Sober Living vs. Halfway House

Written by Theresa Valenzky

& Medically Reviewed by Jenni Jacobsen, LSW

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Last Updated - 2/16/2023

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Updated 02/16/2023

For those overcoming addiction, specific arrangements can be made for addiction aftercare when treatment is complete to promote continued sobriety. Sometimes, a treatment center will help patients make housing arrangements that support their recovery. 

The terms “halfway houses” and “sober living houses” are often used to refer to living arrangements for those completing treatment. Even though these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not the same. There are specific differences that distinguish sober living houses and halfway houses. 

What Is Sober-living?

Sober living refers to residences where people stay, either after completing rehab or while enrolled in an outpatient program, to help them stay in recovery. People living in a sober home commit to staying drug and alcohol-free and may even submit to drug tests to ensure their compliance with house rules. Residents are encouraged to support each other and participate in services like counseling and support groups. 

Sober living homes may be certified by the National Alliance for Recovery Residences, which has developed four levels of sober living residences. Those at one end of the spectrum offer the lowest level of in-house services and staffing, whereas those on the higher end provide several different clinical services and employ professional staff in the home.  

Types of Sober-living Environments 

Sober-living homes differ in the intensity of services and support they offer according to the following four levels:

  • Level one: These homes provide the lowest intensity of services. Residents are drug screened and encouraged to participate in recovery meetings, but no paid staff members are in the home. House meetings keep residents connected. 
  • Level two: Homes at this level have at least one paid staff position, and peer-led groups and house meetings are offered on-site. Residents complete drug screening and participate in self-help groups and treatment services off-site. There are policies, procedures and house rules to maintain structure. 
  • Level three: Sober living residences offering level three services have a paid staff of case managers and administrators who oversee the work of these service providers. There is an organizational hierarchy, and policies and procedures help to maintain order. Residents can receive services on-site, in addition to seeking outside treatment. 
  • Level four: At the highest end of the spectrum in service intensity, level four homes employ clinical staff and clinical and administrative supervisors. Residents must abide by policies and procedures, and clinical services are provided on-site. 

While the levels of sober living homes differ in the intensity of services they offer, what they all have in common is they aim to provide a supportive, family-like environment where people can stay active in recovery and remain committed to staying drug and alcohol-free. Level one sober living homes tend to be single-family homes, whereas level two homes may be single-family homes or apartment buildings. Level three homes can include several different residential settings, whereas level four homes may be more institutional in nature. 

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What Is a Halfway House? 

Halfway houses are a transitional point between an institution or facility and everyday community life. People may transition to a halfway house after serving a prison sentence or completing an inpatient rehab program. Sometimes, a person may be court-ordered to stay in a halfway house for a specified time. 

Sometimes, a person who has committed a drug-related crime may be sentenced to stay in a halfway house for a certain time instead of being sentenced to prison or jail time. Halfway houses are a bridge between incarceration and community living. 

Sober-living vs. Halfway House: What Is the Difference?

While the two may seem similar, there are differences between a sober house vs. a halfway house. First, because halfway houses are tied to the criminal justice system, they are often government-run. On the other hand, sober living homes tend to be affiliated with an addiction treatment facility. 

While both programs encourage drug-free living and participation in treatment, halfway houses are more strict. They typically stipulate a specific length of stay and require patients to be involved in addiction treatment services. While sober living homes encourage participation in self-help groups and other services, it is not always required that sober living residents participate in treatment. Halfway houses always have staff and services on-site, whereas sober living homes may be more informal and not even employ paid staff. 

The Benefits of Sober Living in Recovery

Choosing to stay in a sober living home while in recovery comes with numerous benefits:

  • You’ll be connected to others in recovery, so you’ll have support from those who understand your experiences.
  • You will have access to services like support groups and counseling to help maintain your progress. 
  • You won’t be faced with triggers, like people or places where you used drugs before entering treatment. 
  • You’ll have the benefit of a transition period before returning home. 
  • You will be held accountable for staying in recovery, as you’ll be required to submit to drug screens. 

Other FAQs

What’s the Longest You Can Stay at a Sober Living House?

The time you stay in sober living will depend on the treatment facility’s policies or program affiliated with the sober living house. Some treatment centers may allow you to stay in sober living indefinitely, so long as you comply with rules and pay rent. Others may allow you to stay in sober living for a set time or until you complete the facility’s rehab program. 

What’s the Longest You Can Stay at a Halfway House?

Length of stay in a halfway house typically depends on the facility policies. You will be court-ordered to stay for a specific time in many cases. 

How Much Does Sober Living Cost in Ohio?

Many sober living homes require residents to pay at least a portion of the rent. The monthly cost you pay for Ohio sober living will depend on the city you reside in and your income. Some sober living homes may allow residents to pay a specific percentage of their income each month. 

Contact The Recovery Village Columbus today for guidance with sober living homes, halfway houses and access to other Ohio addiction treatment resources. We offer a range of treatment options, including outpatient care, inpatient rehab and aftercare services. 


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