Sober Living in Universities – Sober Dorms & Collegiate Recovery Programs

Published on July 12th, 2016

Sober living in college is no easy feat. “Pregaming,” as it is called on campus (binge-drinking before social or sporting events), is rampant, and it can start as early as 8 a.m. on a football Saturday. The parties take place on the porches and lawns of fraternities, the roofs and balconies of student houses, and clandestinely in dormitories – everywhere but inside the academic buildings.

sober-livingWhile they vary in size from small student-run organizations to large embedded university programs, the aim of sober living on campus is the same: to help students stay sober while also thriving in college.

Rates of substance-use disorders triple from 5.2 percent in adolescence to 17.3 percent in early adulthood, according to 2013 data from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration . It thus makes this developmental stage critical to young people’s future. Among Americans seeking treatment for substance abuse, no demographic is growing faster than students age 18 to 24. During the decade ended in 2009, treatment providers say the number of students in that age range seeking help more than doubled, compared with a 9% jump in the 25-and-older category, according to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration .

Sober Living

A decade ago, most college students with substance abuse problems had little help besides student health services and local Alcoholics Anonymous chapters. That’s changing. Today, roughly 150 colleges and universities in 49 states offer recovery programs, providing students with counseling, community and activities on campus. As recently as 2012, there were only 35 such programs. Many of the newer programs got their start with the help of $10,000 seed grants from the Stacie Mathewson Foundation , a Reno, Nevada-based nonprofit that tries to raise addiction awareness.

But collegiate recovery programs are not treatment, addiction experts say. Instead, they are designed to support students who have already been through treatment and are looking to live and study with like-minded students.

Successful recovery programs have a space that students can call their own with a dedicated counselor who can work closely with the college to coordinate activities. Collegiate recovery programs also offer retreats, academic courses in recovery, leadership workshops, health and wellness activities, movie nights, sober tailgating and recovery conferences.
The idea is to create a culture and a community for students who are already committed to staying sober.

Components of sober living include:

  • Academic Services – Students will receive help and support through the transition process from a drug treatment program back to school. Academic tutors will provide help and support throughout the student’s college career.
  • Recovery Program – Offers continued support for finding sober entertainment, dealing with peer pressure, and how to handle social situations through workshops and group.
  • Crisis Management – This offers help and support for mental health issues or medical issues that arise with the student. Having someone that can refer to medical professionals that have an understanding of addiction is helpful.
  • Relapse Prevention – Living in a sober environment gives 24/7 support for maintaining abstinence from drugs and alcohol.

A great resource for sober living on college campus’s is A.R.H.E. (Association of Recovery in Higher Education):

The Association of Recovery in Higher Education is the only association exclusively representing collegiate recovery programs (CRPs) and communities (CRCs), the faculty and staff who support them, and the students who represent them. The Association of Recovery in Higher Education provides the education, resources and community connection needed to help change the trajectory of recovering student’s lives. ARHE are a network of professionals, administrators, faculty, staff, students, parents and policy makers. The focus of Association of Recovery In Higher Education is to serve as a national support for propagating and supporting the vision of collegiate recovery programs. ARHE offer time-tested, research and experience based modeling for fostering and supporting those in recovery who seek to excel in higher education. ARHE is the central authority on the modeling and tailoring of CRP’s to best integrate them into the institution, and ultimately to best serve students in recovery.

Below is a list of some universities which have options of sober housing and understand the importance of this need for college students in recovery:

“No One Should Have to Choose Between Recovery and Education”

This is the mantra of Life of Purpose Treatment. Life of Purpose is the first substance misuse treatment facility on a university campus in the United States.

The Life of Purpose treatment methodology offers academically-focused treatment to clients who have experienced an educational or vocational disruption as the result of substance use. College campuses have been termed “abstinence-hostile” environments due to the culture of substance abuse on campus. It is estimated that 22.9% of the 5.4 million college students in the U.S. meet the criteria for a substance use disorder, per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Collegiate Recovery Programs

Collegiate Recovery Programs (CRP’s) strive to create a campus-based, “recovery-friendly” space and a supportive social community to enhance educational opportunities while supporting continued recovery and emotional growth. Consequently, each Life of Purpose client referred to an established CRP will have a support structure for the entire duration of his or her collegiate experience. The entire process can take up to four or five years if a student is entering college for the first time. Most the community support services are incorporated into the student’s tuition and are provided by the CRP’s themselves. This long term extended care is consequently much more economically viable for families then an endless cycle of treatment episodes. Ultimately, referring to CRP’s allows the clients at clients at The Life of Purpose to extend their participation in a continuing care program without having to postpone or surrender achieving their educational goals.

Life of Purpose

Life of Purpose began in Boca Raton in 2013 and has since grown to encompass Murfreesboro Life of Purpose at Middle Tennessee State University and Denton Life of Purpose at The University of North Texas (UNT). All campus’ offer On Campus 90 day programs with at least 9 clinical hours per week, Individual and Group Therapy, Academically-Focused Case Management, Relapse Prevention and Individualized Treatment Plans. Florida’s Life of Purpose offers a Primary Residential/Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), an Academically Focused Aftercare Program™, and transitional housing options. Several extended care options are also available.

Experts’ calls for campus-based services for recovering students have thus far been largely unheeded. The U.S. Department of Education noted that “the education system’s role as part of the nation’s recovery and relapse prevention support system is still emerging’. Preventing students relapse is especially critical as SUDs are associated with college attrition. Thus, youths’ developmental stage, and the unique challenges of college, both underline the need for a recovery support infrastructure on campus. This includes the need for a recovery supportive social environment that fosters social connectedness, given the influence of peers on youths’ substance use. These factors fueled a rapid growth of CRPs, from 4 in 2000 to 29 in 2012 with 5 to 7 starting annually. While CPRs vary in orientation, budget, and in the breadth of services, most are peer-driven, are 12-step based, and provide onsite support groups, sober events, and seminars on SUD and recovery. The need for CRPs is bolstered by many sites’ reporting that demand surpasses capacity.

Upcoming CRP’s

Although finding treatment on campus is very limited, many Institutions of Higher Education have a collegiate recovery program. The main point of a CRP is that it focuses on student support in higher education.

Below is a list of the the CRP’s you can expect to see in 2017.

  • Case Western Reserve University
  • CSW University of Utah
  • Jacksonville State University
  • Louisiana State University
  • Lorain County Community College
  • Loyola Marymouth University
  • North Carolina A&T State University and Technical State University
  • Northern State University
  • Rutgers University
  • Slipper Rock University
  • Southern Methodist University
  • University of Central Florida
  • University of Connecticut
  • University of Minnesota – Rochester
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of North Carolina – Greensboro
  • University of North Carolina at Wilmington
  • University of North Texas
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Southern Maine
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • University of Texas Rio Grande
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • West Virginia University
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