Alcoholism and addiction are complicated illnesses that have many causes leading to their onset. These illnesses are often aggravated by social, biological, environmental, and mental factors and given the differing in how someone may develop an addiction, the approaches needed in order to combat these illnesses need to differ as well.
Researchers have identified combinations of treatments that have been demonstrated to have high success rates. These include intensive outpatient programs (IOP) and outpatient programs (OP), which are shown to be particularly effective when paired with a sober living home.
What Is Sober Living?
Sober living is a residential environment or home where individual reside with others who are similarly committed to recovery from alcohol and/or drugs. A well-run sober living program offers an individual a living environment where they are shielded from the potential triggers and high-risk situations common in early recovery. The structure and support provide them with the time to develop relapse prevention skills and safely adapt to increasing levels of independence.
Sober living facilities have rules and guidelines, which can include:
- No using drugs or alcohol
- Participating chores and upkeep of the home
- Taking part in group meetings, such as 12-step, SMART Recovery, Refuge Recovery programs
- Submitting to regular drug and alcohol tests to confirm abstinence
Intensive Outpatient Programs and Outpatient Programs
One of the most effective treatment plans for an individual involves stepping-down from immersive, full-time therapy to lower levels of care. An inpatient treatment program can be followed by a partial hospitalization program, an intensive outpatient program, and an outpatient program. Transitions occur as the individual progresses in their recovery.
A sober living program is an excellent complement to intensive outpatient and outpatient programs. These type of programs usually consist of daily group sessions at a local outpatient treatment center. Treatment services available at an outpatient program may include individual counseling, group meetings, medication management, medication-assisted treatment and education on relapse prevention and successful strategies for maintaining sobriety. The average length of stay in a sober living home can vary from 90 days to six months or more.
Some individuals choose to participate in outpatient programs while residing at home. This approach however may not provide the highest probability of success due to the lack of a safe living environment, others in the home may still be abusing alcohol and drugs or the home may be a trigger for them. Each of these factors can lead to frequent cravings and increase the likelihood of relapse. Living in a sober living program, a person can remove themselves from these triggers and live in a supportive environment where peers are also committed to long-term recovery.
The Research on Sober Living Homes and Outpatient Programs
A study published in the March 2011 edition of the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs looked at 300 people entering two types of sober living homes over the course of 18 months. At the end of the research study, researchers found that individuals who resided at a sober living home and participated in an outpatient program and as a 12-step program had the highest probability of remaining sober at six and 18 months.
Once the individual completes outpatient treatment, he or she may continue to live in a sober living facility, return to their home, or find a new home. Treatment centers will typically recommend staying at a sober living facility for at least 90 days in order to develop and ingrain the behaviors necessary for long-term sobriety.