AIMS - This study examines the kinds of support that alcoholics’ friends and relatives provide each other in Al-Anon mutual-aid groups. The study examines, first, the types of supportive communication in mutual-aid group meetings directed toward friends and relatives of alcoholics, and second, how contextual features affect supportive communication in these meetings. DESIGN - The research data were collected through non-participant observations of 11 group meetings and analysed by combined deductive and inductive approaches. RESULTS - Four types of support were detected: emotional, informational, esteem and social network, indicating that meetings serve as potential sources of comfort, learning, self-esteem enhancement and company. Contextual features, such as the 12-step ideology, had an effect on the content and form of supportive communication. CONCLUSION - The key to support in Al-Anon meetings lies in their discretion. That is, the way of communicating support and the contextual features of the meetings established favourable conditions for effective communication of support. The results of this study illustrate the actual communication processes exchanged by the people who have “been there”, providing information useful to anyone in contact with friends or relatives of an alcoholic.
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