What's An Intensive Outpatient Program?

Understanding the Intensive Outpatient Program

An intensive outpatient program (or “IOP”) is designed to provide people the freedom to live off-site and still attend work or school while receiving addiction services.

While some people use an IOP as their primary type of care, others may transition to an intensive outpatient program after completing a more intensive inpatient program so that they can continue to build their coping skills and decrease their risk of relapse. Still others may require monitored detoxification and will transition to using an intensive outpatient services after going through detox.

The Difference Between Inpatient and Intensive Outpatient Programs

The biggest difference is that inpatient or residential rehab programs require that you live at the facility, while outpatient services allow you to return home when your treatment sessions are completed. This is one of the ways that intensive outpatient programs differ from dedicated inpatient programs. Inpatient programs can last 30, 60, or 90 days, and even longer if necessary. These programs can be a significant commitment if you have other responsibilities.

However, people attending intensive outpatient programs can schedule treatment when it works best for them. However, intensive outpatient programs typically meet at least 3 days a week, for 2-4 hours each day.

However, people attending IOPs offer similar services to inpatient programs, such as individual, group, and family therapy, and are often just as effective. Consequently, intensive outpatient programs are a beneficial alternative to residential treatment when the person can’t afford to neglect home, school, or work obligations.







Intensive Outpatient Services

Intensive outpatient programs for substance abuse offer many of the same services that dedicated inpatient programs do without you having to take time off of work or school and spend time away from family. Programs use a group counseling approach that helps to negate the high cost of individual therapy while building on important skills.

Upon entering an intensive outpatient program, you will be assigned a treatment team. The team will work with you to create a treatment plan based on your intake evaluation and individual needs. IOP services are greatly focused on relapse prevention and developing healthy coping skills.

Below are some common services offered in IOPs:

  • Group counseling: IOPs rely heavily on group therapy to enhance sober behaviors, develop communication skills, introduce structure, and provide guidance. 2 Groups can focus on different aspects of recovery, such as addiction education, relapse prevention, stress management, coping skills, life skills, interpersonal process, and support.
  • Family therapy: These groups educate the family on the consequences of substance addiction on relationships and help to mend broken relationships between the user and his or her family members.
  • Individual therapy: Individual therapy isn’t typically the primary form of treatment in intensive outpatient programs, but it is often used as an adjunct service. The therapist’s aim isn’t to uncover underlying issues that influence drug or alcohol abuse, but rather to rectify maladaptive behaviors.
  • Medication management: When combined with therapy and psychosocial support, medication can be effective in promoting abstinent behavior by decreasing cravings, blocking the desired effects of substances, or treating mental health problems that contribute to drug or alcohol abuse. Medication can also be prescribed to treat any physical ailments caused by addiction.
  • Detoxification: Some intensive outpatient programs may offer detoxification services for those who aren’t at risk for experiencing severe and dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Other programs may refer you elsewhere for detox before you are admitted to the program.
  • Matrix Model: This therapeutic intervention is used to treat an addiction to stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamine. The therapist, who acts as both a coach and a teacher, creates an empowering and encouraging environment and promotes high self-esteem and self-regard. Some treatment approaches include family education groups, skills groups, relapse prevention groups, urine tests, social support groups, drug education, self-help, relapse analysis, and 12-step programs.






Length of Treatment

Intensive outpatient programs vary in length and those seeking treatment need to assess their capabilities honestly. Treatment may range anywhere from 12 to 16 weeks. After that, the recovery process includes a maintenance phase such as sober living which could last for months. Studies have proven conclusively that the longer an individual is in treatment, the higher their probability of success.

Ideally, people attend an intensive outpatient program for 3-5 times per week with a required minimum of 9 hours of treatment per week.

Who Should Participate in an Intensive Outpatient Program?

An intensive outpatient program isn’t right for everyone. In general, factors that make someone a good fit for an IOP include:

  • Strong support system.
  • Stable home life.
  • Good physical and mental health.
  • Not previously engaged in an IOP.
  • Low risk of relapse when returning home.
  • Comfortable in a group setting.

Costs of Treatment

Costs of intensive outpatient programs vary wildly. Much of this depends on the location, the treatment curriculum and associated services. Generally speaking, it’s far less than inpatient treatment for obvious reasons. The good news is that nationwide, intensive outpatient programs are covered by almost every major insurance carrier.

This makes it affordable and attainable for virtually anyone seeking treatment for addiction.