What Is A Sober House? Are Sober Homes And Halfway Houses Effective?

Last Updated: July 6, 2020

Authored by Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Sober living homes were initially created for patients who have just finished drug rehab program. The idea of going back to a world full of stresses and anxieties and trying to live independently without drinking is often nerve-racking. There are also palpable dangers of this radical transformation. Recovering addicts have been known to relapse after finding themselves unable to cope with the demands of living independently and staying away from alcohol. Sober living homes help them to make this transition smoother and stress-free.

What Sober Living Homes Are

A sober living house is a group home where people recovering from alcohol addiction or drug abuse can choose to stay while undergoing treatment programs or after leaving an addiction treatment center. Their main purpose is helping recovered alcoholic or a drug addict to transition back smoothly into society. They help clients adjust back into society by helping them reinforce the lessons they learned as part of treatment in the rehabilitation center.

man welcoming new member

The central philosophy in a sober living home is involvement in the 12-step programs. Research has shown that changing the living environment of an addict to a system with a good social network improves treatment outcomes. Based on the study about sober houses, the idea of a halfway house or sober living homes can date back to as early as the 1960s and 70s. Various studies have shown that removing a client’s destructive environment and creating a new social support network helped them get rid of their addiction.

Sober Homes: Who Are They For?

They also help clients to transition smoothly from the structured and guided world of inpatient rehab to mainstream life so that they can experience the joy of continued sobriety instead of only experiencing the pink cloud and then relapsing.
Living at a sober living facility is not mandatory for recovering addicts. However, it is advisable for some people to stay in sober houses until the time they feel they can join the real world without falling into any of their old, destructive habits of substance abuse. These cases are described below:

  • People who have completed some form of rehab in the past are encouraged to stay at a sober home to reinforce the constructive habits and lifestyle changes learned at the center.
  • People who feel that the living environment back in their homes may not help them in preventing relapse.
  • People who are in need of a temporary shelter until they find a place of their own are also advised to stay in halfway houses.
  • People who do not have enough resources to afford a residential treatment program can get themselves inducted at an outpatient treatment program while staying in sober living housing.
  • After some kind of rehab treatment, if someone believes they are still not ready to join the world or face the people that they might enable their alcoholism or drug addiction, they can join a sober living program to help them further in getting a hold on their lives.

Difference Between Sober House and Halfway House

Halfway houses and sober living homes are essentially quite similar. They both provide a supportive living environment where people recovering from addiction or getting treated for addiction can live together in sobriety. However, there are certain differences between sober living home and halfway house, which are elaborated below:

Halfway House Sober Living House
There is a certain time limit for each client at a halfway house, after which they have to leave the facility whether they want to or not. Sober living houses allow residents to stay there for as long as they want to.
Halfway houses usually require clients to either have completed some formal treatment program or be attending some outpatient program for them to stay. Sober houses usually do not require the clients to have completed any form of substance abuse treatment plans.
Participation in 12 step program activities is not mandatory for all halfway houses. Most sober homes require clients to attend 12-step meetings regularly.
Halfway houses are often funded by the government or by some treatment centers, which means that if the funding gets cut, residents are forced to leave the facility. Sober houses do not have any funding issues. The residents or their families pay for the time they stay at the house.

Sober Living House Rules

Couple reading sober living house rules

Sober living houses have certain rules which must be followed by each resident in order to continue living at the facility.

  • Residents have to agree to follow all the house rules, and any violation may result in consequences. They can be in the form of a fine, apologizing to fellow residents, or even in some cases being asked to move out.
  • Residents have to be clean from alcohol or drugs when they enter the house and should continue to stay dry for all the period they are living there.
  • No kind of drug or alcohol is allowed in the house. This includes the use of any item that might contain alcohol, for example, a mouthwash.
  • Residents are required to pay rent on time for staying in a sober living home.
  • Residents are required to help around the home by doing chores assigned to them. These can include cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, and others.
  • Residents are encouraged to go to school or find work while staying at the facility.
  • Most sober houses have curfew hours, which means residents have to be back at the house by a designated time.
  • Residents may be required to attend regular 12-step programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous or similar sessions.
  • They may be required to attend support group meetings.
  • Residents may be subjected to periodic alcohol screening tests, which they must pass.
  • Residents are required to respect fellow residents and staff members.
  • Most halfway houses have defined quiet hours which the residents must obey.
  • With many residents living in one house, shower times may be assigned to everyone, which they must follow.
  • Most sober living communities allow standard family visit days, which must be followed by the residents as well as their families.

Benefits Of Staying In Sober Living Homes

Living at a sober living house can have immense benefits for the recovering addicts. According to this study about the philosophy, structure, and therapeutic benefits of sober living houses, the sober house serves as an alcohol and drug-free living environment, which helps addicts succeed in their recovery.

 woman attentively listening

Some of these benefits are listed below:

  • Sober living homes provide a supportive and safe environment that serves as an intermediary between a rehab facility and the real world.
  • Sober houses provide an environment where residents can stay motivated by spending time with fellow residents in recovery.
  • There are professionals at halfway houses who help residents and guide them in maintaining their sobriety. They may also serve as sober escorts to the residents by encouraging them to attend meetings and counseling sessions.
  • Many sober living homes have facilities like life skills training and job aptitude evaluation, which help residents during their job hunt.
  • Many halfway houses encourage its residents to continue with their education by enrolling in a school which enables them to improve their education while in recovery.
  • Most sober homes organize 12-step meetings or counseling sessions, which help them in maintaining sobriety.
  • Some sober houses also help their residents in finding a place to live for when they want to leave the facility.

Sober Living Homes Cost

Residents have to pay monthly rent, which is normally between $450 – $800 per month. Some houses also accept payments from Medicare or private insurance companies.
A sober living home provides a smooth transition from the sheltered and regimented life of a residential rehab program into a chaotic and unstructured world of duties and responsibilities. By empowering an individual with emotional strength and teaching him or her the requisite life skills and coping strategies, sober living homes not only help prevent relapses but also create opportunities to rebuild shattered lives and fix broken relationships.

Finding the Best Sober Living Home

There are countless sober living homes, but not all will fulfill their unique needs. Don’t fall for the glossiest ad! Consider the following factors to choose the best sober living home that lets one recover from issues stress-free:


Do a lot of research well to ensure that a person chooses a reputable organization. Speaking to former and current residents can help to gather the facts. The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities certifies sober living homes throughout the U.S. based on the quality of care they provide. The National Alliance on Recovery Residences lists sober living homes that meet their stringent quality criteria.

Admittance Criterion

Some homes require that one goes through a formal, medically-assisted detox program while others will accept an individual as long as they can prove that they are free of withdrawal symptoms and are not suffering from alcoholism-induced physical and mental disorders. Most homes require that one has been clean for some time.

sober house representative present the price and condition

House Rules

Rules vary across homes. However, all require that one has to be clean during a stay. Some houses are so strict that they even ban from using certain mouthwashes because they contain alcohol. Besides, most houses require residents to attend a 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous and agree to be subjected to random alcohol screening tests. There are also non-12 step homes.


Sober living homes are usually located in quiet neighborhoods where the environment to aid the healing process. But make sure that the home is not on a street or neighborhood littered with bars. A recovering addict wouldn’t want to court temptation! One would also want to stay somewhere close to the place of study or work, so they can attend the house meetings and adhere to the curfew timings.


Staying in a sober living home is less costly than getting admitted to an inpatient alcohol rehab facility. There are low-cost homes, while some let needy people stay at reduced rental prices. Government-funded halfway houses and those run by non-profit organizations are free. Some homes accept Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance. Some homes let to negotiate a payment plan or offer flexibility with the first month’s rent.


Although sober living homes do not provide the extensive gamut of facilities of a residential rehab center, one can find houses that offer therapies for families, customized coaching and mentoring programs, legal support to deal with custody or employment issues, music and art therapy, job search support, meditation and yoga classes, and Jewish meals. Of course, the more the services on offer, the steeper will be the cost of living.

Page Sources

  1. Douglas L. Polcin, Rachael Korcha, M.A., Jason Bond, Gantt Galloway, What Did We Learn From Our Study On Sober Living Houses and Where Do We Go from Here?, 2010, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3057870/#R20
  2. Douglas L. Polchin, Diane Henderson, B.A., A Clean and Sober Place to Live: Philosophy, Structure, and Purported Therapeutic Factors in Sober Living Houses, 2008, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2556949/

Published on: April 26th, 2018

Updated on: July 6th, 2020

About Author

Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Dr. Ahmed Zayed is a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery. He is graduated from the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed Zayed has a passion for writing medical and health care articles and focuses on providing engaging and trustworthy information to readers.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.


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  • Generations First, LLC
    Valuable overview for introductory learning.
  • travis heinze
    Am trying two find a sober living..With no up front Payments and employing help…