics to seek treatment indicated that Al-Anon participation was “mostly ineffective” towards this goal. The psychologists found community reinforcement approach and family training (CRAFT) “significantly more” effective than Al-Anon participation in arresting alcoholism in others.