Emotions Anonymous is a 12-step program designed to help people overcome emotional problems. The program is similar to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and is one of several programs patterned after the popular 12-step program to help people dealing with addiction to alcohol. The emotional problems that might lead an individual to join Emotions Anonymous include true psychological illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and compulsive behavior. They might also include dealing with negative emotions such as anger, jealousy, and boredom. Those seeking assistance through the program might include those working through unwanted feelings that arise as a result of a traumatic life event, such as death, divorce, or job loss.
Similar to AA, Emotions Anonymous maintains the confidentiality of its members. Members come together in weekly support meetings in local chapters, of which there are more than 1,000 in 35 counties. While those attending meetings may have psychiatric illnesses, the organization stresses that it does not provide medical or counseling services. Leadership of the support meetings is rotated among the members of the chapter.
The 12 steps of Emotions Anonymous are similar to those of AA. They begin with participants admitting that they are powerless over their emotions and this has led to their lives becoming unmanageable. In the second and third steps, participants agree to turn their emotional difficulties over to God, or a higher power, and ask for healing. Those who are part of the program are encouraged to seek the help of a higher power, though the organization states the program works equally well for the religious and non-religious. Emotions Anonymous is not affiliated with a particular faith and encourages those in its program to seek out their own spiritual paths.
Participants are also encouraged to make a list of people they have harmed and make an effort to make amends. The Traditions of Emotions Anonymous call for the individual chapters to remain autonomous. Individual chapters are not allowed to endorse or financially support any outside programs or organizations, according to the Traditions. The Traditions also reiterate that membership in the program is anonymous.
In addition to the steps and the traditions, Emotions Anonymous includes "The Twelve Promises," a similar list of which was developed by AA and other programs patterned after it. Emotions Anonymous encourages participants in the program to pray the Serenity Prayer, a prayer used by AA. Those seeking to join the program simply attend a chapter meeting. There are also online meetings, online discussion groups, and phone meetings.