Recovery housing is the broad term that is used to cover any form of housing for an individual in recovery. Ohio Recovery Housing (http://www.ohiorecoveryhousing.org/resources-update) provides some reliable information on recovery housing; however, The Creed of Recovery has its very own definition for recovery housing developed from years of experience in operating them.
To start with, recovery housing at Creed, unlike typical rental property, must have a higher standard for the criteria that allows a consumer to live there. To determine if individuals met this criteria, they must met with a licensed social worker for a full biopsychosocial assessment to eliminate those in need of a higher level of care such as inpatient detox and/or residential treatment; recovery housing is not treatment but is an important component for many going through recovery. Thus, the person must be appropriate for outpatient services (if they need professional services at all). At Creed, counseling services are delivered in a separate building behind the recovery house. Creed does not believe professional counseling services should be provided inside the recovery house. A recovery house is where people live and should be respected as their home and not a quasi residential treatment facility.
Recovery housing need not be certified but must be accredited. Creed elected to seek accreditation through the Commission of Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) rather than Ohio Recovery Housing (ORH) because CARF also accredits the professional services Creed offers whereas ORH does not. Having accreditation means that the house is ran with a structure that meets high standards, much like an accredited college, and has a higher authority to hold the operators of the house accountable. Also unlike typical rental property, consumers must sign an agreement that they will not bring or use alcohol and/or drugs on the property and if they do, can be immediately removed from the property without any eviction process. Again, unlike typical rental property, to insure the expected standards are met and the property remains drug and alcohol free, Creed staff monitor the living quarters daily with room inspections.
The structure inside the house is a second major concern. The addict in early recovery typically has an idea of how they "should" live, but lacks the insight on how simple choices can impact recovery, be it good or bad downstream consequences. To overcome this deficiency, transition to a better way of life begins at Phase I where the structure and accountability is highly monitored and involves professional counseling along with peer support. Although a person in this phase could be trying to prevent the need for a higher level of care (in-patient), it typically involves a person who has completed detox and residential treatment at an inpatient facility and is a direct transfer from a closely monitored hospital setting For this person, working through levels of care is the primary focus. In Phase II the person has completed intensive outpatient treatment and may be involved in ongoing aftercare while reconnecting with family and work while building a sober support network and stabilizing. In Phase III the person has developed their own daily routine of healthy sober activities and is building long term objectives such as continuing education or long term career goals and developing self-reliance. In Phase IV the person has a fairly good daily routine, is saving money for their own apartment or housing, has stable employment and is enjoying life. It is when the person reaches Phases III and IV that they are appropriate for a "sober house."
A sober house is peer run in a democratic fashion and has no professional monitoring although a person at a sober house may be in off site counseling or aftercare. At Creed we say that our recovery housing program prepares individuals for a sober house. To place someone in a sober house directly out of residential treatment can be very harmful to their recovery.
Sober living refers to a lifestyle centered on recovery and does not signify a geographical location whereas a sober community does. A sober community is reference to a larger recovery housing program that provides for all phases in one community. Developing a sense of community is vital for successful recovery and thus fellowships and self-support groups are highly encouraged.
So how does a novice to the recovery world know how to find an appropriate place to send a loved one? As you can see from the above, there are a multitude of variables. Common sense in these situations is probably the best guide rather than a preset notion of right or wrong in this world of gray. Look for red flags such as how many times the person has failed at this level of care. If your loved one has been in five sober houses in two months that option is clearly not working and a sober house may not be appropriate. Is a full scale biopsychosocial assessment being done at intake? Placing a person appropriately without an assessment is impossible. If your loved one is coming from an in-patient treatment facility, does the recovery housing mandate compliance with the discharge plan? Every accredited treatment facility will develop a treatment plan and the continuation of such documented in discharge instructions. Think of it like going in for a major surgery and being sent home with directions from your surgeon. Following discharge instructions is fundamental to a healthy recovery. Is there 24 hour staff available? Peer run programs are great for those who are appropriate, but direct transfers from a highly structured hospital setting require 24 hour staff supervision. Is the Program Director or CEO accessible? Can you enter the living quarters within reason? Accessibility speaks volumes in having confidence with the facility. Expect some grumblings and complaints from a loved one in a structured program, they are being asked to give up all that feels comfortable. Yet you should have the opportunity to check on the validity of the complaints.
Things to look for in a well structured transitional program would be mandated curfews, itineraries, fellowship attendance, planned sober actives such as rafting or canoeing, and common areas to socialize. Things to avoid include opportunities for isolation, which addicts are compelled to, and lack of accreditation and structure.