Do Sober Houses Offer Treatment?

The quick answer is “No, sober living houses do not provide treatment.” But it is worth having a more in-depth discussion about the subject so that you can learn more about the houses, what they do provide, and the role that they can play in your recovery.

Sober living houses (SLHs) are simply residences that are free of drugs and alcohol. They are designed for use by people who are attempting to abstain from drug and alcohol use.

This means they may be occupied by people in outpatient treatment, exiting inpatient treatment, leaving the justice system, and people who choose a sober living house in place of structured treatment. That last group might cause some confusion. Why do people use it in place of treatment? Doesn’t that make it treatment? No.

Some people have a level and variety of addiction that only needs a stable, drug- and alcohol-free environment to be overcome. But, this should not be thought of as rehabilitation treatment.

If you think that a sober living house could provide you with a supportive space as you pursue sobriety, you should look into residency in one. If you have questions or simply don’t know how to connect with a house, you can call Our helpline at 800-953-3913 (Who Answers?) and speak with an expert. Your questions will get answered and you will be connected with housing options that meet your individual needs.

What Counts as Treatment?

Houses Offer Treatment

The 12 step meetings provided in sober houses aren’t considered a form of professional treatment.

There are many forms of drug and alcohol rehabilitation treatment, so there isn’t one clear model that exists across the board and meets the needs of every participant.

However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse does identify the following core components:

  • Detoxification (the transition from acutely intoxicated to drug- and alcohol-free)
  • Behavioral counseling/therapy
  • Medication (not all addiction will be medicated)
  • Assessment and treatment for co-occurring mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety
  • Continuing follow-up to prevent relapse

In treatment, you can expect to be served by licensed professionals who have a background in addiction medicine. Staff may include medical doctors, nurses, psychologists, counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists.

Sober Housing: A Brief History

Learning about the roots of sober housing can provide some insight into how they function today.

According to the National Library of Medicine the start of SLHs dates back to the 1830s. They were created and maintained by organizations, like the YMCA and Salvation Army. These religious organizations established them as part of the temperance movement (a growing movement calling for abstention from alcoholic beverages).

The houses were referred to as dry hotels or lodging houses. At this time, the SLHs were controlled by house managers, the residents had no say in their operation, and attendance at religious services was mandatory. But, nevertheless, no formal treatment was offered.

In the 1970s, the therapeutic community became aware of the links between environment and relapse. People living in dysfunction were far more likely to backslide in their recovery; they needed a safe space, and SLHs began to spring up across the country. Not a single one of them offered treatment.

How is Sober Living Different from a Drug Treatment Program?

What Happens at a Sober Living House?

If treatment isn’t offered, you may ask, what is provided? In a SLH, you will have access to a bed and a place to store your clothes, other spaces may be communal or you may have a private bathroom in a more upscale house.

You will be required to follow the house rules and you will pay fees and/or rent to maintain your residency. You will have responsibilities around the house, like chores. Most houses will let you stay as long as you need to, provided you follow rules, pay on time, and take care of your chores.

Some homes have a central manager who creates and enforces rules, while other operate with a counsel of residents who govern leadership and rule enforcement. Most residences have house meetings. However, in these scenarios, residents grow through peer relationships. There aren’t licensed professionals, as there would be in formal treatment.

The closest the houses come to providing treatment is mandating attendance at 12 step meetings. You are also asked to participate fully in the 12 step program, which means having a sponsor and doing service work.

If you feel like sober housing could play an important role in your recovery, you are right. It has been shown that residents have more successful outcomes than non-residents. To find a house that will meet your needs, give us a call at 800-953-3913 (Who Answers?).

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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