Combining Outpatient Treatment and Sober Living for Success in Recovery

By The Fix staff 07/24/17

“Sober living is great for supporting the newcomer back into sobriety."

young man sitting at table writing in notebook
Phoenix Rising provides a great opportunity for recovering addicts to do outpatient treatment while in sober living, providing structure and community.

Early recovery can be an extremely stressful time. For people lucky enough to go to a residential program, transitioning back into the “real world” can be a process full of triggers and distractions that can challenge sobriety. That’s why opting for a sober living home while completing outpatient therapy can be so important for long-term sobriety.

“These structured homes have rules that people should follow to maintain recovery,” says Benjamin Kaneaiakala III, the CEO of Phoenix Rising, a treatment center in Aliso Viejo, California.

Sober living homes provide extra accountability for people in early recovery. Although programs vary, the homes may require that residents attend meetings or undergo drug testing. This guidance helps people transition to live in early recovery.

For some people who have lost their homes, jobs or families because of their addiction, sober living homes can be a lifeline. People are able to get back on their feet in sober living and are able to focus on one step at a time: finding housing, securing a job, and working the program.

“It relieves a lot of ‘the where am I going to go, how am I going to do this’ worry,” Kaneaiakala says. “It takes away that fear of ‘how am I going to do this out of residential where they provided everything for me 24/7.’”

One of the biggest barriers to sobriety early on is free time, Kaneaiakala says. Having a sober living program that requires you to attend meetings and engage with a sober community can cut down on that.

“Sober living is great for supporting the newcomer back into sobriety,” Kaneaiakala says.

Kaneaiakala recommends that all of the patients in Phoenix Rising’s outpatient program do sober living at the same time, and he says about 70 percent of clients do so. Because so many people in early recovery don’t have the resources to pay for sober living, Pheonix Rising often provides scholarship programs that allow patients to slowly take on the financial responsibility of paying for housing.

“Clients often need help for a month or so until they can get a job and get income coming in,” Kaneaiakala says. “They start paying in steps, depending on how much they’re making. We kind of subsidize as much as we can.”

Phoenix Rising also speaks with family members to determine whether they are willing or able to contribute to the costs of sober living.

Knowing that housing is taken care of enables patients to focus more fully on completing their outpatient therapy program. At Phoenix Rising the outpatient program takes place Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. That allows patients to use the rest of their day to work or attend meetings.

“Outside of groups and case management, we’re working with them transitioning back into the real world,” Kaneaiakala says. “As they’re getting treatment and counseling, we’re also helping them get resumes and fill out job applications.”

Although those steps may seem easy to some, they can be daunting for people in early recovery. Phoenix Rising also helps clients make sure they have acceptable clothes for work, and even organizes rides to interviews.

“You wouldn’t believe how difficult that is for some people,” Kaneaiakala says.

On average, people in sober living programs and the outpatient program at Phoenix Rising stay for three to fives months, until they are ready to handle the challenges of a sober life. During that time and beyond, they know that they are supported in every step of recovery.

“What we may think are not difficult transitions are difficult for our population,” Kaneaiakala says. “So we support them in every way we can.”

Phoenix Rising provides behavior health care services in southern California. Find out more at and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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