Proven Benefits of Transitional Housing After Rehab

The transition period following rehab treatment can be overwhelming, but sober living homes can help you adjust to life after rehab. Learn the transitional housing benefits that can help you stay on track with your recovery post-treatment.1

What is Transitional Housing?

Transitional housing is a sober environment that people can live in during recovery. It is referred to as transitional housing because these residencies are meant to be utilized during the transition period between treatment and independent living. There are different types of sober living environments depending on a resident’s unique needs.

The different types of transitional housing include:2

  • Level One, Peer-run: A type of transitional housing that is run by residents. These often are the most affordable because less supportive services are offered. Twelve-step meetings or other related support groups are typically encouraged.
  • Level Two, Monitored sober living homes: A house manager or senior resident oversees these homes. House rules provide structure. This level of transitional housing requires drug screenings, house meetings, and participation in 12-step or other addiction treatment.
  • Level Three, Supervised housing: Residents are required to see treatment providers, such as a mental health clinician or addiction specialist. These services may or may not be offered in-house. Other recovery services are offered, such as life skills training.
  • Level Four, Residential treatment: This is considered a type of transitional housing since it is not a permanent housing option. However, this type of housing is only available during treatment and is not an option for someone who is discharging from rehab.

What is the Risk of Relapse After Rehab?

Research shows that the risk of relapse after treatment is about 50-70%.3 Certain factors increase the risk of relapse, such as:3,4

  • Continuing to be friends or spend time with people who use substances
  • Situations involving other people that create negative emotions, such as marital conflict; research shows relationship issues that leave someone feeling criticized or rejected increase the risk of relapse
  • Negative emotions, such as depression, anxiety, or boredom

Other factors that influence the risk of relapse include:5

  • Severity of addiction
  • Co-occurring mental or medical conditions
  • Each individual’s coping skills, motivation, and support system

Recovering from an addiction requires more than stopping your substance use. The recovery process involves lifestyle changes.6 Transitional housing benefits can help support someone in making the necessary lifestyle changes that will support lasting recovery.

Are Certain Populations More Likely to Benefit from Transitional Housing?

Research shows that sober living environments are beneficial for most people in recovery.1 Certain populations might especially benefit from these residencies, including unhoused people, people who have been incarcerated, or people with co-occurring mental health conditions.7,8

Unhoused Individuals with Substance Use Disorder

People who have experienced homelessness and a substance use disorder may benefit from transitional housing. Current research suggests that there is a link between substance misuse and homelessness.7

It’s estimated that over one-third of unhoused people experience substance misuse.7 The relationship between homelessness and substance misuse is complicated. Substance misuse can cause or be a result of homelessness.7

There is some debate among researchers if it’s better for people struggling with homelessness and substance misuse to have housing first or treatment first.7 Individuals with these co-occurring issues have two transitional housing options. These are:9

  • Housing First Model: Housing is permanent and not dependent on sobriety or attending treatment. Screening and treatment services are offered, or referrals are provided.
  • Linear Approach: This approach requires residents to attend substance misuse treatment before having residency in a transitional living residency.

It isn’t clear which model is better, but it is clear that having stable housing during the recovery process is very important. If you are experiencing homelessness or you have in the past, finding a transitional housing location that is a good fit for you is important for your overall recovery.7

People with Addictions Who Have Been Incarcerated

Researchers discovered that people who have been incarcerated are more likely to struggle with a substance use disorder.1 This can make relapse even riskier because certain substance-related behaviors could lead to more involvement with the criminal justice system.

It can be difficult for people with this history to find stable housing and employment. Transitional housing can be a protective factor and help someone continue making progress toward their recovery and support them in developing life skills necessary to live independently.1

Co-Occurring Mental Health Conditions and Substance Misuse

Often people with substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental health condition.8 If you have more than one mental health condition at a time, you have co-occurring conditions. Common examples of mental health conditions that are common in people with substance misuse are depression, anxiety, or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).8

If these conditions are unmanaged, it can be challenging to live independently. Some treatment programs, called dual diagnosis treatment centers, treat co-occurring mental health conditions. People who were in rehab for substance misuse and other mental health conditions need to continue to maintain their recovery from both conditions.
Transitional housing can offer people a safe, stable, and sober living environment to continue healing.

What are the Transitional Housing Benefits After Treatment?

Transitional housing can make a major difference in the recovery process.1 There are several transitioning housing benefits, such as:10,11,12

  • Structure: Some transitional housing locations have rules related to curfew or attendance at house meetings, as well as other rules. This may be off-putting at first, but the structure can be helpful during the transition between treatment and independent living.
  • Community: One of the benefits of transitional housing after treatment is that you are living in a house with people who understand your situation. A community of like-minded peers can provide you with support and feedback. A supportive community is known to be a helpful and powerful recovery tool.
  • Accountability: Some transitional housing residences have rules regarding sobriety. Residents are held accountable and required to stay substance-free to continue living in some transitional housing programs. If you live in one of these sober living environments, you may be required to complete drug tests. Other forms of accountability include attending 12-step meetings or continuing treatment with outpatient providers like therapists, psychiatrists, or intensive outpatient programs.
  • Sober-free environment: Living in a drug and alcohol-free environment after treatment is important. People who live in a sober environment after treatment are less likely to relapse than people who don’t.
  • Maintain momentum: Discharging from rehab can be overwhelming, and it can feel like the recovery process is ending. This doesn’t have to be the case. Transitional housing can provide a sense of hope and can be a vehicle for continued growth.

What Happens if I Relapse in Transitional Housing?

For some people, relapse may be a part of the recovery process, and this doesn’t mean that they have failed; it simply means that it is an opportunity to learn and grow and to adjust their aftercare plan. That being said, transitional housing requires residents to stay sober. Each house or program will have its own ways of handling a relapse, but they should be able to provide you with support and guidance during this time, even if that involves helping you re-enter a treatment program.

If you would like more info on programs available to you, call 800-963-1579 (Who Answers?) to learn more and get help today.


  1. Polcin, D.L., Korcha, R., Bond, J., Galloway, G. (2010). What did we learn from our study on sober living houses and where do we go from here? Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 42(4), 425-433.
  2. National Association of Recovery Residences. (2011). Standard for Recovery Residences.
  3. Leach, D. & Kranzler, H.R. (2013). An interpersonal model of addiction relapse. Addictive Disorders & Their Treatment, 12(4), 183-192.
  4. Larimer, M.E., Palmer, R.S., & Marlatt, G.A. (1999). Relapse prevention. Alcohol Research and Health, 23(2), 151-160.
  5. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2020). Reducing Relapse Risk.
  6. Melemis, S.M. (2015). Relapse prevention and the five rules of recovery. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 88, 325-332.
  7. Polcin, D.L. (2015). Co-occurring substance abuse and mental health problems among homeless persons: Suggestions for research and practice. Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless, 25, 1-10.
  8. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Co-Occurring Disorders and Other Health Conditions.
  9. Kertesz, S., Crouch, K., Milby, J.B., Cusimano, R., & Schumacher, J.E. (2009). Housing first for homeless persons with active addiction: Are we overreaching?
  10. National Association of Recovery Residences. (2012). A Primer on Recovery Residences: FAQs
  11. Manuel, J., Yuan, Y., Herman, D., Svikis, D., Nicholas, O., Palmer, E., & Deren, S. (2017). Barriers and facilitators to successful transition from long-term residential substance abuse treatment. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 74, 16-22.
  12. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). New NIDA Research Reveals the Power of Social Reinforcers.

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