If you’re familiar with the world of addiction treatment, you might have encountered the term “Sober Living Houses” [1] under one of its many synonyms: Transitional Living, Halfway Houses, or Sober Living Facilities.

All of these refer to the same concept: a supportive environment for people who have already completed addiction treatment.

These are places where those in active recovery can live in a substance-free environment, surrounded by others trying to achieve abstinence. As such, they’re considered transitional spaces to help rehab graduates prepare for life in mainstream society.

Because residents have already encountered therapy and detox methods during rehab, formal treatment typically isn’t offered at sober living houses. Instead, there’s more emphasis on attending 12-step meetings [2] to hold individuals accountable for their recovery.

Many people are surprised to learn that sober living homes have been around since the 1830s: although they looked very different to the recovery homes seen today.

These prototypes were founded by institutions such as YMCA and the Salvation Army, which aimed to provide sober environments for those in need. As such, these halfway houses had a strong religious component, and practising Christianity was encouraged and required.

From here, sober living homes continued to develop, and this expansion was driven by the global rise in substance addiction.

During the 20th century, the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and their bid to end the cycle of homelessness and addiction meant more halfway houses were formed than ever before.

To help residents achieve a sober lifestyle and learn to live independently, AA offered 12-Step meetings to all that came through their doors.

Today, sober living homes have kept many of their founding principles: helping countless people sustain sobriety through peer support and empowerment.

So, while it’s easy to confuse sober living houses with rehab clinics, the key difference is that many people in sober living arrangements have already worked through therapy and formed a relapse prevention plan [3].

Types of Sober Living Houses

A bedroom with neutral scatter cushions

Because each person undergoing addiction recovery has done so under unique circumstances, many types of sober living homes are available in the UK or elsewhere.

While some are more traditional and open to anyone who wants to stay sober, others are geared towards specialised circumstances:

1. Halfway Houses

These halfway houses provide a stable living environment for those in the criminal justice system: helping them re-enter society following addiction and incarceration. Admission into these centres is often compulsory following time spent in prison after an addiction-related crime.

However, because residents have already spent time in prison, these homes are designed to be less isolating and instead provide treatments such as counselling. Saying this, residents are often closely supervised by staff and daily routines have a rigorous structure.

Additional support is given to help participants find employment in the outside world, as well as housing if they don’t have the support of loved ones.

2. Transitional Housing Programmes

More akin to the original sober living homes [4] of the 20th century, transitional houses help formerly homeless individuals find stability. Help is provided to secure independent housing and ensure people build a structured routine to cement their sobriety goals.

As residents are very unlikely to have just come out of formal treatment, proof of sobriety via drug and alcohol testing is usually required.

3. Young Adult Sober Living Houses

As the name suggests, these sober living homes are designed for young adults who have just completed some kind of formal treatment. Oftentimes, residents are students whose addictions have forced them to take a break from their studies, but residents can fall anywhere between the 18-30 demographic.

Due to the younger age of many residents, these sober living homes usually provide higher levels of support. Young people in recovery are given academic and vocational support to help them get back on the right track, alongside family therapies to involve their loved ones.

Depending on the level of care provided and whether the home is an extension of residential care, families often pay a fee for their young adult to attend.

Myriad factors will influence the cost, such as location and the facilities provided, but on average, the price is between £800-£1,000 per week here in the UK.

To help cover the cost, many young people are entitled to housing benefits in the UK or can opt for shared accommodation to lower the price.

4. Traditional Sober Houses

A traditional, non-specialised sober living residence is open to anyone after they’ve completed inpatient treatment [5]. After leaving their treatment centre, they’ll be provided with a list of potential sober living environments in their local area.

Residents are required to fund their accommodation either through their means, an insurance provider, housing benefits, or a grant/subsidy from charitable organisations.

These fees go towards creating the ideal space for maintaining long-term recovery and independent living.

Who Could Benefit From Sober Living Arrangements?

man sat on bench with head in hands

Addiction treatment is by no means a one-size-fits-all affair, and what works for one person might be detrimental to another’s recovery journey.

Some individuals are stable enough to resume normal life immediately after graduating from rehab and will have a stable, sober environment waiting for them at home.

Others will need additional support before returning home and will thrive in the sense of community provided by sober houses. Here are some key examples of individuals who may benefit from sober housing.

1. Those Who Have an Unsafe Home Environment

Sadly, many people battling Substance Use Disorder (SUD) have a less-than-ideal home environment at best and a dangerous one at worst. They might be involved in a co-dependent, toxic relationship with another SUD victim, or may have an abusive partner waiting for them at home.

If someone’s home environment poses a psychological or physical danger as well as threats to their sobriety, they can seek refuge in sober living communities.

Staff members in sober living homes often include social workers and mental health professionals who can put safety measures in place and help residents rebuild their lives.

2. Those Who Have No Support Network

There are various reasons why someone may lack a supportive network in their addiction recovery [6].

They might be estranged from their family due to past addictive behaviours or pre-existing conflicts. Or, they might have a good relationship with loved ones who live far away and cannot be there to support them in person.

This creates a situation that can become increasingly isolated, especially in the early, more delicate stages of recovery. To access a therapeutic community built upon the values of peer support, it’s recommended that these individuals consider recovery homes.

3. Those Who Live Alone

When living alone, it can become all too easy for someone in recovery from addiction to relapse, despite their best efforts. Even armed with a solid relapse prevention plan, spending many hours alone with only their thoughts for company can cause someone to spiral out of control.

While living alone can be incredibly healing further down the line, it’s not recommended for the early stages of recovery, where having support is crucial.

Sober Homes offer both dormitory-style accommodations as well as private rooms depending on preference, meaning there’s something for everyone.

5. Those Who Don’t Feel Ready to Rejoin Society

While addiction treatment programs give patients the chance to heal physically and psychologically, they might not be ready to rejoin the rigours of daily life.

For someone in the early stages of recovery [7] or who is battling psychiatric symptoms, the thought of resuming work and home life can be overwhelming.

Despite feeling better after rehab treatment, it’s perfectly normal to feel vulnerable and even fearful of returning home. Many of someone’s old haunts or home environment, while not unsafe, can be triggering after exiting rehab.

After all, these places are once sites of alcohol or drug use and may bring up some complicated emotions.

With this in mind, it’s no wonder that many people choose to take some more time out for themselves and re-learn how to live a healthy life at a sober living home.

Not only are residents able to solidify the skills learnt during rehab, but they can also learn new ones, too. A good sober living home provides its residents with the tools needed to live a healthy life, such as routine-building, 12-Step involvement, and more.

6. Anyone Who Has A Genuine Commitment Towards Sobriety

Sober living houses are mainly designed to bridge the gap between inpatient treatment and community living. However, while many residents come straight from rehab, others simply have the desire to get sober and haven’t undergone substance use treatment programs.

Many sober living arrangements will consider applications from anyone who can prove that they are in active recovery. Oftentimes, this means they’ll need to partake in alcohol or drug screenings that prove their abstinence. This ensures their safety as well as protecting current residents.

Though some types of recovery housing accept applications from anyone in need, it’s important to note their limitations.

For instance, individuals with co-occurring mental health disorders [8] may find that entering communal living worsens their psychiatric symptoms. If additional treatment is needed, it’s safest that they seek out clinical services, such as an inpatient or outpatient program.

What Makes Sober Living Houses Effective?

A young woman smiling in a hoodie and glasses

Sober living houses have been proven to increase abstinence rates and optimise the recovery process, but how exactly do they achieve it?

Recovery houses don’t just provide bed and board: there’s a lot more that goes into making them so effective.

1. Rules and Regulations

Residents of sober living communities are treated not as patients, but as individuals sharing an ethical space with others.

As such, there are various rules that prospective residents must agree to follow. Rather than create a regimented environment, these rules are put into place to ensure a safe space for all who live there and make sure everyone is on the same road to long-term recovery.

The most basic rules are no illicit substances or alcohol, no violence, and no overnight guests. As a sober community, the reasons behind having these rules are pretty self-explanatory and are a large part of how residents stay substance-free.

In addition to this, those staying in sober living homes [9] should be prepared to partake in randomised alcohol and drug tests.

This is an integral procedure as someone bringing substances into the property will not only harm themselves but endanger the safety of others.

While it might seem like an invasion of privacy, residents are encouraged to view these drug tests positively. After all, achieving a clean drugs test is something to be proud of, and proves that you’re ever closer to achieving lifelong recovery.

Other rules include general tidiness and helping to keep the property clean, alongside helping with household chores and attending house meetings. They might seem like simple rules, but they all contribute to maintaining a comfortable home and a sense of community.

2. 12-Step Participation and Group Therapy

To boost their chances of maintaining recovery, housemates are often encouraged, if not required, to participate in 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous [10].

The fundamental premise of the 12-step model is to help those in recovery take charge of the healing process. Rather than waiting for long-term recovery to happen, participants are encouraged to actively form their futures.

With this focus on accountability, making amends, and looking towards the future, it’s no wonder that most sober homes incorporate the 12 steps.

During house meetings that focus on the 12 steps, residents can discuss coping mechanisms, describe what they learnt during substance abuse treatment, and have frank conversations about recovery.

Together, they’ll work through each one of the 12 steps in a safe environment. The steps and their principles include Honesty, Surrender, Soul-Searching, Integrity, Willingness, and Acceptance.

Working through these concepts in a group helps to improve social skills and retain the sense of community that’s so integral to sober living houses.

3. Ongoing Professional Support

More often than not, sober living communities will have trained professionals on-site to check in on the well-being of residents. Therapists will also visit to host group therapy sessions and provide recovery support services.

At the heart of this therapeutic community are those managing the sober living house. Not only are they there to enforce the house rules and ensure everyone is safe, but they’re also someone to provide non-judgemental, professional advice.

Having access to trained staff members with knowledge of addiction recovery is a great source of comfort to many residents. There’s someone to hold you accountable for your actions, make sure you’re doing well, celebrate your achievements, and respond to any concerns.

4. Teaching Life Skills

When someone is in active addiction, they’ll likely experience a lapse in self-care: abandoning their health and responsibilities in one fell swoop. That’s why in sober living communities, a lot of emphasis is placed on learning how to support yourself, and how to thrive rather than survive in the outside world.

Performing the skills needed for daily life helps residents form structure and build a routine that can ease their transition back into society.

These are often in the ways that they contribute to the running of the household such as helping cook for the group, doing laundry and shopping for food.

Residents must also maintain their independence and will be given support to look for employment, complete daily exercise, and attend therapy sessions.

5. Forming New Relationships and Improving Social Skills

One of the leading causes of relapse among those in early recovery is social isolation, or not having access to those who understand what they’re going through. At a sober living house, residents are surrounded by people who understand first-hand the devastation that addiction can cause [11].

Due to being surrounded by like-minded people, it’s easy to form new friendships in sober living communities, and many people retain these bonds for years after leaving the facility.

It’s not uncommon for residents to live together following their time at a sober living community, providing of course that they’re on the same recovery trajectory.

As with every co-living situation [12], not everyone will get along all the time, and there may be disagreements or conflicts that arise.

Fortunately, through continuing 12-step work and group therapy, residents can build the interpersonal skills needed to tackle potential conflicts. They can learn to communicate effectively and live in harmony with their housemates.

A Day in The Life at a Sober Living House

Women moving in front of a mirror

A large part of learning how to be stable and happy is having a daily routine. Without this, feelings of boredom, listlessness, and isolation begin to creep in and threaten the work it has taken to achieve sobriety [13].

As such, sober living homes require residents to follow a semi-strict daily routine, and staff will help them form this when they check-in. Here’s just one example of a typical daily routine in a sober living house.

1. Morning

To help residents get the most out of each day and prepare them for future employment, mornings usually start early in sober living homes.

At around 7 am, residents wake up, make their beds, and head downstairs to help prepare breakfast. After this, they’ll make time for chores that involve maintaining the space, such as cleaning shared bathrooms etc.

The rest of the morning might consist of attending a house meeting or taking part in a group activity. Then, residents are free to carry on with their daily goals.

2. Afternoon

Those living in the sober living home are free to spend the rest of the day working on their recovery goals [14]: whether this is looking for employment, going to work, or attending a course.

3. Evening

During the evening, housemates attend group therapy sessions such as 12-step meetings and reflect on the day together. After this, they’re free to relax and retire to their rooms to watch TV or read.

How Can I Find out More?

If you’re keen to learn more about sober living communities or need help finding a treatment provider, don’t hesitate to reach out.

A member of the Ok Rehab team will discuss your treatment options, take you through the types of recovery housing, and make sure you feel at ease.

Simply call 0800 326 5559 [15] to access substance abuse treatment or look into clinical services.


[1] Sober Living Homes Sober Living Homes – Google Books

[2] Modern 12 Step Recovery: Alcoholics Anonymous for the 21st Century https://www.google.co.th/books/edition/Modern_12_Step_Recovery/44kszgEACAAJ?hl=en

[3] Drugs, Brains, and Behaviour: The Science of Addiction https://books.google.com.vn/books?id=n-OeI0fPx38C&printsec=frontcover&dq=substance+addiction&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjk_Ynan639AhWDsVYBHQm3AoM4ChDoAXoECAUQAg#v=onepage&q=substance%20addiction&f=false

[4] Substance Abuse: Treatment Plans and Sober Living Homes Substance Abuse – Google Books

[5] Ending Discrimination Against People with Mental and Substance Use Disorders, The Evidence for Stigma Change https://www.google.co.th/books/edition/Ending_Discrimination_Against_People_wit/j6PKDAAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0

[6] Self-Help/Mutual Aid Groups and Peer Support Self-Help/Mutual Aid Groups and Peer Support – Google Books

[7] Dynamic Pathways to Recovery from Alcohol Use Disorder: Meaning and Methods https://books.google.co.th/books?id=rA9NEAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=alcohol+use+disorder&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiR0MKsrLf5AhWT3jgGHaDmAb0Q6AF6BAgCEAI#v=onepage&q=alcohol%20use%20disorder&f=false

[8] Co-occurring Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorders: A Guide to Diagnosis and Treatment https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/Co_occurring_Mental_Illness_and_Substanc/vkQ4DwAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0

[9] An Exploratory Study in Sober Living Homes, The Influence of the Work Environment on Length of Abstinence An Exploratory Study in Sober Living Homes – Google Books

[10] Ok Rehab: 12 Step Programmes For Addiction 12 Step Programmes for Addiction | OK Rehab

[11] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) SAMHSA – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

[12] Supported Living Services, NHS Supported living services – Social care and support guide – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

[13] Ok Rehab: Addiction Counselling Addiction Counselling – OK Rehab

[14] Innovations in the Treatment of Substance Addiction https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/Innovations_in_the_Treatment_of_Substanc/vzbzuAEACAAJ?hl=en

[15] Ok Rehab: Help For Myself https://www.okrehab.org/help/myself/