What Is an Intensive Outpatient Program?
An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is an in-depth addiction and co-occurring disorder treatment program that is provided on an outpatient basis. IOPs often require individuals to attend multiple sessions that last for a few hours each week to participate in counseling services, relapse prevention education, and 12-step recovery support groups.
Intensive outpatient programs are often recommended for individuals suffering from a mild-to-moderate substance use disorder that don’t require medically-supervised detox, individuals who have already attended inpatient rehab and want a step-down level of care, and people who have daily responsibilities or jobs that they cannot leave.
IOPs establish a treatment plan with defined, measurable milestones in place to indicate progress, and as these milestones are met, the time commitment required from patients each week decreases. The duration of intensive outpatient programs is typically 6-12 months. Typically, intensive outpatient programs meet 3-7 days per week, with the number of days per week decreasing as time goes by. Most programs include multiple sessions that last for 3 hours per day and a single 1-hour individual therapy session per week.
Benefits of Intensive Outpatient Programs
Because IOPs only require a few hours out of the day and allow clients to live at home, there are multiple benefits to this type of treatment plan, including:
- Affordability compared to inpatient treatment
- Constant contact and support from loved ones
- Flexibility to maintain daily responsibilities
- Network of communal support after treatment
- Higher level of structure than traditional outpatient care
Intensive outpatient program models have been proven to be just as effective as residential treatment programs for those struggling with a moderate addiction. IOPs also offer the added bonus of normalcy and the regular routine of home life.
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Components of an Intensive Outpatient Program
The exact components of care for an intensive outpatient program will vary from facility to facility, but generally consist of about 9-12 hours of group and individual counseling each week, plus encouraged participation in a 12-step program. Clients in IOPs will typically visit a facility for treatment 5-7 times a week in the beginning (which eventually decreases to 3-4), and attend sessions that usually last for about three hours at a time. Patients can expect to participate in any or all of the following during the course of treatment:
Individuals attending an IOP will oftentimes patriciate in individualized therapy and counseling. Individual therapy sessions serve as a time for patients to meet one-on-one with a licensed professional in a confidential setting. These sessions can be a time for individuals to find the root cause of addiction, process their experiences in treatment, ask any questions they may have, and celebrate recovery successes. In an intensive outpatient program setting, these therapy sessions are most commonly held weekly or bi-weekly and on an as-needed basis.
Group therapy sessions are generally the chief counseling component of IOPs. The number and types of groups that meet will vary from program to program and are based on the needs of the participants. Some groups may be specialized and focused on a single type of client, such as gender, sexual orientation, or abuse survivors. These therapy sessions are led by professionals that facilitate topics of discussions that are relevant to the needs of the individuals who are taking part in the program. These sessions not only allow patients to receive valuable education and advice on addiction topics that pertain to them, but also give and receive support from peers. Group therapy fosters an environment where people in similar situations can provide acceptance, support, comfort, and honest feedback for one another.
Depending on the facility, some IOPs may also include family therapy services. Studies show that including an individual’s family members into the treatment process significantly increases the chances of maintaining lasting sobriety. Family therapy also allows family members to become educated on the issues of addiction and understand exactly what it is that their loved one is going through. As with individualized counseling, family therapy is often held only when needed.
The availability and implementation of holistic therapies in IOPs varies widely; however, the majority of facilities offer some form of complementary treatment. Common holistic therapies include art therapy, yoga, adventure therapy, acupuncture, and equine-assisted therapy. These therapies are designed to treat an individual as a whole, rather than just one component of that person’s behaviors or symptoms. Holistic techniques can foster a greater likelihood of long-term recovery as it can help patients feel more at ease and productive during the IOP treatment process.
Individuals attending an IOP are encouraged to participate in support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) in order to fully transition back into everyday life. Support groups offer guidance and support to promote lasting sobriety that extends beyond the treatment regimen of an IOP. Many intensive outpatient programs will hold 12-step group meetings at the facility to make it easy for clients to attend after counseling sessions. The purpose of these groups is to ensure that an individual has ongoing help in order to maintain his or her success in recovery once treatment at the facility has ended.
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Regardless if you’re someone suffering from addiction or are simply seeking help for continued sobriety, IOPs are extremely beneficial. If you think that an intensive outpatient program may be right for you, contact a dedicated treatment specialist and get started on the road to recovery today.
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