Ask an Expert: Should I Go to a Halfway House or a Recovery Community?

By Rita Milios 01/30/15
Today's question is on whether a recovery community or a halfway house would be a better choice after rehab.

I’m just leaving rehab and considering half -way house options or a therapeutic community. Which would be better for me? -  Carl

Rita Milios: The real question here is not so much whether a half-way house or therapeutic community is the better option overall, but which is a better option for you, as an individual, with your specific goals and needs. And this question can only be answered by you, after some investigation and personal research about what is available in your community.

Over time, the distinctions between “half-way houses” (or sober living houses) and “therapeutic communities” have blurred. Many facilities now market themselves as “therapeutic community style” half-way houses. Originally, the term half-way house referred to residences set up to house people who were leaving jail or prison. They were designed to offer these individuals a safe place to learn how to re-integrate into society. In recent years, many half-way houses have changed their focus, and they now serve people in recovery who are seeking sober living options within a structured, supportive environment. They are no longer intended to appeal only to people leaving incarceration, but to anyone seeking such assistance.

There are still a few conceptual and theoretical differences between half-way/sober living houses and therapeutic communities. Half-way/sober living houses often still retain their main mission of reintegration into society for the resident, where the resident re-enters society as both a law-abiding and productive citizen. To this end, half-way houses tend to offer more help with things like job coaching, job search assistance, transportation to/from work and education regarding money management and coping skills that emphasize the needs of daily living. 

Therapeutic communities developed with a focus toward mental/emotional growth and personality development as their central theme.

Therapeutic communities may incorporate more types of counseling and psychotherapy techniques to achieve these goals, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Enhancement Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. These therapies emphasize individual responsibility for changing thinking and behavior and learning about one’s self at a deeper level. These communities may also incorporate a more holistic approach to overall development of the individual vs. a solely sober living focus.

Still, every facility - half-way house or therapeutic community – sets up its own environment and treatment structure, so they will vary greatly, and concepts and techniques from one may be adopted by the other. 

That is why it is important that you visit several different facilities and discover for yourself which environment and lifestyle arrangement is best for you. Ask a lot of questions, both of the residents and of the staff, to determine which specific living environment would be the best fit for your needs and goals.



Rita Milios, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in private practice, author of more than 30 books, and frequent professional lecturer and on-camera expert. She also facilitates workshops and training for clinicians, therapists, writers, holistic practitioners, businesses and associations. She is known as "The Mind Mentor" because of her unique approach to “mind tools training."   Full Bio.

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