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What is Intensive Outpatient Rehab

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What is intensive outpatient rehab?

Intensive Outpatient Rehab (IOP) aims to address a variety of issues including addictions, eating disorders, depression and anxiety, obsessive behaviors, etc. In other words, IOPs are suited to deal with issues that do not require round-the-clock supervision or intensive detox services. Thus, patients are able to go about their daily lives, continue work, and spend time with friends and family. You can also learn more about the difference between outpatient treatment and detoxification.

Unlike residential treatment programs that require patients to spend a certain amount of time at the treatment center, IOPs are specialized treatments that work around your schedule and ensure a long-lasting recovery through weekly therapy sessions, group counseling, various assignments, etc.

At times, IOPs may also be a part of a long-term recovery journey. Most patients who successfully recover after residential treatment programs are also advised to continue their therapies with IOPs to avoid risk of relapse. Thus, IOPs are sometimes used in conjunction with residential inpatient treatment programs to help individuals adapt back into communities as smoothly as possible.

What does Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP) entail?

The main aim of IOPs is to aid in recovering from a variety of substance use disorders as well as co-occurring mental health issues. These programs are specially designed to provide the necessary coping skills and relapse management for clients so that they can benefit in the long term.

Depending on each individual case, the IOP may require you to attend intensive therapy and other counseling sessions over the course of a few weeks, or even months. This form of addiction treatment may also include family therapy, partial hospitalization program, mental illness support, dual diagnosis treatment, administration of addiction medicine, and a treatment for other behavioral health issues.

The treatment facility carefully assesses your progress after every few weeks and you may even be asked to take assignments and drug tests to ensure that you are not consuming any addictive substances that may hinder your progress.

Intensive outpatient treatment may also include alternative treatments such as group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, one-to-one discussion sessions, post-care assessments, motivational therapy, etc. Intensive outpatient care is also different from standard outpatient treatment in that it is shorter and stricter. The standard outpatient treatment takes longer.

IOPs may also be recommended by your therapist on the successful completion of your inpatient treatment. This is to ensure that the addiction treatment continues and that there are less chances of relapsing.

However, even after completing your residential inpatient treatment programs, you may not be ready for a standard outpatient program. Intensive care management alongside outpatient treatment can provide you with the supplementary therapy sessions that are invaluable in the process of long-term recovery.

In other words, enrolling in an intensive outpatient program is a natural progression to your addiction treatment. Individuals suffering from mild addiction who do need intensive inpatient treatment can also join this outpatient addiction treatment.

So long as you have a strong support network, a stable and positive home environment, and a steady work-life balance, you can greatly benefit from outpatient substance abuse treatment centers.

Intensive outpatient programs are more in-depth than standard outpatient treatments, making it easier for individuals to gain access to heightened care and alternative therapies.

In an IOP, your connection and relationship with your primary healthcare provider or therapist is crucial. The success of the treatment partially depends on this as the expert therapist will keep a careful track of your progress, milestones, obstacles, etc.

What are the components of an intensive outpatient program (IOP)?

If you or your loved one is struggling with substance abuse and are planning on enrolling in an IOP, then it is paramount that you first understand the components of such treatments and what it means in the long term.

Now that we know what exactly is an intensive outpatient program, it is time to note what exactly is included in this treatment and how it may benefit you.

1. One-to-One and Group Therapies

After the initial evaluation, your primary therapist may decide a course of action for you depending on your immediate psychological and physical needs. This may include weekly individual counseling or group therapy sessions. These are helpful in connecting individuals together who may be suffering from similar addictive patterns or social struggles.

2. Testing and Monitoring Drug and Alcohol Levels

Your therapist may also arrange for weekly or monthly drug tests to ensure that you are not consuming addictive substances at home or outside. Since you are not staying at the treatment center, there may be more chances of outside influences that could lead to further drug abuse. Healthcare providers in IOPs monitor your drug and alcohol levels frequently to avoid this.

3. Educational Opportunities and Seminars

A great advantage of IOPs is the exposure to several drug educational opportunities as well as seminars. These act as useful resources in the long run and help you understand your body and your mind better. Educational opportunities also help you determine whether inpatient care may be a healthier step in your recovery journey.

4. Mental Health Treatment

Most of the time, addiction is directly related to mental health concerns. IOPs help individuals learn coping strategies to combat withdrawal symptoms as well as self-reflection skills through CBT and counseling that help treat mental health disorders.

5. 24-Hour Crisis Management

IOPs also provide 24-hour guidance and crisis management services for those who may be facing an emergency or extreme withdrawal symptoms. Early intervention services can make a colossal difference in your recovery journey.

What to expect from intensive outpatient services?

The type of care your receive at outpatient treatment centers varies from one center to another, but some elements are common. For instance, you will typically meet your primary therapist for 10 to 12 hours a week in one-to-one or group therapy sessions, as well as a recommended participation in the 12-step program, which is a higher level of care compared to standard outpatient programs.

In fact, as mentioned by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), most IOPs require 9 to 20 hours of sessions and participation per week.

For the most part, these sessions take place at the treatment centers but there are also options for those who find it easier to join online meetings instead. This is especially beneficial for those who live at a distance and cannot afford the transportation costs.

When enrolled in an IOP, you can expect the following:

1. Group Therapy

Experts claim group therapies as a foundation of most intensive outpatient programs. In fact, many modern researches have shown it to be one of the most effective techniques in treating substance abuse.

IOPs can include different groups based on many similarities to better equip individuals with motivation and healthy coping strategies.

It helps individuals build confidence and group communication skills when surrounded by others who are struggling with similar hurdles. This is especially helpful for those struggling with substance abuse as their previous socialization is with others who consume drugs and alcohol.

These groups can be a source of comfort and support, as well as productive feedback. It also provides a safe space for people to explore and communicate their feelings, hardships, and even successes.

Patients who have only started out IOPs will find valuable assistance, support, and guidance as well as empathy from others who are much further down their road to recovery.

Additionally, these sessions also provide an adequate forum for therapists and leaders to pass down useful resources, educational materials, and other information to teach new skills and guide patients.

The different groups in IOPs may include:

  1. Psychoeducational groups that offer emotional and mental support to each other. They also help devise strategies to combat ineffective behaviors.
  2. Relapse prevention groups help point high-risk situations and as well as triggers that may instigate severe withdrawal symptoms. They help develop behaviors and techniques to avoid such situations.
  3. Skill development groups help practice certain behaviors in safe settings so the recovery process becomes easier.
  4. Refusal training groups work specifically to deal with situations where there may be an invitation to consume addictive substances patients are recovering from.
  5. Specialized social groups focus on certain common identities based on gender, sexual orientation, similar traumas, sexual abuse, etc., to help provide individuals with specific needs a safe space to share their thoughts.

2. Individual Therapy

Patients will have the opportunity to meet with their primary therapist and discuss their progress, struggles, mental health conditions, etc. This isn’t always the primary form of treatment in IOPs, but it is certainly crucial.

These individual sessions primarily focus on the client’s efforts, personal challenges, past traumas, etc., that may have triggered addiction.

These sessions are useful for those who do not feel comfortable or confident to discuss their issues in large groups.

These are often scheduled on a weekly basis, especially earlier in the IOP treatment phase. Building an honest and direct relation with your therapist is crucial to a successful road to sobriety.

3. Complementary Therapies

Depending on the outpatient services, some may also offer complementary, alternative therapies such as adventure therapy, music therapy, or even arrange for short trips to go fishing, bird watching, star gazing, etc. These can be relaxing and help you self-reflect when faced with mood dips or withdrawal.

What are the benefits of intensive outpatient programs?

Intensive outpatient programs has a variety of benefits in the short and long term:

1. You can live with your family and maintain household responsibilities.

Unlike in case of inpatient treatment, IOPs do not require you to stay for lengthy periods of time and take leave from work. You can maintain your household, carry out chores, run errands, spend time with friends and family members, and continue working as well, while you are enrolled in an IOP.

This is especially beneficial for those who have dependents or who simply do not have the means to afford daycare or nannies for their kids when they are off to their therapy.

The recovery program is designed to facilitate individuals who want more monitoring during their recovery stage. An IOP treatment has plenty of benefits to offer.

2. You can strengthen your familial bonds and friendships.

Thanks to family therapy sessions and a strong focus on familial bonds, IOPs help maintain a healthy network with your loved ones and provide a safe space to discuss emotional matters.

3. It ensures confidentiality

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of IOPs is the promise of confidentiality. Patients may feel embarrassed or insecure after recovering from addiction but outpatient caregivers and therapists ensure that your history and your mental health conditions are always kept private.

4. It is affordable.

IOPs cost a lot less than inpatient treatment facilities that are paid through insurance. Intensive outpatient programs are far more flexible in terms of time and affordability.

Are IOPs right for you?

Intensive outpatient programs are a vital part of one’s road to sobriety and a healthy lifestyle. It is especially beneficial for those who cannot afford inpatient programs or find them too challenging. You can also learn more about the difference between inpatient and outpatient treatment.

If you have dependents, work commitments, and other tasks that simply cannot be ignored, then IOPs are an excellent choice for you. In fact, if you are suffering from mild addiction, then these programs are the perfect fit for you. You do not have to first enroll yourself in an inpatient facility.

But, it is also important to keep in mind that IOPs are successful in cases where patients have a safe and healthy home environment, stable family and friends, positive mental health, etc. If you do not possess these, then IOPs may not always be the best option as there are greater chances of triggering relapse.


Warren Phillips

Warren is a Licensed Master Social Worker, who specializes in substance abuse and mental health treatment. Clinically, Warren has developed a therapeutic skillset that utilizes a strengths-based perspective, Twelve Step philosophies, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.

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Charleston South Carolina

Charleston South Carolina

Located on the historic peninsula of Charleston, South Carolina, Lantana Recovery takes a modern approach to Substance Use Disorder treatment, offering intensive clinical care while also immersing our clients in local Charleston culture.