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The Difference Between a Sober Living House and a Halfway House

It’s easy to understand why people confuse the difference between sober living and half-way houses. They both work as a type of housing to ease the transition for people who no longer need inpatient treatment but aren’t ready to return home. Both sober living homes and halfway houses can provide the support and community that people in recovery from addiction need. However, these housing options do have differences.

What Is a Sober Living House?

A sober living house operates as a bridge between an inpatient facility and the “real world.” Once leaving treatment and returning home, you may be struggling with adjusting back to daily life. Sober living homes offer an in-between recovery option that allows you to reinforce the lessons learned in rehab. It doesn’t provide the same level of structure as an inpatient facility. Still, it does present an intermediate sober environment that encourages residents to develop healthy coping skills and habits when returning home.

A sober living home is a great option to alleviate any concerns you may have about going from such a monitored environment right back into daily life. Unfortunately, for many in early recovery, sober living homes provide their only option for a safe, sober living scenario.

What Is a Halfway House?

Halfway houses date back to 18th century England when they were opened to house children who had committed crimes. Similar homes opened in the United States to house people who had recently been released from prison.

A halfway house is a transitional living facility for those in recovery from addiction. Some people go to a halfway house after leaving a long-term addiction treatment center or prison. In some cases, people are in halfway houses due to court orders.

Halfway houses are designed for anyone struggling with addiction who needs additional support after a rehabilitation treatment program. This support is critical to allow you to move forward in life and provide a community around you focused on supporting you as you move away from one way of living and into another. 

Who Can Live There

While sober living homes and halfway houses are similar in their purpose, they have several differences. Halfway homes are often designated for people coming out of jail or prison and who underwent a drug treatment program during their incarceration. The state may sponsor these types of halfway houses. They also usually require residents to be enrolled in a treatment program or to have recently completed such a program. There may also be a limit on the amount of time a resident can stay at a halfway house.

Unlike halfway houses, sober living homes don’t typically require that residents have been incarcerated. They also may not require that housemates be enrolled in treatment plans while living there.

Length of Stay 

The most significant difference between the two is that sober living homes don’t specify a time limit for residency. This is a substantial upside for people who are looking for longer-term accountability and community support. This unlimited time can offer residents the peace of mind they need to truly focus on their recovery instead of worrying about where they’ll live when their time runs out.

Monitoring Residents

While many sober living homes do not offer formal treatment services, many do belong to coalitions designed to monitor health, safety, quality, and adherence to recovery models that emphasize group involvement and peer support. As such, they may require that residents agree to certain conditions such as:

  • Abstaining from drugs and alcohol
  • Attending 12-Step meetings
  • Attending mandatory house meetings
  • Obtaining a sponsor
  • Sleeping at the house for a minimum number of nights
  • Being accountable for their whereabouts when not at the sober living home

Similarities Between Sober Living Houses and Halfway Houses

Sober living homes and halfway houses share several similarities, such as their purpose. Both sober living houses and halfway houses provide housing and support for people working on their sobriety who no longer need inpatient treatment.

Both can also be invaluable resources for people who have recently completed residential treatment, attended an outpatient program, or left incarceration by providing several benefits, including:

  • Holding residents accountable
  • Reducing environmental and emotional relapse triggers
  • Helping residents live their best lives as part of society

Which Do I Choose?

Do you want independence but feel like you aren’t ready to be entirely on your own? This is a significant sign that either sober living homes or a halfway house may be a good option for you. These homes offer a certain level of independence. You can get a job, see your family more often, go to the store, or anything else as long as you stay sober. 

However, you may be wondering which one is the right choice for you. It is crucial to consider how long you need to stay, whether you have been to treatment or the level of independence you want. If you don’t want a time restraint on your stay, a sober living house is right for you! If you have never been to treatment or plan to attend an outpatient program, then a sober living home is your best option. There are also specific requirements to sober living houses. So, ask yourself, “Do I want to meet these requirements? Can I?” If not, a halfway house may be for you. Whichever you choose, you will be on the right path. 


While sober living houses and halfway houses are similar in purpose, they are also different. Halfway houses are most commonly used for those coming out of incarceration or those who were enrolled in a drug treatment program while in prison. However, you do not need to be a convicted criminal to live in a halfway house–some just require that you have been to treatment or are currently enrolled in a treatment program. They also differ in the length of stay, as there is no requirement for moving out of a sober living home. Lastly, sober living houses require you to meet specific conditions, such as house meetings and being accountable for your whereabouts. However, both provide a sense of community and support that are significant to integrating back into the “real world” after treatment. If you are struggling with sobriety after treatment, reach out to RECO Intensive. We have developed an incredible community of support through our alumni program, aiming to introduce clients to the limitless possibilities that life in recovery can create. Call us today at (561) 464-6533. 

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