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The Treatment Process

Intensive Outpatient Programs

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) allow patients in recovery to readjust to life in a highly supportive environment to see how they function in life in recovery.

What Are Intensive Outpatient Programs?

Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are addiction treatment programs in an outpatient setting that teach clients healthy coping skills for daily stressors, relapse prevention skills, and addiction education via individual and group therapy. The IOP process can either follow a stay in inpatient rehab or serve as a replacement for an inpatient program. Intensive outpatient programs function as part-time monitored processes for achieving and maintaining sobriety. Generally, intensive outpatient programs involve participants residing in a house or apartment with others in recovery who can provide advice and support; these groups are often called sober living homes or group homes. However, some intensive outpatient programs allow patients to live with family or alone.

Patients opting for IOP do so to get treatment for chemical abuse disorders while balancing work and personal life commitments in a supportive environment to see how they react to different situations while they are newly sober. When compared to traditional outpatient rehab, which also allows patients to also balance rehab with work and personal duties, intensive outpatient programs meet more frequently (3-7 times per week compared to 1-2), and are often more closely associated with inpatient facilities.

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What Treatments Are Available in Intensive Outpatient Programs?

Although patients are not on residential campuses, they may still have access to medications traditionally administered during or after detox in IOP, and if not, the IOP will be able to refer patients to private physicians. IOP includes frequent treatment sessions that can last patients 30, 60, or 90 days (or more) of treatment. Patients attend therapy sessions multiple times per week and follow a specialized treatment plan they were provided during the intake process or later in inpatient rehab. Examples of IOP treatments include:

Through individual therapy, patients gain self-awareness of their chemical dependency, and have access to family support through their healing journey. Group therapy provides group members the chance to connect with each other, establishing a supportive atmosphere for bonding. This encourages healthy relationships, which is one factor in healing addiction and maintaining sobriety.

Group therapy also encourages patients to gain awareness of how their substance abuse disorder impacts others. Psychoeducation groups engage patients by helping them defeat obstacles contributing to substance abuse. Relapse prevention programs empower individuals to resist the desire to use drugs or alcohol.  Some of these tools include:

  • Establishing support systems
  • A change of environment
  • Creating goals
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Exercise and nutrition programs
  • Creating new hobbies
  • Meditation
  • Deep-breathing techniques
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Mindfulness techniques
  • Relapse prevention skills
  • Education on the disease of addiction
  • Healthy boundary setting
  • Communication skills

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How Do Intensive Outpatient Programs Differ From Inpatient Rehab?

It is best that patients explore a variety of therapies and treatment options, as IOP alone, without any other forms of treatment, has limitations. IOP can allows for patient to be around family more, manage work and other responsibilities, and transition into a sober life; however, they only get treated for a few hours per week. Many intensive outpatient programs also do not offer all aspects of a complete treatment plan, such as medically-supervised detox.

Inpatient rehab facilities may be a better option for patients who need a more hands-on approach. Inpatient rehab allows patients to live in a treatment facility where they are surrounding by other patients and medical staff. They have access to treatments customized to the facility they may not get in IOP. For example, many inpatient programs offer nutritional meals from a cafeteria, as well as spiritual-based biofeedback meditations, gym equipment, and access to therapists and medical staff whenever the patient needs.

Ideally, patients will begin treatment in an inpatient facility when they are newly sober, and then transition to an intensive outpatient program once their sobriety is more secure.

How Does Payment For Intensive Outpatient Programs Work?

IOP is more affordable for many individuals seeking treatment compared to inpatient rehab facilities. During the admissions process, patients discuss payment plans and insurance options. Generally, IOP is most cost effective for patients wanting to budget. Many facilities and IOP offer a variety of funding options.

Connect To Available Treatment

A life of addiction doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Making the decision of which treatment option best for you is a personal one that can have major implications for the rest of your life. Contact a treatment provider for rehab-related information.

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Krystina Murray

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  • Krystina Murray has received a B.A. in English at Georgia State University, has over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience, and over 15 years of overall writing experience. She enjoys spreading awareness of addiction and recovery to help people transform their lives.

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Clinical Reviewer

Theresa Parisi

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  • All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by Theresa Parisi, a certified addiction professional.

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