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Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): What Is It and Is It Right for You?

intensive outpatient treatment program in Connecticut

There are many types of addiction treatment services available today. The right treatment program for your loved one will depend on his or her individual needs, the severity of their substance use disorder, and their ability to commit to therapy. For those who cannot commit to residential drug treatment, intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are often recommended.

What is an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)?

An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is a type of treatment recommended for individuals with substance use disorders and/or co-occurring mental health disorders, who do not require medical detoxification or round-the-clock supervision. Clients in IOP programs receive intensive therapy at a treatment center, several days a week, but continue to live at home while in the program. This makes intensive outpatient therapy an alternative to inpatient drug rehab.

The goal of intensive outpatient programs, also called intensive outpatient treatment (IOT) programs, is to provide post-detox therapy, facilitate relapse prevention, establish psychosocial support for clients, and guide them into sustainable sobriety. All the while, clients can maintain their home life, obligations, and (for the most part) daily routine. Many clients in IOP programs will continue going to school or their job while receiving treatment.

How Does an IOP Program Work?

IOP programs work to provide therapeutic treatment plans for clients recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction. Programs will vary depending on the treatment provider, but generally requires that a client attends treatment at least three days per week, with at least three hours of treatment each day.

When a client first enrolls in IOP, they will receive an evaluation that determines their individual needs: medically, mentally, socially, and more. Once this assessment takes place, the treatment provider will develop a personalized plan for treatment and therapy. At Turnbridge, IOP clients are paired with an experienced, licensed therapist. This therapist helps the client through a range of modalities, including group therapies, individualized counseling, medication management, mindfulness training, meditation, behavioral therapies, and more. You can learn more about the Turnbridge IOP here.

As noted above, intensive outpatient treatment programs require a several-day per week time commitment. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), most IOP programs require between 9 and 20 hours of treatment per week. IOP programs last about 90 days, on average, though the length will vary by provider. Often, though, the need for IOP treatment will reduce as clients make progress towards their treatment goals. An experienced clinician can help to monitor progress and determine when it might be time to reduce the frequency of treatment visits.

What is the Difference between IOP and Outpatient Programs?

Now you may be wondering, what is the difference between an intensive outpatient program and a traditional outpatient program? Are they one in the same? 

IOP and outpatient therapy have many similarities, but are distinct types of treatment programs. Both types of outpatient programs offer treatment on a part-time basis, and enable clients to return home after each treatment session. However, IOP programs require a greater time investment than traditional outpatient programs. This is what makes them more intensive.

Intensive outpatient programs, as discussed above, require several days of treatment per week, with a minimum time commitment of 9 hours weekly. Some clients will require longer treatment durations, depending on their individual needs. Attendance and full participation is required in IOP programs. This strict schedule helps clients develop and maintain accountability.

While traditional outpatient programs will vary, the schedule is typically less demanding than IOP treatment. At Turnbridge, for example, the outpatient program requires once-weekly engagement from clients, with a session that is typically 75 to 90 minutes in length.

What is the Difference Between IOP and Inpatient Programs?

The primary difference between intensive outpatient treatment and inpatient treatment is where clients live while they are receiving care. Inpatient treatment programs, or residential rehab programs, require clients to live at the facility while they receive treatment. Meanwhile, IOP clients can receive treatment onsite at a facility, but live offsite throughout the duration of treatment.

Inpatient drug treatment is considered the highest level of care for those struggling with a substance use disorder and/or co-occurring mental health conditions. Inpatient treatment separates people with addictions from mainstream life, halting their access to drugs and alcohol, the people who enable their addiction, and the environmental triggers that cause their drug cravings. Inpatient programs provide clients with a safe, drug-free space where they can focus fully on their healing. These programs offer comfortable housing, recreational activities, medical care, nutritious meals, and a supportive community where healthy relationships can be built. There are many benefits to this level of residential care.

Of course, residential drug treatment is not always an option for individuals struggling with addiction. Many people have commitments like school, work, and family that prevent them from seeking inpatient or even full-time treatment. For these individuals, an intensive outpatient program is a good alternative. 

How to Choose the Right Treatment Program

When weighing your options between an IOP, outpatient program, or inpatient treatment, it is important to consider your loved one’s (or your own) needs. What is the best environment for your loved one at this time? Can your loved one commit the time away to receive the highest level of care? How severe is your loved one’s condition(s)?

Ideal candidates for an intensive outpatient program are those who:

  • Have a safe, supportive, and drug-free home environment. This means they have encouraging family members at home who support their recovery efforts, and who do not have drugs and alcohol in the home. 
  • Do not require detoxification. Often, these clients have already completed medical detoxification prior to entering an IOP.
  • Do not have a severe substance use disorder or co-occurring disorders. Those struggling with a severe substance use disorder, or a combination of mental health disorders, will be referred to residential treatment because of the more immersive, 24-hour care available.
  • Have completed – or are nearing completion of – an inpatient treatment program. Intensive outpatient therapy is often recommended in conjunction with inpatient programs, for those who need further support transitioning back to mainstream society. An IOP can help bridge the gap between treatment and a new life.

To help understand whether an intensive outpatient program is right for you, you can look to the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s continuum of care model. This consists of five levels of treatment, in order of their intensity. Level 1 is best for those who are transitioning out of a more intensive form of treatment and require ongoing support. Level 2 includes IOP, best for those who have a safe home environment but still require intensive addiction treatment. Level 3 is meant for those who require round-the-clock support and treatment services, in an inpatient setting:

  • Level 0.5: Prevention/early intervention services
  • Level 1: Outpatient services
  • Level 2: Intensive outpatient treatment, or partial hospitalization services
  • Level 3: Residential or inpatient treatment 
  • Level 4: Intensive inpatient treatment 

If you are wondering which type of addiction treatment is right for you or your loved one, it is ever-important to consult a clinical professional. Speak with your doctor, your counselor, or an experienced treatment provider. You can always contact Turnbridge for guidance, and to learn more about our inpatient, IOP, and outpatient treatment programs. Contact us at 877-581-1793 to learn more today.