Transitional Living: Why it Works
Transitional living is a concept which has long been well-established in fostering readjustment to society; as such, it has become quite common among groups of people facing a diverse range of challenges. Transitional living has seen use among individuals with a wide range of mental health concerns, as well as for those coming out of long-term incarceration. From a certain point of view, it might be argued that there are transitional living arrangements available for people coming out of poverty, and for those who are emerging from under the burden of severe debt. Regarding addiction recovery, however, the idea has been relatively slow to catch on.
Many recovery centers still focus on rehabilitation through a standard or long-term inpatient program. While such programs are often effective, and mindfulness-based initiatives have led to an incredible drop in relapse rates, the inpatient option isn’t always the best option. The individual needs of people suffering from alcohol addiction, or other substance abuse disorders, require that other possibilities be presented for the recovery process.
How is Transitional Living Different from Inpatient Treatment?
Transitional living, as employed in the addiction recovery process, typically involves two distinct phases. The first phase is residential, taking place in a sober living environment (or SLE). This initial phase bears some similarities to inpatient treatment, particularly during the initial adjustment period. At West Coast Recovery Centers, this period lasts an average of two weeks. Following this initial, trust-building phase, during which clients are accompanied by staff 24/7 and permitted no contact with the outside world, the differences between inpatient treatment and transitional living become more apparent.
Clients are gradually provided with the tools and the social opportunities they will need, if they are to successfully reintegrate with society after the conclusion of the recovery process. Chores, including cooking, cleaning, and laundry, are the responsibility of the SLE residents. Following the trust-building phase, a client’s movements are less restricted. They may run errands, or attend community events and support groups, for which transportation may be arranged. Friends and family may visit, or may be visited, with transportation available as needed. Staff is maintained, around the clock, to tend to everyone’s needs, should any unexpected challenges present themselves. Sobriety is strictly enforced, with random urinalysis and twice-daily breathalyzer tests. After 45 days of sobriety, a client will normally receive access to their private vehicle.
Following the conclusion of SLE, an intensive outpatient program (IOP) picks up where it left off. The client has regularly scheduled appointments, which include scheduled UA. The overall process is slightly more restrictive than a traditional outpatient program, but does not approach the level of direct control that is typically involved in inpatient therapy. Again, staff are available 24/7 to provide assistance in accordance with an individual’s needs, including assistance with errands, transportation (if required), and counseling (WCRC makes the full range of its treatment modalities available, as per individual recovery plans). The client gradually resumes the full extent of responsibility over their day-to-day life, with the presence of an as-needed support system never being taken away—or reliant upon a part-time staff.
What Makes Transitional Living a Viable Alternative to Inpatient Treatment?
Frequently, an inpatient center offers minimal staffing, impersonal relationships, and the presence of an on-site housing manager in case of emergencies. This does not entail full, 24/7 support, except in implicitly dire straits. While well-intended, this kind of staffing—for someone requiring more consistent support—can reinforce new limiting beliefs. For example, an inconveniently timed emergency might impress itself on the mind of a recovering addict as a personal failure.
Another benefit of the transitional living approach is that of trust: a professional, two-way therapeutic relationship between the clients and the staff. The same staff members are available to provide support and assistance, to the same clients, throughout the recovery process. Even following a client’s transition into the intensive outpatient treatment phase, the same staff members are available to provide them with help readjusting. These staff communicate regularly with clinical personnel, and are actively updated as to the needs of the clients under their care.
The last major difference between inpatient treatment and transitional living is the reduction of stress associated with feelings of deprivation, confinement, and responsibility. Historically viewed as a regrettable but necessary part of the overall process, these stress factors still contribute undeniably to some of the high relapse rate involved in the traditional approach to addiction recovery. In other transitional settings, such as those provided to people who are recovering from other mental health concerns, the resumption of community interaction and personal responsibility is staggered—a gradual buildup to that which is inherent to a normal lifestyle. Those who are recovering from addiction deserve the same chance at a successful completion to their own treatment cycles.
More About Transitional Living for Addiction Recovery
The following resources may provide additional useful information. These pages are not affiliated with West Coast Recovery Centers, and some of their contents may not be directly relevant to the subject at hand. Some information may only apply in certain cases, or its usefulness may be dependent upon the specific factors involved in a given situation. Our hope is to provide ample “food for thought” in reaching an informed decision about what path is best, for yourself or your loved ones.
- Transition to a New Life of Sobriety and Confidence (Addiction Campuses)
- Lifestyle Transition from Addiction to Sobriety (Orchid Women’s Recovery Center)
- New Addiction Recovery Support Institutions (Journal of Groups in Addiction & Recovery)