How is Sober Living Different from a Drug Treatment Program?

After a month of detox and three to six months of residential treatment, some may wonder why a person would opt to enter a six to one year sober living treatment program. Indeed, the recovery process can be a long road, so why make it longer.

Each person enters recovery with his or her own set of treatment needs. Whereas one may only require detox and outpatient care, other may need a more long-term solution. While not everyone who enters drug treatment will require sober living treatment, those who do can greatly benefit from the support and guidance available through these programs.

The Stages of Drug Treatment

While it is possible to become addicted to a drug as of the first use, in most instances there’s a gradual progression where physical dependence and eventual addiction develop. Once addiction does take hold, the severity of the condition can vary depending on:

  • Frequency of drug use
  • Length of addiction phase
  • Type of drug
  • Presence or absence of other physical or mental disorders

In the same vein, the recovery process typically entails stages of growth and healing treatment intensity decreasing the further along a person gets, according to the University of Alaska.

Program Intensity

Drug Treatment Program

Sober living facilities generally follow the 12-step treatment model rather than offering any formal treatment.

More than anything else, drug treatment programs and sober living differ in terms of treatment intensity. Treatment intensity has to do with program structure as far as whether scheduled treatment sessions occur within a residential environment versus an outpatient environment.

Detox and residential treatment programs provide the most intensive forms of care, with both taking place inside highly structured treatment environments. This degree of intensity offers the most therapeutic benefits during the early stages of treatment.

Sober living takes place with a low intensity treatment setting though people do live in a sober living home for the duration of the program. These programs offer no formal treatment directives, but do operate according to the 12-Step treatment model.

Program Purposes

Detox and residential programs work to keep a person focused on getting well in detox and residential programs. Within a sober living program, the residential aspect serves a completely different purpose.

Most all sober living homes enforce strict rules requirements, some of which include:

  • Maintain employment
  • Complete household chores
  • Pay rent
  • Adhere to curfew requirements
  • No drug use permitted
  • No drugs on the premises

In effect, the purpose of a sober living program works to help a person develop the types of daily living behaviors and habits necessary for maintaining long-term abstinence.

When to Consider Sober Living Treatment

Those who stand to benefit most from a sober living program include:

  • People coming off long-term or severe addiction problems
  • People struggling with mental health issues on top of an addiction problem
  • People who don’t have a home
  • People who will likely return to chaotic living environments upon completing residential treatment

According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, a destructive home environment can quickly undo much of the progress a person makes in drug treatment, even in cases where a person has been clean and sober for months or years at a time. Under these conditions, a sober living program can be a lifesaver in terms of keeping you on the right track.

If you or someone you know is considering sober living treatment and have more questions, please feel free to call’s toll-free helpline at 800-953-3913 (Who Answers?) to speak with one of our addictions specialists.

Does Sober Living Take Place After Treatment?

Where do calls go?

Calls to numbers on a specific treatment center listing will be routed to that treatment center. Calls to any general helpline will be answered or returned by one of the treatment providers listed, each of which is a paid advertiser: ARK Behavioral Health, Recovery Helpline, Alli Addiction Services.

By calling the helpline you agree to the terms of use. We do not receive any commission or fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a caller chooses. There is no obligation to enter treatment.

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