Recovery is hard work, and if you’re considering joining a sober living community, carefully weighing your options and making the choice that’s right for your unique needs is essential for getting the most out of your experience.

Whether to choose co-ed or gender-specific sober living is a common consideration, and it’s an important one. Spending time in a sober living home makes the transition from intensive treatment to regular life more successful and improves the outcome of treatment, but choosing the right program is essential for success.1

The Benefits of Co-Ed and Gender-Specific Sober Living

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration stresses that women and men have different needs in treatment and recovery.2 Women generally value trust and warmth in a therapeutic relationship, while men prefer a less personal and more utilitarian approach to solving problems. Women have more issues with anxiety and depression, while men have more issues with anger and control. Despite these fundamental differences, co-ed sober living programs can be beneficial.

Although co-ed programs house both men and women, romantic relationships between residents are never allowed. Experts across the board recommend not starting a romantic relationship of any kind for at least a year once you’re in recovery. But for those who can avoid the obvious pitfalls of co-ed sober living, this type of environment can be valuable and enriching.

The benefits of co-ed sober living include:

  • The opportunity to practice social skills with both men and women.
  • The ability to get a different gender perspective on important issues that are relevant to your recovery.
  • Having the bond and friendship of a “big brother” or “big sister” as part of your support system.
  • The opportunity to practice keeping your focus on recovery despite the inevitable distractions the opposite sex can represent.

Gender-specific sober living, on the other hand, helps to take romance out of the equation. The entire household is of one gender, which can promote a more relaxed and emotionally stable living environment.

Benefits of gender-specific sober living include:

  • The opportunity to focus on recovery without having to worry about the inevitable distractions of a co-ed living situation.
  • The chance to develop close familial relationships with other members of your gender without the subtle influences of the other gender.
  • The ability to talk openly about unique issues that face you as a man or a woman.
  • Programming that’s focused on gender-specific needs.

When Gender-Specific Sober Living is the Best Choice for Women

For some women, a gender-specific program is essential for success. Women who have feelings of powerlessness and helplessness, low self-esteem or a lack of assertiveness tend to do better in gender-specific homes, where they don’t feel like they have to compete against more dominant men.

Likewise, it’s important for women who have a history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse to choose a gender-specific program where they’re likely to feel safer and be able to talk freely and comfortably about their experiences.

When Gender-Specific Sober Living is the Best Choice for Men

Men and women communicate differently, and men often have difficulties expressing emotions and sharing difficult experiences. Men who aren’t comfortable opening up in the presence of women should choose a gender-specific program. Likewise, men who are easily distracted by or quickly attracted to members of the opposite sex tend to be more successful in a men’s-only program.

Men who have a history of violence or physically, emotionally or sexually abusing women should choose a gender-specific sober living home.

An Addiction Counselor Can Help You Decide

An addiction counselor or other mental health professional can help you choose the right sober living home for your needs and preferences. Whether you choose a co-ed or gender-specific sober living program, the most important thing is to focus on your ongoing recovery and develop healthy, mutually respectful relationships with all of your sober living housemates.