Last Updated Dec 2, 2021
A halfway house offers a stepping stone between inpatient rehab or incarceration and returning home.
It can provide a sober and supportive environment where residents can continue solidifying healthy habits, lifestyle changes, and coping mechanisms that were learned in addiction treatment.
Halfway houses represent an important aspect of aftercare for addiction treatment, providing a safe and socially supportive living environment to help minimize relapse and sustain recovery. It can take some time for habits learned in recovery to become more fixed, and a halfway house can offer you the space to do that before returning to the stressors of everyday life back at home.
What Is a Halfway House?
A halfway house is a transitional living environment between an inpatient addiction treatment facility and returning back home. It is a temporary home for someone in recovery that can offer a safe and socially supportive living environment.
While many sober living environments and recovery residents are commonly called halfway houses, a true halfway house is a midpoint between treatment or incarceration and reintegration to society. They are often state-run or sponsored, and residents can be court-mandated to live there.
Halfway houses often have a higher level of structure than many sober living homes. They require drug testing and participation in 12-step or self-help groups and/or outpatient treatment services while living there.
In this group living environment, all residents are required to be drug- and alcohol-free. The house is usually overseen by a facility manager and often also by certified staff. They may be connected with addiction treatment facilities to offer a full continuum of care and seamless transition between rehab and the halfway house.
In 2020, more than 40 million Americans had a substance use disorder. Addiction treatment and recovery looks different for everyone. While there were about 18,000 sober living homes and recovery residents reported in 2020, halfway houses are a specific type of recovery residence.
The History of Halfway Houses
Halfway houses got their start as transitional services for people straight out of prison. They began in the late 1800s as a way to help former inmates get back on their feet, heal, and find work before being released back into society.
Halfway houses still exist as court-mandated environments for a period of time following incarceration. They have also evolved to include transitional services for people after addiction treatment programs.
The first recovery residences in the United States were an attempt to bridge the gap between Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) services and a supportive sober living environment. These “12-step” houses provided social support and followed the principles of AA, emphasizing complete abstinence from alcohol and drugs in recovery.
Recovery residences, often called sober living homes, and halfway houses still follow many of these same ideals today. They offer peer support in a safe and sober living environment after addiction treatment and before returning home.
Do Halfway Houses Actually Work?
When establishing recovery after addiction treatment, your living environment is incredibly important.
Drugs and alcohol make changes to the brain that take some time to heal and reset after stopping use. Relapse is a common factor in recovery. Addiction has a relapse rate of 40 to 60 percent, which is similar to relapse rates for other chronic diseases like hypertension and asthma.
To minimize instances of relapse, it is essential to learn how to manage triggers, develop health habits, and use strong coping skills. This can be a lot to put into practice immediately following an addiction treatment program. People often need a lot of support in early recovery.
A halfway house can offer a socially supportive and sober environment where you can continue to heal and find your footing in recovery. A sober living environment has been shown to improve abstinence rates and help to minimize relapse.
When you live in a socially supportive environment such as a halfway house, you get the opportunity to build on healthy lifestyle changes as you slowly integrate back into everyday life. You can safely take steps toward going back to work and being involved in the community, knowing you have this supportive environment to lean on when you face triggers.
How Is a Halfway House Structured?
Most of the time, a halfway house is a transitional group home or residence that serves as an in-between environment after leaving an addiction treatment program but before returning back home.
A halfway house may require that you have finished a formal addiction treatment program, and they may specify a certain amount of time that residents must be drug-free. Regular drug tests are done to ensure compliance with the house rules.
Additional rules may include curfews as well as required attendance and participation in self-help, 12-step, or peer support groups and house meetings. Residents are also expected to complete daily chores around the house, according to a specific schedule.
A halfway house may provide outpatient services, such as life skills development, group and individual counseling and therapy, and educational programs.
If these services are not provided on site, the halfway house may offer transportation to these services. Some homes may offer assistance with transportation to other important appointments or meetings. House rules may require participation in outpatient addiction treatment and community service.
Typically, a halfway house will be connected with a local addiction treatment program, and you can move seamlessly from inpatient rehab into a halfway house. There is often a minimum and potentially a maximum amount of time you can spend at a halfway house as well.
Each halfway house will have its own set of rules and regulations.
What Are the Benefits of Halfway Houses?
Drug and alcohol addiction can make changes to your brain that can result in the rewiring of your reward and motivation pathways. The brain is often still healing after an addiction treatment program, and it can take some time to set new and healthy habits and coping mechanisms.
A halfway house can provide a safe and supportive environment to continue healing. In this understanding place, you can practice skills you have learned in treatment, but you’ll still have some protection from many of the stressors of everyday life.
Benefits of a hallway house can include the following:
- Peer and social support
- Continued outpatient services
- Safe and sober environment
- Ability to slowly transition back into daily life obligations
- Medication management when needed
- On-site staff for continued support and necessary care
Halfway Houses vs. Other Treatment Options
Halfway houses and sober living homes are terms that are often used interchangeably. While they both offer a safe and supportive living environment that is alcohol- and drug-free, there are some notable differences.
A halfway house is often connected with an addiction treatment program directly. It can offer a seamless continuum of care for people to move straight from rehab into a group residence.
Inpatient rehab is a highly structured addiction treatment program that provides around-the-clock monitoring and supervision with specific programming. In a sober living home, you will often attend outpatient treatment services and peer support groups, but you will also have the ability to start working toward making your own schedule and plans again.
Halfway houses often have more structure than sober living homes. They feature credentialled staff on site, and they frequently outline specific lengths of time you can stay there.
Halfway houses are also often state-sponsored, or state-run. Residents may be coming from incarceration rather than an addiction treatment program. Your stay in a halfway house may be court-mandated.
Sober living homes, on the other hand, are generally privately owned and operated. Because of this, they can vary greatly in structure and level of care. For example, level 1 sober living homes are peer-run in a democratic format without the benefit of a facility manager or trained staff person on site.
Who Is a Good Candidate?
A halfway house offers you the chance to practice the skills and tools learned in addiction treatment in more of a real-life setting that is still safe and supportive.
If you need more time and support to strengthen your sobriety after addiction treatment, a halfway house can be a great option. There are specific halfway houses for people who need certain levels of support, such as those with co-occurring mental health disorders.
Typically, halfway houses are set up for people leaving an inpatient rehab facility or those who have been recently released from incarceration. Candidates for halfway houses may not have the necessary level of support at home, or they may just need some extra time in a supportive and sober environment before fully reintegrating back into society and everyday life.
What Is the Typical Time Spent in a Halfway House?
The average length of time that a person will spend in a halfway house is between three months and a year. The actual amount of time you will live in a halfway house will depend on your specific circumstances.
Halfway houses often have set time limits for residency. After your time is up, you are required to move out. This can vary based on the individual residence, however.
How Much Do Halfway Houses Cost?
The cost for a halfway house will differ based on whether it is run or sponsored by the state, court-mandated, or connected to an addiction treatment program. On average, rent at a halfway house can range between $100 and $1,000 per month for a room.
Costs will also depend on how many residents there are, whether or not you have a private room or share with a roommate, and the geographic location of the house. Oftentimes, halfway houses can work with residents if finances are an issue.
Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. (2021). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Estimating the Number of Substance Use Disorder Recovery Homes in the United States. (May 2020). Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly.
The Evolution of Peer Run Sober Housing as a Recovery Resource for California Communities. (January 2015). International Journal of Self-Help and Self-Care.
Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction Treatment and Recovery. (July 2020). National Institute on Drug Abuse.
What Did We Learn From Our Study on Sober Living Houses and Where Do We Go From Here? (December 2010). Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.
An Examination of the Effects of Halfway Houses on Criminal Recidivism. (November 2018). International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology.
A Clean and Sober Place to Live: Philosophy, Structure, and Purported Therapeutic Factors in Sober Living Houses. (June 2008). Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.
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