Both acronyms refer to Adult Children of Alcoholics / Dysfunctional Families. When we were in our infancy, the meetings on the East Coast and Midwest used ACoA and those on the West Coast used ACA. As the leadership of our organization gravitated to the West Coast, ACA became the more common acronym. Since Adult Children groups under the auspices of Al-Anon are referred to as ACoA in some areas of the country, we prefer to call ourselves ACA to maintain this distinction.

No. Anyone who was raised in a dysfunctional family that was chaotic, unsafe, and/or lacked appropriate nurturing is welcome to attend our meetings, whether alcohol was a problem in the family or not. Often our member’s had an alcoholic grandparent(s) who passed on the dysfunction. Other members came from homes with dysfunctions such as an absent parent due to workaholism, ultra-religiousness, militarism, sexual abuse – whether overt or covert, eating disorders, and anything along these lines. Unfortunately, there’s no end to the number of issues that can cause us to feel “less than.” Many foster children, now adults, also relate to ACA.


Many ACA meetings are open meetings, which mean they are open to guests, friends and relatives of adult children as well as observers.  This can include those in the education or the psychology field doing research.  Some meetings are a closed meeting, which means that meeting is limited to individuals who identify themselves as ACAs, or those trying to decide if ACA is for them.

When I read the 12 Steps, there are a lot of references to God.

ACA is a spiritual, not a religious program. We refer to a Higher Power, which is a self-defined concept for each member. The word “God” is meant to be generic for any belief. Each member’s beliefs are a personal matter, and we do not discuss recovery in terms of any specific faith. Specific religious views should not be promoted.

Higher Power is something greater than ourselves that aids us in our recovery. It can be a spiritual being or not – it’s whatever you decide it is.

Yes. Agnostics are certainly welcome.

No, we are not affiliated with any churches. Meetings are often held in churches because they offer very reasonable rent

There are no dues or membership fees for ACA. However, there are expenses related to our meetings that often include rent to host facilities, literature, chips and contributions to the local Intergroup and World Service Organization.  Additionally, our Seventh Tradition states that “Every meeting ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.”  Therefore, our meetings do pass the basket and ask for voluntary contributions for operating expenses. Generally meetings suggest a $2 donation.  However, this donation is voluntary and is not a requirement – it is a freewill donation.

You might consider starting your own meeting. That’s what many of us have done. The ACA Fellowship Text, more commonly referred to as the Big Red Book, provides information that will help you. This book, as well as a Sample Meeting Packet, are available on the ACA World Service website: www.AdultChildren.org. There are also telephone and internet meetings available.

Any adult teenager (18 or older) is welcome at our meetings. For liability reasons, it may be best for minors to find more age appropriate support groups. We suggest minors consult a guidance counselor or therapist for direction.

New members are always welcome.

Meetings can have a wide distribution of ages and generally have both men and women. However, each meeting is unique. Contact individual meetings for more information.

Meetings have no opinion on outside issues, including politics. While individual members may be liberal or conservative, topics discussed focus on recovery only.

Generally, meetings have six to 20 regular members. Attendance usually fluctuates.

No. We are an independent organization and are not allied with any other 12 Step program. However, our 12 Steps and 12 Traditions are adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous, and we cooperate with all other 12 Step programs.

ACA is run by its members.

  • Globally
    ACA has a World Service Organization (WSO) that helps the fellowship remain unified by providing information and producing literature. Individual meetings are free to operate as they wish, as long as they follow the Steps and Traditions.
  • Regionally
    Some regional areas form Intergroups, which are service organizations composed of representatives from individual meetings to unify and serve meetings of that region.
  • Locally
    Each meeting has individuals who fill responsibilities that help keep the meeting running safely and smoothly, such as chairperson, treasurer, secretary, etc. These positions rotate.

No, although it can be very therapeutic to attend. Therapy and the ACA program can work hand-in-hand and neither one should be considered a substitute for the other. Many members are referred to ACA by therapists and social workers to help them work through childhood issues.

We identify ourselves by first names only to preserve our anonymity. Whether you say anything further about yourself is up to you. If you attend a meeting where they go around the room taking turns sharing, and you do not want to share, just say ‘pass’. Otherwise you can just listen.