Types of Alcohol Treatment Centers: Residential vs Sober Living

The differences between residential treatment centers and sober living facilities.

To choose the right rehab, you first need to understand the differences between the various options available.

When seeking addiction treatment for alcohol abuse, you’ll likely be met with two options: residential alcohol treatment or sober living homes.

Both of these arrangements seem quite similar. After all, patients live in a different environment and get the treatment they need.

However, there are distinct differences between the two.

Understanding the differences between the two substance abuse treatment can help you make a more informed decision. It’ll help you find the right alcohol treatment center for your situation.


What’s a Residential Alcohol Treatment Center?

A residential alcohol treatment center is also known as an inpatient treatment program.

These programs for substance use disorders span anywhere from 28 to 90 days. Some of these treatment programs are even longer.

With an inpatient drug rehab program, patients will move into the alcohol addiction rehab facility.

There, they will receive medical detox and behavioral therapy, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and more. They learn how to handle and deal with both substance abuse and mental health disorders.

Once patients are admitted into this type of alcohol or drug addiction treatment, they do not leave the facility. They receive their meals at the alcohol and drug rehab facility.

This level of treatment offers a high level of care. Drug abusers receive 24-hour medical supervision for both alcohol and drug addiction.

These addiction treatment programs are also designed for those who need a little more help. For example, those struggling with co-occurring disorders may benefit from these recovery programs.


How Do They Differ from Sober Living Treatment Centers?

An inpatient treatment program is quite different from a sober living arrangement.

With a sober living arrangement, residents don’t necessarily receive any special addiction treatment. They are only required to stay sober and to comply with house rules.

Some sober living homes require patients to have received drug or alcohol detox; however, this is not always the case.

Residents of sober living homes pay rent. They also pay for all of their other expenses, like their meals.

They can come and go as they please. Many residents will hold a job or even go to school.

They live with other people in recovery who have a drug or alcohol addiction.

Most sober living homes will require residents to attend 12-Step programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Some will require residents to receive counseling.

Residents will also attend house meetings, relapse prevention programs and more. It’s basically several steps down from an inpatient rehab program.

This type of program is ideal for those with a mild to moderate addiction. These drug abusers just need a little assistance.


The Differences Between Sober Living Homes and Halfway Houses

Many people often confuse sober living homes with halfway houses. Although similar, the two are completely different entities.

Halfway homes generally require residents to have completed a drug or alcohol rehab program. Sober living homes do not have this requirement.

Also, there’s a time limit on how long a person can stay at halfway homes. Residents at sober living homes can choose to live there for as long as they want.

Sober living homes are like renting an apartment. Residents pay for their own expenses. They also pay rent.

Halfway homes are usually funded by the government. Residents who live at halfway homes are usually there due to court-ordered reasons. They’re required to be there for a maximum of 12 months.

On the other hand, people who live in sober living homes choose to. They made the decision to move to a sober living environment to abstain from alcohol or drug use and to improve their mental health.


Which Treatment Center Will Be Best for Your Situation?

The determining factor when choosing either a residential addiction treatment center or a sober living home is the level of care you need. This is determined by the severity of your alcohol addiction.

A residential rehab center offers a higher level of care than a sober living home. Those who are receiving inpatient treatment will not leave the facility at all during the treatment. They receive around-the-clock attention from staff members.

As a result, residential drug and alcohol treatment is best for:


  • First-time offenders seeking alcohol addiction treatment
  • Those who have recently relapsed and need more care
  • Heavy drinkers who are likely to experience intense withdrawal symptoms and cravings


Those who have a better handle on their alcohol addiction and have completed substance abuse treatment will usually go with a sober living arrangement. It’s a form of aftercare planning.

The sober living environment will keep people in recovery from turning to alcohol once again. Although they don’t have staff waiting on them from day to night, they are around other people in recovery.

This makes it much easier to get the help they need to abstain from drinking. They can talk to other residents if they ever start to feel cravings or if they are having a difficult time.

Sober living homes usually host support group meetings every day or several times a week.


It’s Possible to Transition from One to the Other.

Depending on where you are in your recovery, different treatment programs and living arrangements will be a better fit.

Addiction recovery is not always straightforward. As a result, it’s possible to transition from one to another.

Recovering addicts that have completed their alcohol abuse treatment may decide to move into a sober living home. In fact, it may even be part of their alumni program. Some recovering addicts enrolled in an intensive outpatient program or a partial hospitalization program (PHP) will live in sober living houses.

Sober living programs allow people in recovery to control their environment. This living arrangement compliments many aftercare programs or less intense addiction treatment programs.

They can avoid triggers and be with other people who have the same mindset and goals as themselves.

Some recovering addicts may relapse during this time. If they find it difficult to continue to abstain from drinking, they can decide to move from a sober living houses to a residential alcohol treatment center.

This allows them to get a more intimate level of care. They can relearn how to deal with cravings instead of spiralling back into alcohol abuse and addiction.


Consider What Other Treatment Options Are Offered at the Rehab Facility

Regardless of whether you are interested in staying at a residential addiction treatment center or  a sober living home, you should consider the type of amenities and services that you’ll receive.

In general, you’re going to get a lot more out of a residential alcohol treatment center. The treatment programs are more intense. After all, sober living arrangements are part of aftercare programs.

Both treatment options and programs are necessary components on road to recovery.

If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to our treatment specialists. We have the answers to many frequently asked questions.

Our treatment consultants can connect you to the type of treatment that you need