When transitioning from a drug rehab or addiction center back into the outside world, you may consider sober living homes. These facilities allow you to coexist with other sober individuals.
You will continue aftercare for your substance use disorder (SUD) while maintaining a job and following the sober home’s rules. If you or a loved one is considering a sober living home, it is important to understand how and why these facilities work.
Why Do Sober Living Homes Work?
Recovery professionals have long observed the effectiveness of sober living homes. They provide recovery housing for you when coming out of detox or rehabilitation. You can transition slowly back into everyday living alongside others in recovery. Plus, they provide a measure of freedom matched with structure and accountability.
The specific structure depends on the type of sober living, though most houses function with a built-in system of operant conditioning. This makes sober living homes an extremely effective tool for starting a life dedicated to recovery.
How Sober Homes Encourage Lasting Sobriety
Sobriety can be hard to maintain, even after completing treatment. Operant conditioning is a term coined in 1937 by behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner. Though it is not always an intentional mechanism, sober living homes provide a system of operant conditioning, also called Skinnerian conditioning, that encourages continued sobriety.
Operant conditioning functions on the understanding that desired behaviors are solidified by reinforcement, whereas undesirable behaviors will discontinue from lack of reinforcement or through punishment. Though there are complex factors that influence SUD, operant conditioning in sober living houses can help with maintaining sobriety.
Operant conditioning uses specific terms. These terms are:
- Positive reinforcement: Providing the desired stimulus after a specific positive behavior is exhibited
- Negative reinforcement: Removing an unwanted stimulus after a specific positive behavior is exhibited
- Positive punishment: Introducing an unwanted stimulus after a specific negative behavior is exhibited
- Negative punishment: Taking away the desired stimulus when a specific negative behavior is exhibited
- Continuous reinforcement schedule: A reinforcement schedule where a specific positive behavior is reinforced with the desired stimulus every time it is exhibited
- Intermittent reinforcement schedule: A reinforcement schedule where a specific positive behavior is reinforced with the desired stimulus occasionally.
Positive Reinforcement in Sober Living Homes
Sober living homes provide a variety of positive reinforcers for maintaining sobriety. Every day that you do not drink or use, you receive desired stimuli. This reinforces your choice not to engage with substances. Positive reinforcement is particularly useful in addiction treatment.
Many positive reinforcements in sober living homes are on a continuous reinforcement schedule. Every day you stay sober, you gain these benefits. You receive a stable, inexpensive living environment that usually does not limit your length of stay. You are given sobriety support from your housemates. You can reacquire and hold a driver’s license.
Internally, pride can be a positive reinforcer every time you make the conscious choice not to engage with substances.
Sober living homes may also utilize an organic intermittent reinforcement schedule to encourage prolonged sobriety. For many patients, after 30 to 90 days of sobriety, their family starts coming around again. It is not consistent or every day, but in most cases, it is the desired outcome. Other intermittent reinforcers include cell phone privileges on certain days or times of the week, car privileges when available, and visitor privileges. Additionally, hitting milestones of sobriety can serve as intermittent positive reinforcement.
Negative Reinforcement in Sober Living Homes
Negative reinforcement in sober living homes generally functions on a continuous reinforcement schedule. Every day that you do not drink or use, undesirable stimuli are removed. You may feel drug cravings lessen and see relational issues dissipate.
As you sublimate cravings with exercise or meditation, both of which are encouraged in sober living homes, stress and negative emotions dissipate. Your daily sobriety can mitigate legal consequences and/or jail time. Your consistent schedule removes the instability of your time.
The removal of these undesired stimuli encourages continued sobriety. While intermittent reinforcement schedules are typically more effective for maintaining desired behaviors long-term, the continuous removal of these negative stimuli may be equally effective for you if you have just come out of treatment. It provides consistency, where life before treatment is often chaotic and unpredictable.
Punishment in Sober Living Homes
Sober living homes often have a “three strikes” system. You must follow their rules to stay, but they typically will not kick you out without warning—a “strike”—first. In place of immediate termination, they use positive and negative punishments. The punishments may vary based on the severity of rule-breaking.
An example of positive punishment in sober facilities is extra chores. You might be given community service hours to complete within a set period. Lastly, you may be assigned more 12-Step or counseling meetings to attend.
Negative punishment in facilities is the removal of privileges. You could have an earlier curfew or less time with personal electronics. If the house has an outing planned together, they could disallow you from attending. The house manager may remove your access to a phone or car. Over time, you can earn all of these privileges back if you follow all the rules and guidelines.
While all of these punishments can exist, it is important to remember that reinforcement is usually more common in sober living homes than punishment. These facilities strive to allow you autonomy over your decisions.
Find Your Sober Home With SoberLivingNearYou.com
Sober living homes are one of the most effective transitionary tools for people coming out of residential treatment for a SUD. For any of this to work though, you must go through detox and treatment first. If you or your loved one is preparing to enter treatment for SUD, you can find them a sober home easily with SoberLivingNearYou.com.
The internet’s largest directory of sober living homes, our site will help you find a sober living house within your budget and in a location you desire. There are thousands of carefully chosen listings on our site and browsing them is as easy as signing up and logging on.
Discover the benefits of sober living today with SoberLivingNearYou.com!