The term “halfway house” has a negative connotation for many people. “Halfway house” can conjure images of run down homes in bad neighborhoods with heavily tattooed convicts just out of prison. Such halfway houses do exist and, despite the negative perception, serve an important part in our communities to help prevent criminal recidivism. But these are only one type of home that are “halfway” between institutionalization and independent living.
“Sober living” homes are another type of halfway house – halfway between inpatient substance abuse disorder treatment and living independently in recovery. Sober living homes provide a critical step-down in oversight from the highly protective inpatient treatment environment. Going from the cocoon of inpatient directly to total freedom of independent living is an extreme shift that often leads to relapse. Staying in a sober living halfway house allows a person to establish their recovery in the real world while continuing to have some oversight and accountability.
Likewise “supportive living” homes are halfway houses that provide a transition from primary care treatment for a variety of issues and independent living. Mental health disorders, process addictions such as sex, love, gambling, and trauma related issues often require inpatient treatment. As with treatment for substance abuse disorder, the shift directly from inpatient treatment for these issues to independent living is extreme and risky. Supportive living halfway homes provide a safe place to practice living in healing and recovery.
“Halfway house” should not be a demeaning term because halfway houses are positive things. We want people seeking help and we want that help to be as effective as possible. Extreme shifts are what lead to recidivism in anything we are trying to avoid – whether criminal activity, addiction, or poor mental health. Halfway houses provide a transition point to gradually re-enter life and avoid those extreme shifts. Halfway houses are a critical part of healing and recovery in our society.