A big reason for the effectiveness of rehabs is that they offer structured, drug-free environments that have been intentionally designed to be free of triggers and other bad influences. It’s also why the return to “real life” after rehab, can be such a jarring experience. Sober living homes can be an oasis for people who still want support as they transition out of their rehab program. These designated sober communities vary in size, structure, and requirements so when it comes to choosing one, it’s important to know their differences. 

What is sober living?

Sober living is a term used to describe a type of housing arrangement that requires its residents to follow a drug-free lifestyle. Drug testing is common and some may require participation in some sort of outpatient addiction treatment program as well. 

Types of sober living setups

There are four types of sober living setups. Ranging from least to most structured, they are peer-run, monitored, supervised, and integrated sober residences. 

A peer-run sober residence is the only of the four that does not have a paid professional living on the premises or managing the home. Instead, these often single-family homes are run by the residents who establish and maintain house rules democratically. 

Monitored residences, as their name implies, are ones where at least one paid person manages the home or apartment. But otherwise, offer the flexibility and freedom of a peer-run sober living home. 

Supervised sober living facilities are much more structured. They are usually licensed by an official governing body and have the administration, hierarchy, policies, and procedures that come with it. In addition to drug screenings (which is standard at any type of sober living), supervised sober accommodations also have programming intended to help people in recovery develop necessary life skills. 

The most institutional and structured of sober living arrangements is the integrated format. Residence takes place in a clinical setting that includes treatment services by in-house staff. It is most commonly used by those who have only recently completed rehab and are in the beginning transitioning stage. 

Then there are halfway houses. Although they serve a similar purpose, they operate under different regulations and procedures which makes them distinct from residences designated as sober living facilities.  

Sober Living Facility vs. Halfway House

A halfway house by definition is a transitional institution where individuals with a criminal past and a history of substance abuse reside until they gain the necessary skills to integrate into society. It may also be the place where they serve some or the entirety of their sentence. Therefore, the primary difference between sober living facilities and a halfway house is that one is court-mandated while the other is not. 

However, the nature of court-mandated residency also implicitly results in other notable differences from a sober living facility such as:

  • Additional support via education and skills training
  • Legal consequences for breaking house rules
  • Less privacy
  • Presence of law enforcement
  • Cost is based on income


Both a sober living facility and a halfway house will have house meetings that residents will be expected to attend, but besides that, they may not have many other similarities in residential programming. Halfway homes are meant to lower recidivism for people with criminal histories and have a much greater emphasis on skills such as financial planning, job training, and placement assistance. 

House Rules

Since sober living facilities can have voluntary residents, house rules may be more lenient. Halfway homes, on the other hand, always have some institutional involvement and therefore are highly regulated. Breaking house rules, such as failing a drug test, can have much more serious penalties for someone in a halfway house, and result in expulsion, jail time, and possibly even an extended sentence. 


Halfway homes are often structured like dormitories and residents often share rooms with other residents. Sober living facilities, on the other hand, can be single-family homes or apartments which allow for a more traditional shared home arrangement and also greater privacy.

In-house personnel

Depending on the type of sober living facility, there may be professional staff that’s present to support residents, enforce rules, and provide accountability. In a halfway home, there is always going to be some sort of professional, which can include a social worker and law enforcement. 


Halfway homes are supported by the government. Residents can only be charged a maximum of 25% of their total income. By contrast, residents of private or institutionally-operated sober living facilities may have to pay costs closer to that of market rates for rentals (though some health insurance plans may cover some of these costs). 

It’s not uncommon for drug rehabs to have their own facilities for sober living after completing rehab. Find a rehab near you today to learn more.