Length of Stay in a Transitional Sober Living Home
Sober living programs—sometimes called halfway houses or transitional housing facilities—provide housing and social support for people as they transition out of residential drug treatment, jail, or who simply need an environment free from substance use to help prevent relapse.
This page will discuss sober living facilities, how they operate, and what duration of stay in sober living facilities is ideal.
What is a Sober Living Facility?
Unlike rehab facilities, sober living facilities don’t necessarily provide formal counseling, but many do encourage or require participation in 12-step programs. Since they are not treatment facilities, they may not be regulated by state or local government (though many are members of coalitions that mandate adherence to standards and protocols.1
Sober living homes can be a critical part of ongoing recovery, since addiction is a life-long, chronic disease that often benefits from longer-term support than is usually provided in an initial treatment program. Staying in a sober living home has been shown to have positive impacts on rates of incarceration, employment, relapse prevention, and sobriety.2
Factors that Determine the Duration of a Stay in Sober Living
While everyone is unique, in general, your length of stay in a sober living home depends on certain factors, which might include:3
- Individual needs. Some residents of sober living homes have more needs than others, such as co-occurring psychiatric disorders or needing to complete vocational training or education before being able to independently support yourself.
- Progress in a recovery program. In some houses, if you relapse, you can stay by following new requirements, such as increasing your attendance at 12-step meetings and keeping regular appointments with your therapist. Your peers will likely encourage you to stay longer to ensure that you are ready to live with drugs or alcohol outside the sober living home. However, if you continue to relapse, eviction could result.
- Willingness to follow house rules. The basic requirements for residency are to follow the rules and to pay rent. In some sober living homes, particularly those run by the criminal justice system, you may have to meet additional benchmarks to advance toward graduation from the house.
Studies have shown that a minimum of 90 days in treatment is most effective in helping someone achieve long-term sobriety.4 For sober living homes, similar to an inpatient or outpatient program, the specific length will be influenced by factors, such as:5,6,7
- Severity of alcohol and drug use problems. People with a history of severe drug use problems—for example, primary opioid dependence—may face more significant health risks in the event of a relapse and may benefit from longer-term stays.
- Failed attempts at other forms of shorter-term treatment. If you’ve repeatedly relapsed during other forms of aftercare, you may need to commit to a longer stay at your sober living home.
- Home environment. If you are living in an environment in which drugs and alcohol are present, abstinence and recovery are obviously much more difficult. Research has shown that encountering people, places, and things previously linked to drug use, as well as direct contact with drugs, are key triggers for relapse. Staying away from these triggers, and from drugs, is critical for sustained recovery.
- Co-occurring mental health disorders. Overall, people with co-occurring mental disorders and substance use have worse outcomes when it comes to abstinence and long-term recovery. However, in a recent study, people with certain types of mental illness reported greater rates of abstinence from substances when they had social support and a drug-free environment.
A study of the Oxford House model (one common form of transitional housing) showed that the average person stayed 1 year in sober living, although numerous residents stayed as long as 3 years.8
How Long Should I Stay in Sober Living?
Addiction is very complex condition, and many people take different paths in recovery.4 Therefore, it may help to consult with a specialist familiar with your unique situation when making these types of decisions.
One of the most important things to think about is why you want to go to a sober living home because those reasons will likely influence your length of stay. For example, if you have been in jail or in a residential treatment program for several months, you may have given up your housing and might not have the financial means to come up with security deposits or buy furniture. The relatively low cost of a sober living home will give you time to save money to make your own housing arrangements.
Or, perhaps you have been through rehab before and relapsed shortly after returning home because your family members continued to use alcohol or drugs around you. So you learned that you need more time after leaving rehab to work on resistance skills and believe that a sober living home can give you the benefit of several months in a drug-free environment with peer support.
Rarely do sober living homes mandate a specific minimum length of stay, unless you are there as a requirement of probation or parole. In many sober living homes, if you follow the rules, you can stay as long as you feel you need to.
To live there, you must pay monthly fees (essentially, rent), which support the cost of maintaining the home. Additionally, many sober living homes have resident councils, which help govern daily life, enforce house rules, and offer peer support. Other sober living homes are more like boarding houses, except that there are strict abstinence requirements, and residents do not get the final say about rule-making.
Why Might a Longer Stay Be Beneficial?
With longer stays, residents can benefit from job training and other programs to better prepare them for independent living and long-term recovery. You can expect to gain a number of skills and benefits the longer you live in a sober home (and in the time after you move out), including:9,10,11,12
- Education and employment. A recent study of an Oxford House community indicated that staying 3 to 5 months in the Oxford House was positively correlated with a greater number of days worked while still living in the home and after they moved out as well. In addition, those people who stayed at least 9 months had significantly more attendance at school or vocational training than those who stayed less than 3 months.
- Developing a substance-free social network. Peer support in a substance-free environment is an important factor in recovery from substance use, just as participation in a group dedicated to abstinence is one of the best indicators of long-term sobriety. A sober living home provides an opportunity to go beyond just attending 12-step groups and allows you to receive from supportive friends consistently outside of meetings. In a sober living home, residents who have been there for some time serve as support for newer residents, which coincides with the 12-step concept of giving back. A sober living home also provides distance between the person in recovery and peers and family members who are still using alcohol or drugs, therefore reducing the triggers to relapse.
- Safe and stable housing. Homeless people are at substantially higher risk of relapse. Many sober living facilities allow residents to stay as long as they like. This is significant since homelessness is a common outcome for people who become severely addicted to drugs or alcohol, people leaving prison, or people leaving a residential treatment facility. Increasing the odds of homelessness is the fact that affordable housing can be difficult to obtain, especially when a person has a criminal record or has no savings from having not worked due to addiction and long-term treatment. In one study, few incoming sober living house residents reported a stable living situation prior to entering the sober living facility.
No matter your reason for entering a sober living home, how long you stay will depend on many of the factors discussed in this article. The important thing is to make choices that can help you stay sober and give you the best opportunity for an addiction-free life.
Recovery First Treatment Center is a residential addiction treatment facility in South Florida that provides comprehensive care through several types of addiction treatment that can help you get sober and develop the skills to remain in recovery. Call an admissions navigator at to learn about the care provided at Recovery First.
If you are interested in sober living for yourself or a loved one, check out our sister facilities Desert Hope Treatment Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, Greenhouse Treatment Center in Arlington, Texas, and Oxford Treatment Center in Oxford, Mississippi.
Recovery First and other American Addiction Centers (AAC) facilities accept insurance coverage from many major insurance companies. Verify your benefits by completing the confidential .