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What is an Intensive Outpatient Program?

Today there are thousands of addiction treatment centers across the United States, each offering various types of addiction treatment programs. Depending on the program, you may find inpatient residential rehab programs, outpatient programs, or intensive outpatient programs. Each of these facilities provides differing types of treatment, and depending on your treatment needs, one may be significantly more successful in achieving your sobriety goals than others. 

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What Exactly is an Intensive Outpatient Program?

Intensive outpatient treatment differs from inpatient residential treatment in that outpatient programs allow you to remain at home throughout the course of your treatment. While residential addiction treatment requires you to stay on-site at the facility throughout the duration of your treatment program, intensive outpatient programs provide the same level of addiction treatment services without the “on-site” requirement. Intensive outpatient programs are often an excellent stepping-stone for those who’ve completed an inpatient residential program but are not ready yet to integrate back into their home environment without continued support.  Intensive outpatient programs are also an excellent option for those considered to have a “mild” addiction, minimal co-occurring mental health concerns, and a safe and stable support structure at home (or outside the treatment environment). 

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What Are the Benefits of Intensive Outpatient Programs?

Now that you know what is IOP treatment, let’s talk about the benefits. As mentioned previously, the most significant benefit of intensive outpatient programs is the ability to remain at home while still receiving essential addiction treatment. Intensive outpatient programs generally provide a similar level of treatment services when compared to inpatient residential programs. Another benefit to intensive outpatient programs, when compared to inpatient residential programs, is cost. Inpatient programs provide care on a 24/7 basis. While on-site, patients receive medical, nutritional, and psychological support. Due to the “residential” nature of the program, these facilities are required to provide food, medications, activities, and other day-to-day essentials, which inevitably increases the cost of treatment. Intensive outpatient programs do not have the same requirements in terms of where you live during treatment, and therefore, costs are often significantly reduced. 

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What to Expect at an Intensive Outpatient

Intensive outpatient programs are generally recommended for those who have recently completed inpatient addiction treatment or those whose addiction is considered mild or moderate based on their medical provider’s evaluation. Due to the nature of an intensive outpatient program, monitoring is limited, and relapse opportunities are increased compared to inpatient residential programs. 

Intensive outpatient rehabs use several different therapy models to help patients achieve sobriety and maintain recovery. The most common of these include Cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and other similar behavioral therapy models. Some intensive outpatient programs also incorporate 12-step programs (or similar secular programs) into their therapy treatment approaches. When someone begins their sobriety journey at an intensive outpatient program, the first step is often a comprehensive evaluation. The purpose of this is to assess your unique addiction treatment needs. After your assessment is complete, the treatment team at the intensive outpatient rehab will work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan based on your unique addiction treatment needs. Your treatment plan will also consider other essential needs such as medication management, co-occurring mental health conditions, and co-occurring medical conditions. Depending on the severity of co-occurring mental health or physical health conditions, the treatment staff at the intensive outpatient may recommend a stay at the best inpatient treatment programs to ensure you are able to receive the most comprehensive treatment during detox and early recovery. 

Part of the treatment planning process will consist of creating a schedule for how many days and hours you will attend treatment each week. Different than inpatient residential settings, intensive outpatient rehabs often have flexible schedules to accommodate the treatment needs of those with family or employment obligations. If your treatment needs or the speed of your recovery change during treatment, your plan can be modified to accommodate these changes. During the time you are at treatment, you will meet for various group sessions designed to help develop essential skills for long-term sobriety. Some of these include relapse prevention education, addiction education, skill-building, and employment education. Sessions at an intensive outpatient are a combination of settings, including individual counseling, group therapy, family therapy, and 12-step groups. 

Most intensive outpatient programs require drug and alcohol testing while you attend the program. The frequency and interval of this testing varies and is usually random. Testing is a normal part of many treatment programs due to the freedom associated with the outpatient setting. Testing also helps ensure program participants follow program guidelines and rules while protecting other program members from those who continue to use or who relapse during the treatment program. A positive test may be a sign that you need to consider a higher level of treatment, such as a residential program, before stepping down to an intensive outpatient program. 

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It is essential to remember that once you complete addiction treatment (either at an intensive outpatient or another treatment level), you are not “cured.” Maintaining recovery and long-term sobriety takes ongoing commitment and work. Many who struggle with alcohol or drugs will still need to participate in some form of continuing care, also called aftercare, for some time after completing treatment. Continuing group sessions or one-to-one sessions with your therapist will ensure you continue to work on and develop essential coping skills. It will also ensure you remain motivated in your sobriety. Unfortunately, drug and alcohol addiction are chronic diseases often accompanied by relapse. As many as 60% of those who complete some form of addiction treatment will experience at least one incidence of relapse requiring a return to addiction treatment. 

If you are ready to seek addiction treatment or have started researching treatment options, the research process may have become overwhelming. At our addiction help hotline, our highly trained staff can help you make sense of the services offered at the thousands of intensive outpatient rehabs across the nation. Let our team help you take the first step on the journey to a life free from addiction. Contact My Recovery to learn more about how an intensive outpatient rehab may help you meet your addiction treatment goals. 

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