The Philosophy of the Working Men’s Residential Program

john halverson, henry ohlhoff house program director

Sixty years ago, the Henry Ohlhoff House was created as a house where men with addictions could live together, support each other, and work to put themselves on the path to a new life. Requiring men to work outside the House meant that men would leave the house every day, encounter the day-to-day demands of regular life, then come back to a safe home where they could talk about their successes and failures of the day. What these men find is that, over time, regular life without their drug of choice is not only possible, but satisfying and fun.

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Today, the program has changed some. An evidenced-based clinical component of group work, psycho-education, and individual one-on-one counseling has been added to a client’s experience. Despite these changes, however, the underlying philosophy of men living together is the same. In 2019, we call this the Social Model, but in 1958 it was simply the creation of a sympathetic brotherhood.

The Social Model is the underlying ‘magic’ that impacts clients most. The act of living in a community, practicing new social and personal skills, and learning through experience helps clients acquire healthy habits to overwrite the old behaviors that facilitated their addiction. It is a model I have been privileged to see change lives.

The pace of life today is faster, with seemingly endless demands for one’s time. Thus, it is essential that we offer a 3-month working men’s residential program in order to accommodate for more individual constraints. If a person does not walk through our door for fear of committing to 6-months, we have no chance of helping him.

Regardless of the program, everyone participates in the culture of the House. Men in the three-month program have chores and responsibilities, are held accountable by their peers, and participate in House rules and traditions. Fully immersed in the Henry Ohlhoff House, men receive the same benefits (albeit for three fewer months) as those in the six-month program.

Still, the full six month program offers the greatest chance at a life of self-reliance free from substance use. Research has shown that the longer an individual is in treatment, the greater the chance of success in long-term recovery. Participants in the three-month program have the option to transition into the six-month program.

It is our hope that men with addictions that feel they cannot commit to the House for a full six-months, will see the three-month program as an opportunity to access the benefits of living in the Henry Ohlhoff House.


John Halverson, Henry Ohlhoff House Program Director