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  • Outpatient programs allow you to live at home or in a sober-living house while you receive care at a treatment facility. 

    Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) include a set of core services, connecting people with community resources and ongoing networks of support.

    What Is An Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)?

    An IOP is outpatient treatment that includes a certain number of treatment hours each week. Treatment sessions must last around three hours and be offered for at least nine hours every week, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) . 

    In many cases, IOP treatment is offered for three hours a day for between three to five days each week, and is recommended as:

    • your initial entry into substance abuse treatment when residential care isn’t possible
    • a step-down level of care after staying at a residential or inpatient facility
    • a step-up level of care for when standard outpatient treatment or support groups have proven unsuccessful

    Intensive outpatient programs are flexible treatment options that are delivered in a variety of settings, include various services, and are individualized to your needs.

    IOP Treatment Goals

    Your particular treatment goals will be determined after an initial assessment, but there are overarching goals that are true for every intensive outpatient program, including:

    • refraining from drug and alcohol use
    • addressing social problems like living situation, employment, and legal obligations
    • supporting an alcohol- and drug-free lifestyle by motivating behavioral changes
    • developing a healthy support network
    • participating in supportive community services like AA or other support groups
    • improving coping strategies, how to identify triggers, and overall problem solving skills

    IOP Services And Treatment: What To Expect

    Although rehab services vary across treatment providers, there are core services that are likely to be offered during an IOP.

    Group Therapy

    Group therapy is the backbone and foundation of many IOPs. There are several types of therapy groups that work to reinforce life skills development, coping skills, and relationship/communication skills.

    Some types of IOP group therapies include:

    • Family group therapy that involves family members and loved ones to better understand addiction and how to move forward
    • Relapse prevention techniques that use each member of the group’s experience to analyze triggers, avoid high-risk situations, and develop coping mechanisms
    • Psychoeducational groups to learn more about substance use disorder and its consequences
    • Stress management groups to discuss effective ways to respond to stress
    • Support groups where members with similar problems or histories learn new ways to relate to others, think of practical ways to change thinking and behavior, and look at how our actions affect others

    Using multiple group therapies are beneficial in an IOP because they:

    • help you develop better communication skills
    • offer an environment where you support one another
    • reinforce healthy ways of interacting with others
    • provide a safe and supportive venue for the recovery process

    Individual Counseling

    Although supplementary to group therapy in an IOP, individual counseling examines a primary substance use problem one-on-one with a licensed therapist or counselor. 

    Individual counseling sessions last between 30 minutes and one hour, and may occur at least one time per week during the early phases of treatment. You’ll be assigned to a counselor or therapist who builds a relationship with you and guides you through the recovery process.

    These “talk” therapy sessions may involve discussing:

    • reactions and comments from group therapy
    • how you’re spending your time outside of treatment
    • how you’re feeling overall 
    • cravings for drugs and alcohol 
    • anything that’s on your mind

    Your individual counselor is also likely to address any personal issues you feel uncomfortable sharing in group. They will assist in coordinating with case managers to connect you with community-based services as well.

    Education On Addiction And Mental Health

    Psychoeducational sessions provide you with information about substance use disorder, mental and behavioral health issues, and their consequences. 

    These sessions are often taught by substance abuse counselors who have struggled with addiction but have found strength in recovery.

    They help you learn about:

    • the seriousness of your problem with alcohol or drugs
    • the importance of committing the treatment process
    • the recovery process and the bio-pycho-social nature of addiction
    • the continuum of care, community, and ongoing support

    Case Management And Aftercare Planning

    You’ll likely have access to a social worker or case manager who can help coordinate aftercare services following discharge from the program. 

    Aftercare is crucial to your ongoing recovery and may include:

    • sober-living housing
    • employment support
    • recovery coaching
    • counseling and family involvement

    IOP Vs. Residential/Inpatient Treatment

    Residential care is the most comprehensive form of alcohol or drug rehab available. It features constant support and evidence-based care in a live-in environment. Since it’s more involved than outpatient care, it can be more expensive and requires you to live away from home.

    While still a comprehensive treatment option, intensive outpatient programs are more flexible and allow you to continue living at home. However, IOPs require family members to support your recovery and be involved in the treatment process. 

    If you or your loved one struggles with co-occurring mental illness, then an IOP may not be the right choice. Residential or inpatient treatment is ideal for co-occurring disorders because they feature an integrated care team with 24-hour support and supervision.

    How To Choose The Best IOP

    Choosing a program that motivates you or a loved one is the best way to find one that meets your needs.

    When searching for an IOP, consider:

    • if treatment is immediately available
    • if the program attends to multiple health needs
    • if it is offered frequently each week and for several weeks
    • if it offers a combination of group and individual counseling or therapy
    • if your progress in the program will be consistently monitored or evaluated

    For more information on the IOPs available at our Massachusetts treatment facilities, please connect with us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Article Sources

    National Institute on Drug Abuse - Principles of Effective Treatment
    Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) - Services in Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs
    Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) - Intensive Outpatient Treatment and the Continuum of Care
    Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) - Struggling with Addiction? Tips on Finding Quality Treatment

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
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