The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that people struggling with addiction should look for treatment programs that are accessible and customized for them. At the same time, they should see evidence-based medical interventions and social support. An intensive outpatient program (IOP) often won’t have a waiting list so you or a loved one can gain entry easily. Also, an IOP typically includes group therapy sessions and support group meetings in its schedule.
What Is an Intensive Outpatient Program?
IOPs address addictions and other mental health issues — such as depression, eating disorders, or other dependencies that don’t require 24-hour supervision. IOPs also enable clients to continue with their day-to-day routines in a way that residential treatment programs don’t. Residential treatment programs require that clients reside in a rehab facility. In an IOP, on the other hand, clients can continue to live at home throughout the addiction treatment period.
Sometimes, clients “graduate” from inpatient programs to IOPs as a way to transition smoothly and adapt more seamlessly back into their previous day-to-day lives. IOPs for addiction treatment are often designed to establish foundations of support, help with relapse management, and provide healthy coping mechanisms.
Choosing an IOP Rehab: What Are the Advantages?
IOPs can be ideal for some clients seeking professional help in overcoming addiction. For many clients, inpatient care — whether provided in a hospital setting or at another type of facility — can be challenging. Programs like this often provide the highest level of care. Why? Because they separate clients struggling with addictions from access to their addictive substance of choice and other people who may encourage relapse or actively sabotage recovery efforts.
On the other hand, IOPs provide almost the same intense level of care an inpatient program does. The big difference is that clients can still attend to their day-to-day relationships, responsibilities, and routines. However, unlike typical outpatient programs, IOPs require a significant time commitment from their participants.
In general, IOPs are not recommended for clients with severe cases of addiction or co-occurring disorders. Cases like these require 24-hour medical supervision and a much more immersive treatment atmosphere.
When Should You Consider an IOP?
You should consider IOP rehab options if you or your loved one struggling with addiction can’t get away from day-to-day relationships, responsibilities, and routines to start overcoming a substance use disorder (SUD). However, ideal candidates for participation in IOPs must have a safe and secure home environment. Their household members must be close family members or friends who are ready to support them in their addiction recovery efforts. If a household member continues to use drugs or drink, a client may be recommended to pursue admittance into residential treatment instead.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), most IOPs require 9–20 hours devoted to one-to-one and group therapy sessions each week, plus encouraged participation in a 12-Step group’s meetings. These sessions and meetings usually occur 3–4 times a week, on-site at a medical or therapeutic facility, or in community spaces.
Group therapy tends to serve as the core of most IOPs. In fact, participation in group therapy offers support for clients in three important ways:
1. Offers chances to enhance communication skills
Group therapy also provides a new resource for socialization, which can be very helpful for clients that may have needed to distance themselves from previously close family members and friends because they have now been identified as triggers for relapse.
2. Gives access to an environment that provides peer support
Other group therapy participants can provide clients with comfort, honest feedback, and support. Group therapy participants who are farther along in their addiction recovery path often offer valuable assistance and empathy to those who are early in the recovery process.
3. Reinforces healthy ways of interacting
Group therapy sessions provide a safe and secure space for sharing, which is vital for addiction recovery efforts. They also provide a forum for therapists to pass on important information, teach new skills, and guide clients. In addition, group therapy can be a place to witness more positive behaviors associated with addiction recovery. Lastly, it’s a place to practice new modes of dealing with triggers.