An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is a rehabilitation program that requires patients to visit a treatment center several times per week for a few hours per day to receive treatment. It’s an important continuum of care that combines the components of inpatient treatment with the flexibility for patients to return home at the end of the day. Intensive outpatient services typically operate in the morning or evening on weekdays, with most services lasting for about 90 days. IOPs are more rigorous than standard outpatient rehab programs and offer comprehensive treatment and care to people who do not need around-the-clock supervision.
IOPs treat various mental health conditions such as depression, PTSD, and bipolar disorder, as well as substance use disorders, such as alcohol use disorder (AUD) and opioid use disorders (OUDs).
In comparison to standard outpatient programs, IOP provides a higher degree of treatment and care. However, the most effective therapy (whether it be a residential program or outpatient rehab program) is determined by the severity of the addiction and whether or not the individual is also dealing with physical or mental health issues. IOP provides patients with the flexibility to receive treatment while also maintaining their personal and professional lives. The duration and intensity of IOP treatment are determined by a patient’s commitment to stay abstinent and the progress made with their recovery process.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), IOP services were offered by 6,089 addiction treatment centers in the United States in 2011 (44% out of 13,720 programs), and IOPs treated 141,964 patients or 12% of the 1.2 million patients in care.
How Do Intensive Outpatient Programs Work?
An intensive outpatient program is conducted in an outpatient setting. This program helps people reconstruct their lives, focus on long-term recovery and coping skills while remaining at home and carrying out their responsibilities to their loved ones.
The goals of intensive outpatient programs include:
- Maintaining abstinence.
- Achieving behavioral change.
- Participating in support groups such as a 12-step program.
- Addressing psychosocial issues such as housing, employment, and meeting probation requirements.
- Developing a support system.
- Improving problem-solving skills.
The majority of intensive outpatient programs last 90 days. However, the duration and the level of care can vary from one patient to another depending on the individual’s needs and requirements.
Services Provided by Intensive Outpatient Programs
An intensive outpatient program’s treatment varies from facility to facility and provider to provider. However, it usually includes 10-12 hours of group and individual therapy each week and motivation to participate in a 12-step program. These sessions are normally held on-site at a medical or psychiatric facility. However, some opportunities for individuals to engage in online programs are being established. This move is notably important during Covid-19 lockdowns and those who reside in isolated areas or towns where proper treatment resources aren’t readily available.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), primary IOP services include:
- Individual counseling – Individual counseling is a valuable, supportive addition to group sessions, but it’s not the primary therapy option. Individual counseling focuses on the immediate issues patients face due to their alcoholism and their ongoing efforts to attain and maintain abstinence. A counselor can gain a deeper knowledge of the patient through individual counseling.
- Group counseling and therapy – The key component of an IOP treatment is group therapy. The purpose of group-based therapy is to encourage healthy socialization and help individuals improve their communication skills. This treatment element provides structure and discipline into the often chaotic lives of patients.
- Community-based support groups – Support groups, such as 12-Step and other mutual-support groups, help individuals transition out of treatment. These programs are vital in providing a sense of community in their long journey to recovery. Support groups serve as an important addition to structured therapy.
- Medication management – Medication management is an important component of effective substance abuse treatment that should not be overlooked or separated from other therapies. Medication management targets specific aspects of substance use disorder.
- Routine monitoring – All Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOT) programs include regular testing to monitor an individual’s alcohol intake during the treatment process. Drug and alcohol monitoring assists physicians in determining the need for treatment modifications and assists families in re-establishing trust.
- Case management – Individuals who abuse alcohol are more prone to suffer from various interconnected issues in addition to alcohol use disorder. And case management is responsible for coordinating all parts of a patient’s treatment. Case managers also advocate and provide support for the patient’s family and friends.
Other forms of enhanced IOP treatment services include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Life skills training
- Family therapy
- Access to medical care and mental health services
- Access to 24-hour care crisis management hotline
- Complementary therapies such as art therapy and music therapy
Following the completion of IOP treatment, patients will be recommended a less intensive level of treatment.
The Benefits of Choosing an Intensive Outpatient Program
IOPs are designed to provide the benefits of an inpatient program in an outpatient setting. One of the most frequently mentioned advantages of an intensive outpatient treatment program is that patients can instantly apply what they have learned in the outside world. Other benefits of an IOP include:
- Provides longer and more intense treatment programs than the standard outpatient programs.
- The flexibility provided by IOP helps patients maintain their personal and professional life.
- Cost less than residential or inpatient treatment centers.
- IOPs provide clinical flexibility to address individual needs.
- Higher retention rates.
- Provides a greater level of privacy.
- Increased opportunities to establish community-based support.
- Participation in local self-help groups from the beginning of treatment.
Choosing the Right Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program
Alcohol use disorder is a very complicated disease. Each case has its own set of causes, motives, and triggers. It also varies a great deal by intensity, so no two cases are the same. For this reason, it’s important to choose a treatment program that is tailored to an individual’s specific needs.
A well-established and innovative intensive outpatient program will offer a wide range of services to assist and guide patients toward evidence-based and holistic rehabilitation techniques. As every IOP offers different services, here are a few things one should look for when choosing an IOP facility:
- When it comes to choosing an IOP treatment facility, location is one of the most crucial considerations. The IOP treatment center must be in a convenient location. If the clinic is too far away, you are less likely to attend treatment as frequently as is recommended.
- The certifications earned by a facility indicate that the staff and team members have acquired the necessary training.
- A variety of therapy choices should be available at an intensive outpatient clinic. These treatment options must also be tailored to each patient’s specific needs.
- Another key element to consider while choosing an IOP facility is scheduling. If you require therapy while going to school or working, the treatment center you choose should provide therapies and other services at your convenience.
IOP treatment centers help fill the void between residential treatment and outpatient services. And is an important part of the whole addiction treatment process.