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Why You Should Attend a Sober Living Programme After Primary Treatment

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Worried about diving back into daily life after finishing primary treatment? Concerned about whether you’ve had the time you need to practise the skills you learned in treatment? Sober living programmes offer a gradual transition with solid structure to help ensure a lasting, healthy recovery.

Returning from the controlled environment of rehab back to daily life can be a significant challenge. The drive to return to ‘normal life’ must be balanced with each person’s readiness to take on old triggers and a potentially stressful environment. One way to prepare for this transition is to share your early recovery period in a safe space with others who are making the same effort. This can help ensure a safe and sustainable recovery.

There are many different types of sober living facilities to choose from – from halfway houses, to sober apartment living, to rehab centres. Understanding more about what sober living programmes have to offer, and the distinctions between facilities, can help you make the best choice as you move forward in your recovery.

What are Sober Living Facilities?

A halfway house or sober living house is a structured, recovery-focused environment shared with others in recovery. The modern concept of sober living homes began in the mid-1940s, when treatment for substance use disorders was largely based on the 12-step approach made popular by Alcoholics Anonymous. The concept has further broadened over the years, with different treatment approaches and opportunities for peer-run houses becoming available. 

The key focus of every sober living facility is to provide a safe space for people who are in transition from the initial phases of recovery to a fully independent return to daily life. Typically residents participate in sober living programmes after completing the first phases of residential treatment, or will use this as a safe space while engaging in an outpatient treatment programme.  

In these spaces, residents can come and go as they please, but their behaviour is regularly monitored, drugs and alcohol are strictly forbidden, and personal support is given on a semi-regular basis. As a stepping stone towards the freedom of the outside world, a sober living facility achieves just the right balance of supervision and independence, and is a critical component of the continuum of care for substance use disorders.

Types of Sober Living Environments

Although sober living facilities and halfway houses share numerous common features, there are some key distinctions between the different models. In general, there are three types of sober living environments – halfway houses, sober living homes, and rehab centres. 

Halfway Houses

A halfway house is a publicly-funded transitional sober living environment. Unlike rehab centres, halfway homes provide support and care for people in recovery, but don’t offer ongoing treatment. The goal of a halfway home is to provide a safe, supportive and structured environment for people who have completed a rehab programme to successfully continue their road to recovery, or need to fulfil the requirements of court-mandated rehabilitation. 

Halfway houses typically have a 12-month residency limit, and residents are often required to undergo sobriety testing and attend outside support groups or therapy as part of their conditions of residency. They tend to offer less privacy than privately-owned sober living homes. 

Sober Living Homes

Unlike halfway homes, sober living homes are privately-owned facilities. They are usually run by religious groups, businesses, or private individuals. Sober living homes, also known as recovery homes, generally offer more privacy as they are set in quiet residential areas, unlike halfway homes that typically offer a dorm-like setting. There are no time limits on how long someone can live in a sober living home.

Recovery homes typically are not as strictly regulated as halfway houses, which may suit people further along in their recovery. Like halfway houses, the primary goal of recovery homes is to provide people in recovery with a safe and supportive environment where they can continue to heal. 

Rehab Centres

Rehab centres provide those in recovery with a much more comprehensive support system that extends through the entire continuum of care. While halfway houses and sober living homes focus on providing a safe, supportive environment to those in recovery, rehab centres offer this as well as holistic support services in treating substance use and mental health disorders. For example, at The Dawn Rehab in Thailand, clients benefit from a highly detailed, personalised treatment plan that involves a robust combination of effective psychotherapies, proven wellness practices, and modern clinical interventions. 

The Dawn’s treatment plan includes a Step-down Programme that offers a gradual transition into life outside of residential treatment by allowing offsite access for the majority of the day for those who meet a certain set of criteria and have completed at least eight weeks of treatment. 

Those in our Step-down Programme still attend morning therapy sessions and follow a curfew, but have the ability to engage in outside volunteer opportunities, personal errands or off-site support group sessions without supervision. This allows a gradual return to life outside of rehab, with the advantages of still being in a professional, supportive environment.

While some of these sober living environments will be open to a diverse client population, others may focus on a specific target audience in order to provide more direct support for their needs. For example, some facilities may focus on men’s sober living, allowing only men and offering resources targeted towards issues that men in particular face during recovery. Others may cater to couples sober living, where those who are both in a relationship and in recovery can take advantage of a shared safe space. Houses may also be differentiated by whether they are secular or non-secular, age-specific, LGBTQ+-specific, and culturally-specific. The wide range of options available allows those in recovery to prioritise what’s most important for them and select a place accordingly.

Benefits of a Sober Living Programme

In a sober living facility, all of the positive influences around you combine to form the basis for a strong recovery. It can be challenging for people to change their habits even under normal conditions, especially if those habits have been reinforced through months or years of compulsive behaviour. A structured, sober environment makes adjustment to ordinary life a much easier prospect, particularly for long-time users. Some key benefits of entering a sober living facility include:

  • Structured environment – for many people, a living space with clear, enforced boundaries is helpful in maintaining recovery
  • Accountability – regular drug testing, curfews, and other house rules ensure that individuals take responsibility for their sobriety
  • Support – sober living programmes ensure that recovering addicts have the support of other people who are facing the same challenges and have similar goals
  • Guided transition – sober living programmes offer individuals transitioning from rehab, in-patient treatments, or other intensive programmes a crucial intermediate step
  • Relapse prevention – sober living programmes help prevent relapses by creating a controlled and drug-free environment where patients are held accountable for their own actions
  • Skill development programmes – these include life skills training, as well as employment and educational support networks to help residents get the education and jobs that they want
  • Building a sober social network – these spaces offer positive peer influence and shared social experiences with people who understand what you’re going through

In a sober living programme, residents learn to take care of themselves in their new lifestyle, one step at a time. They also receive support and advice from others who are going through the same challenges, as well as therapists and addiction experts who can teach additional skills for staying healthy and operating independently out in the world. Like a set of training wheels on a bicycle, a sober living house represents an excellent safety feature for those who have taken a bad fall.

Addiction recovery requires putting into practice the teachings and methods introduced in treatment centres. Sober living programmes are an opportunity for residents to test out their newly acquired skills whilst under supervision. This process, in turn, allows residents to develop a healthy amount of self-confidence in preparation for their eventual return to daily life.

Moreover, formal support groups are commonly found nearby, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Attendees can build real connections that further reinforce a commitment to healthy living through refined and effective 12-step programmes for recovery.

Through each of these support mechanisms, those recovering from a substance use disorder will receive the support they need to make their recovery a successful one.

Who Should Consider Sober Living?

Anyone who is early into their recovery journey and feels that they need some extra support as they balance their newfound sobriety with their daily life should consider a sober living programme. This is especially important for those who may be recovering from co-occurring disorders, have struggled with treatment in the past, or don’t have a supportive home environment. 

These can also be beneficial for someone who has recently experienced a relapse, or is getting outpatient treatment and needs a stable, structured environment where they can practise new coping mechanisms and stress-management skills. 

Sober living-style programmes can also be helpful for people in recovery from mental health disorders. For example, someone with social anxiety may appreciate additional support as they begin to expand their social interactions, and need regular opportunities to practise and debrief what they’ve learned in recovery.

Common Questions about Sober Living Programmes

What are the typical requirements for admission?

Residents must meet a list of requirements for admission, most of which are centred around maintaining sobriety and fully committing to recovery. Some of the most common requirements include the following:

  • Completion of a primary care programme
  • Commitment to sobriety
  • Agreement to random drug/alcohol testing 
  • Personal references or recommendations 
  • Interview or assessment process 
  • Ability to pay 

These requirements may vary somewhat for those participating in a sober living programme as a part of their comprehensive treatment plan at a rehab centre. For example, at The Dawn Rehab in Thailand, those who participate in the step-down programme must:

  • Be fully weaned off of any substances
  • Have successfully started exposure therapy
  • Have passed drug tests
  • Have attended and fully participated in group and individual therapy
  • Have finished trauma treatment
  • Be committed to at least four weeks in the step-down programme

Meeting these criteria prior to entering a sober living programme ensures a strong foundation by which to successfully continue recovery.

What rules or regulations do you have to follow in a sober living programme?

Rules and regulations for sober living facilities follow the same expectations outlined in the admission process, and also tend to include guidelines regarding participating appropriately within the sober living community. Some common rules and regulations include things like:

  • Any type of drug or alcohol use is prohibited
  • Verbal or physical violence is prohibited
  • Residents must attend sober living house community meetings
  • Residents must attend support groups
  • Residents must abide by a curfew
  • Personal items or clothing promoting a non-sober lifestyle are prohibited 

In The Dawn’s step-down programme, some key expectations around participation include:

  • Participation in random drug testing
  • Following a 9 PM curfew
  • Participation in morning group therapy sessions
  • Participation in individual therapy sessions twice a week
  • Agreement that if there is a relapse, you will immediately re-enter primary care for at least four weeks

How long do residents stay at sober living facilities?

The average length of stay in a halfway house or sober living home typically ranges from 3 to 12 months. While halfway houses have a 12-month residential limit, most private facilities allow residents to stay as long as they want if they are complying with the requirements of the house. 

The chosen length of stay for most people depends on individual circumstances and the severity of addiction. Talking to your therapist or those in your support group can help you assess where you’re at in your recovery, and whether you’re ready to return to daily life without the structure of a sober living programme.

What are the costs of sober living programmes?

Since sober living programmes are not rehab facilities, they are typically not covered by insurance. The cost of sober living programmes varies depending on the length of stay, as well as whether they are publicly or privately funded. If privately funded, the costs will further differ based on what type of services or amenities they offer. Some private homes may offer a base rate, with add-ons for services like transportation to therapy appointments or support groups, meal preparation or access to fitness facilities.

At The Dawn, the step-down programme is inclusive of a wide variety of services and amenities such as:

  • Daily meals on-site
  • Daily morning process and support groups
  • Weekly individual counselling sessions
  • Access to on-site facilities, such as a gym, swimming pool, or yoga studio
  • Access to on-site medical care
  • Daily shuttle service for excursions to the nearest town (which is strongly encouraged)

How to Choose the Right Sober Living Facility

The first step to finding the right sober living facility is to research the available options. Two important criteria to consider include:

  • Accreditation and Licensing – Consider the different legal requirements that halfway houses and sober living facilities need to follow. At the very least, a good halfway house or sober living facility should have the appropriate national certifications and licences.
  • Reviews and Testimonials – The best halfway houses and sober living facilities will have a range of positive reviews and testimonials left behind by satisfied clients. When looking for a good facility, it’s always worth looking into the reviews left by past clients.
  • Clear rules and regulations – Sober living facilities should have clearly stated and posted rules and regulations regarding drug and alcohol restriction, expectations of community participation, guidelines on taking care of shared living areas, and more.

When it comes to the selection of the correct facility, you also need to think about your personal requirements. In order to determine whether a sober living programme has the features you need for support, consider asking the following questions:

  • What are the requirements for living at the facility? Are there any particular needs you have that may not match the requirements?
  • Does the sober living facility offer any specialised programmes dealing with your particular addiction? 
  • Do they offer any dual diagnosis programmes that address co-occurring disorders, like depression and alcoholism? 
  • Is there easy access to support groups or therapy appointments that you’re planning on attending?

Better Care for Better Outcomes

The carefully planned features of sober living facilities would suggest that those in recovery who live in these spaces are more likely to avoid relapses, and studies show that this is indeed the case. One study looked in detail at residents who stayed at sober living facilities, comparing their data to those who did not. Reviewing their medium-term outcomes (18 months after first entering a sober living facility), the study found significant improvements among those who stayed in a sober house.

For those residents, psychiatric evaluations showed much more positive results, while drug and alcohol addiction declined. Residents from a sober house were also less likely to be arrested in subsequent months and more likely to be employed. Overall, the 12-step addiction recovery method, as well as effective social support systems, were shown to have a highly positive effect. 

The study also stressed the importance of being surrounded by peers who are not using drugs or alcohol. Maintaining sobriety is far more manageable in an atmosphere where others also abstain from the consumption of addictive substances. Most sober houses create an effective environment for recovery by actively monitoring their residents to ensure that they remain on the path to wellness and sobriety.

Taking Advantage of The Dawn’s Step-Down Programme

Group of client at The Dawn

The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab offers person-centred, trauma-informed treatment for people who want to overcome substance use or mental health disorders. Our signature Treatment Roadmap spans the entire continuum of care, from detox to aftercare, and includes a carefully crafted step-down programme. 

During the Step-down Programme, clients gradually are reintroduced to life outside residential treatment, while still receiving regular professional care from their primary therapist and The Dawn’s outstanding support team. The step-down programme helps clients build confidence, practise new skills learned in treatment, and ultimately fosters a strong, sustainable recovery. 

Call The Dawn today to learn more about our programming and how we can help you reclaim your life. 

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