Effectiveness of Halfway Homes for Recovering Alcoholics

Man smoking

Halfway Houses, or Sober Living Houses, as many communities call them, are alcohol and drug free living environments for recovering addicts who are motivated to abstain from substance and drug use. Those discharging from Residential or higher level of care use Halfway Houses for continued care.

Typically Halfway Houses are not licensed or funded by state or local governments, and the residents are responsible for the cost of living expenses. Most halfway houses are intended to be short term, with 30-90 day limits [4].

A study that looked at length of stay for recovering alcoholics, in an Oxford House (Halfway House) for 15 months more more had an 80% chance of staying clean and sober [4].

Halfway Houses are programs that offer individuals support and structure needed for a strong foundation of recovery [5]. Halfway homes that include the following are ones that can best meet the needs of the recovering addict and help in maintaining their sobriety and recovery treatment.

  1. Man in the streetLook at homes that mandate attendance at 12 step meetings on a daily basis. This can be a major step in providing structure and support for the individual. It also includes obtaining an AA sponsor within the first week of living in the transitional home.
  2. Houses that mandate on site meetings for the residents are helpful in remembering house rules, chores, and reasons for living in a sober living environment.
  3. Getting a recovery friendly job or actively looking for a job is a major part of a halfway home program. This allows for income to pay for expenses, provides daily structure and routine, and allows for the individual to continue to work their recovery all while in a safe environment.
  4. The individual must be able to comply with the daily halfway house chores and responsibility, such as laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc.
  5. The individual is expected to pay rent on a weekly basis, and some extra income is held by the Halfway House Manager to provide a savings for the individual when they leave the house to set up independent living.
  6.  Also included is frequent contact with the Halfway House Manager to discuss goals and program of recovery to ensure the individual is maintaining goals of recovery.

What do Alcoholics Need to Maintain and Reach Recovery?

One essential need for recovering alcoholics is social networks [1]. Being able to develop a social network in a halfway home that supports ongoing sobriety is an important component of the recovery model.

Residents are encouraged to provide support and encouragement for peers while in the halfway home. This giving back and social model are a part of the 12-step process and an integral part of the recovery process.

Halfway houses provide an added layer of stability which can provide a safe environment to prevent relapse [9]. In a 2010 study by the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, it was found that improvements were made on measures of alcohol and drug use, employment, arrests, and psychiatric symptoms in a sample of 300 individuals.

Another 2010 study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, looked at former residents of Halfway house communities. The study found that recovering addicts who used a structured halfway house environment were less likely to face relapse, arrest, or homelessness.

The biggest benefit to halfway houses is that it provides social support networks for recovering addicts. Residents are strongly encouraged to give mutual support and encourage each other to full recovery.

Are Halfway Houses able to Aid in Recovery Sustainability?

In a study that looked at the outcomes of halfway houses on recovery, noted that residents reduced or stopped substance use between 6 month followups and maintained this at both 12 and 18 month followups [1].

Man in street

At the 12 month follow up mark, abstinence was improved 42% from time of discharge from the halfway home. Many studies have shown that most individuals who live in halfway homes after attending higher level of care treatment have lower rates of relapse and are able to live productive lives [2].

Another study that looked at 200 women who were involved in the criminal justice system in Chicago, studied the recovery rate of those staying in a halfway home versus typical aftercare programs [5].

Those who stayed in a halfway home for 6 months or longer showed better outcomes with alcohol and drug use, employment retention, and self efficacy than those in typical aftercare programs.

Halfway homes involve social integration, structure, and networks for those in recovery to have a safe environment to maintain sobriety [6]. Research on sobriety-focused social support suggests that two things are needed to maintain sobriety.

First participation in a self help group, such as SS can promote recovery supportive personal friendship networks. Secondly sobriety-focused social support suggests that a source for recovery supportive friends, behavioral modeling, advice, and encouragement are needed for staying sober.

This can provide positive effects and can benefit residents in the same way AA does as an alternative for friendship sustainability, relationships that promote the discussion of recovery-threatening topics, and provide interactive problem solving which are less likely to occur in a 12-step program alone.

Studies have also found that trust and confidence of relationships is an integral part of recovery [6].  If a resident trusts a fellow peer within the house, they are more likely to confide in that person, which opens the dialogue for recovery focuses conversations, support, and encouragement.

In conclusion, the Effectiveness of Halfway Homes for Recovering Alcoholics is a multifaceted aftercare option.  Halfway homes provide a safe, alcohol and drug free environment for residents where structure and responsibilities coupled with 12-step programs help the individual work their recovery with like-minded peers.

With long term stay options, recovery sustainability is significantly positive in maintaining sobriety that traditional aftercare programs.


Image of Libby Lyons and familyAbout the Author: Libby Lyons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). Libby has been practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other comorbid issues in various agencies. Libby has previously worked as a contractor for the United States Air Force Domestic Violence Program, Saint Louis University Student Health and Counseling, Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute Eating Disorders Program, and has been in Private Practice.
Libby currently works as a counselor at Fontbonne University and is a Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University, and is a contributing author for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope. Libby lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and watching movies.


[1]: The Importance of Transitional Living in Addiction Recovery. (2015, February 12). Retrieved January, 2017, from http://www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com/benefits-of-sober-homes-and-recovery-residences(n.d.)
[2]: Sober Living and Halfway Homes. (2017, March 22). Retrieved January, 2017, from http://www.projectknow.com/research/sober-living/
[3]: Halfway Houses & Long-Term Sobriety. (2016, June 06). Retrieved January, 2017, from http://lighthouserecoveryinstitute.com/halfway-houses-long-term-sobriety/
[4]: News. (2015, June 29). Retrieved January, 2017, from http://www.theambitionhouse.com/benefits-of-halfway-houses/
[5]: Welcome Home. (n.d.). Retrieved January, 2017, from http://halfwayhouse.com/

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published April 26, 2017
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 23, 2017.
Published on AddictionHope.com

About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.