Alateen is aimed at teenagers who have a family member or friend who is alcoholic. Each Alateen group is sponsored by at least one Al-Anon member. Working the 12 Steps, teens learn about the disease of alcoholism, how to detach from the family problems caused by alcoholism, how to protect themselves and how to give and receive support from other teens in similar situations.

Alateen members meet regularly, usually once a week and often concurrently but separately with an Al-Anon group. . Meeting styles include: speaker meetings where one or two members share the story of their recovery from a podium; discussion meetings where members share their experience with a particular topic, and step studies where members discuss their experience working with the 12 Steps.

Membership in Alateen is informal. The only requirement for membership is that the teenager has a family member or friend who is alcoholic. Anonymity is taken seriously, protecting Alateen members, Al-Anon members and the alcoholic.

It is important the teen recognize that Alateen is NOT designed to show someone how to get an alcoholic to stop drinking. Rather, its purpose is to show teens how to recover from the effects of living in a family with an alcoholic, whether the alcoholic is in recovery or not.