An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is a type of treatment program that helps address addictions, depression, eating disorders, and other forms of dependencies that do not require detoxification or round-the-clock care or supervision. IOP treatments require patients to visit a treatment center several days per week for a few hours per session. Unlike inpatient treatments, IOP does not require patients to reside at the treatment facility. But it is generally more time-intensive than standard outpatient treatments.

In certain cases, IOPs are used in conjunction with inpatient treatments as a way of helping recovering patients transition more smoothly back into their families and communities after rehab. This treatment program is designed to establish support systems, relapse management and provide coping strategies while patients focus on life skills required to continue being successful in their recovery. IOP treatments are beneficial to those in early substance abuse recovery.

The Treatment Elements of IOP

Services provided by intensive outpatient programs include:

  • Group therapy and meetings
  • Drug testing services
  • Individual counseling and  therapy sessions
  • Employment assistance
  • Treatments for co-occurring disorders
  • Educational opportunities
  • Mental health treatments
  • Pharmacological treatments
  • Relapse management
  • Participation in 12-step support groups

Types of therapies offered may vary from one treatment center to another, so it is best to check with each facility beforehand. While some facilities provide a structured treatment plan, others can be more flexible by giving you the choice of how many sessions you wish to attend per week and when.

That being said, the total duration of treatment you attend per week is a crucial factor that determines your short-term and long-term recovery.

How Long Does IOP Treatment Last?

IOP treatments generally last for around 90 days. But the treatment period and level of care can vary depending on individual requirements and the severity of a patient’s substance use disorder.

IOP treatments take place more often than standard outpatient treatments. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), IOP requires a minimum of 9 to 20 hours of participation per week.

The main element of most IOP treatment is group therapy. Group therapy allows patients to improve on:

  • Communication
  • Socializing skills without the use of addictive substances
  • Provide a sense of community and companionship
  • Provide discipline and structure

What is IOP Treatment

The Benefits of IOP Treatment 

The benefits of IOP treatment in comparison to outpatient and inpatient programs include:

  • Increased hours of treatment than outpatient programs.
  • Flexible hours and easy access allow patients to maintain their daily responsibilities and obligations.
  • Cost less than residential or inpatient treatment programs.
  • Access to individualized treatment programs.
  • Real-world opportunities to apply newly learned coping skills.
  • Increased opportunities to establish community-based support.
  • Enhanced treatment programs to prevent relapses.
  • A higher level of care than outpatient programs.
  • Provides a higher level of privacy.
  • Does not require you to be away from family, school, or work for a long time.

The Goal of IOP Treatment

The primary goal of all IOP treatment is to help patients overcome substance abuse and mental health conditions. This is achieved by helping recovering patients modify their behavior through various elements of treatment. Other goals of IOPs include:

  • Maintaining abstinence
  • Addressing psychosocial issues
  • Meeting probation requirements
  • Addressing housing  and employment issues
  • Developing a support system
  • Achieving behavioral change
  • Improving problem-solving skills

IOP Treatment vs. Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

Although PHP may look similar to intensive outpatient treatment, major distinctions make PHP more suitable for certain clients than others. The difference between an IOP and a PHP is subtle but important. PHP treatment involves more treatment time and is similar in intensity to residential rehab services. It is a hybrid between an inpatient level of care and an IOP treatment.

PHP is a perfect transitional program for patients who just completed their residential or inpatient treatment. Depending on the patient’s need and requirements, PHP generally involves an average of 5 visits per week, with sessions varying from 4 to 8 hours on average. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), PHPs require a minimum of 20 hours of treatment per week.

Some people prefer the PHP treatment over the IOP treatment due to its similarity in rigor, structure, and accountability to that of inpatient care.

Choosing the Right IOP

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) outlines certain criteria for an effective substance abuse treatment program. If you’re searching for an intensive outpatient program, take the time to ensure that the center you choose meets the following requirements:

  • Easy access to treatments.
  • Each client should receive individualized treatment plans based on each person’s requirements and needs.
  • Medical care must be provided as and when required.
  • Must provide an effective treatment program that addresses the multiple needs of a client.
  • Provide access to support groups.
  • Must provide treatments for an adequate amount of time.

With the variety of treatment programs available all across the US, overcoming substance abuse is now achievable more than ever. If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder, consult your doctor or an addiction specialist near you. Regardless of the severity of your addiction or co-occurring disorder, there is help available.

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