• Anthony Ciarrocchi

Sober Living Environment VS Inpatient Treatment: What's The Difference?

It is not uncommon for someone unfamiliar with the recovery process to believe that sober living is the same as an inpatient treatment center. While the end goal of sustained abstinence from all substances is typically the same, the process is much different regarding sober living vs. inpatient treatment.


This article will discuss similarities, differences, and benefits between inpatient treatment and sober living environments. Both substantially impact the lives of many recovering addicts and alcoholics. These two sides of the recovery process are crucial to those who utilize the benefits and resources provided. Inpatient treatment can be viewed as the first step in this process, while sober living can be considered step two in the lifelong recovery process. Though there are differences in the process, the goal remains the same. The purpose of sober living or inpatient rehab is to promote healthy actions and lifestyles to combat the habits developed during active addiction.



sober living vs rehab
Source: LA Valley Recovery

What Is Inpatient Treatment?

Inpatient treatment is a medical and clinically supervised process in which those suffering from addiction are safely treated for withdrawal symptoms. During the inpatient treatment process, an individual will be exposed to different methods of treating their addiction. These methods include individual therapy, group therapy, individual psychiatry appointments, 12-Step programs, and other useful methods that have proven effective for those recovering from addiction—a few steps to take to admit to an inpatient treatment center.


1. Research different treatment centers to find a location that fits your needs.

2. Reach out to the admissions to begin the verification and approval process.

3. Participate in a pre-screen to collect the necessary information.

4. Set up admission dates and times with the facilities admissions team.


After completing these steps, it is time to prepare for a life-changing experience. Staying open-minded to the different possibilities and benefits of committing to the process.




What Is A Sober Living Environment?

Sober living environments are housing facilities that provide a safe, secure, and structured environment for those looking to live a sober lifestyle. These living environments usually serve as transitional housing for those new in their recovery. Unlike a residential inpatient treatment center, sober living residents have much more independence and freedom. Most sober living facilities will encourage residents to complete detoxification and residential treatment programs before moving into sober living.


Sober living environments provide a structured and safe environment for addicts and alcoholics to begin to incorporate things like work schedules and other responsibilities back into the lives of the residents at home. Typically, sober living facilities will look like any other residential home. Unlike staying at your residence, staff members are on-site to manage the day-to-day operations and needs of the facility and the residents.


Submitting random urinalysis testing, BAC testing, and searches of the rooms are all common practices to ensure the safety of residents while upholding an environment free of all drugs and alcohol.



sober living vs drug rehab
Source: LA Valley Recovery

What Are The Costs And Differences?

Cost is typically the most significant difference when looking at inpatient treatment VS. sober living. While each state varies in average monthly price range, inpatient treatment will almost always be more expensive by a long shot.


In Los Angeles, California, for example:

The Average Residential Inpatient Monthly Cost (Cash Pay): is $25,000-$50,000

The Average Sober Living Monthy Cost: $1,000-$3,000


These numbers will vary depending on the location of the facilities, amenities provided, and the amount of personal space available.


Inpatient Treatment Centers and Sober Living Environments that offer single-bed rooms will be at the higher end of the scale. Though the average costs of both are not cheap, inpatient facilities and sober living homes work with their clients to find a financial middle ground. Some facilities also offer scholarship programs that allow a set number of individuals per year to attend their program at no cost.


Now, let's discuss the differences that cause the vast price differentials.




While treatment centers make their facilities as home-like as possible, these medical facilities monitor their patients' well-being 24/7. Several requirements must be met to receive the required accreditation. Inpatient treatment centers require accreditation from the state as well as The Joint Commission (TJC), Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), or a combination of both. These accreditations are required to ensure the facilities operate with the proper medical, psychiatric, health and safety levels, and other standards.


Inpatient treatment requires 24/7 monitoring and care for clients, with detox being the highest level of care at a primary substance abuse treatment center. Once detox has been completed, the next step is the Residential Level of Care. This level of care will begin by adding group and individual therapy sessions focused on target issue topics. Lastly, Partial Hospitalization Programs offer the lowest level of inpatient care.


Figuring out what type of treatment center is right for you is very important. Some facilities offer different services. Dedicated admissions and clinical team members provide information about each treatment center, so make some calls and find the right place for you.

Some examples of treatment centers are:



sober living and inpatient rehab center
Source: LA Valley Recovery

Primary Substance Abuse Treatment Center: Facilities with a primary hyper-focus on substance abuse treatment.

Primary Mental Health Treatment Center: Facilities that focus primarily on mental health disorders.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center: Some facilities offer dual-diagnosis treatment options, which include substance abuse coupled with things such as Anxiety, Depression, Bipolar, PTSD, OCD, and many more.


Sober Living Environments are transitional housing locations for those struggling with addiction and alcoholism. These are great locations for someone finishing treatment and new to the recovery process. While there are requirements and rules to be followed, sober living homes are much less structured than inpatient treatment centers which provide 24/7 supervision. This is also the biggest reason that the price differential is so vast. Many sober living homes will have residents participate in 12-step programs, weekly house meetings, and occasional special outings. Ethical and responsible sober living environments will conduct drug screens and random BAC tests to ensure the safety of its staff and residents.

During this transitional period, the goal is to integrate into a healthy and regular routine. Finding a job, finding friends in recovery, and working on yourself will be the goal.


If you ask yourself, “What is the difference between a sober living home and an inpatient treatment center?” this article should have helped answer that question. If you are struggling with substance abuse, mental health disorders, or a combination of both, the two-step process in residential inpatient treatment followed by a transitional stay at a sober living can be an excellent choice. With these options, you will be well on your way to a life in recovery.


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