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What Is an Intensive Outpatient Program?

what is an intensive outpatient program - dedicato

An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is a treatment service provided to persons with a substance use disorder. It is level II on the continuum of care, a step-down from residential and inpatient treatment and a step above individual outpatient counseling.

IOP is a structured program that offers up to ten hours a week of recovery services, including group and individual therapies, 12 Step facilitation, alternative therapies, family therapy, Psychoeducation, and medication management.

The recommended time to complete intensive outpatient is at a minimum, 90 days, but the length of stay may be different for each participant. Before you begin attending groups, you and a licensed therapist will create a treatment plan that details what is included in your IOP.

Common IOP Treatment Goals

Treatment programs have primary goals they want you to reach while in IOP. Examples of goals include

  • Maintain abstinence
  • Learn new skills that will help you maintain abstinence
  • Build a healthy support system
  • Participate in community support groups and recovery activities
  • Create a transition plan that resolves housing, education, career, probation or parole, medical needs, and personal relationships.

To support the treatment goals, IOP offers various groups and activities discussed below.

Psychoeducation Groups

Psychoeducation refers to learning about the brain and the disease of addiction. What you learn gives you the power to fight against relapse. For example, once you understand your brain is in need of repair and until it is healed, it will try to convince you to use alcohol or other substances. Having this knowledge gives you time to prepare and overcome cravings to drink.

Psychoeducation usually takes place once or twice a week.

Skill Building Groups

Relapse prevention and early recovery groups effectively teach you specific skills to help you succeed. Coping, relaxation, communication, conflict resolution, vocational, assertiveness, refusal, and relapse prevention skills are necessary for long-term recovery.

Using worksheets, group exercises, and homework assignments, you will create your recovery toolbox filled with techniques to overcome cravings, recognize triggers, practice self-care, and much more.

Recovery Support Groups

Whether peer-led or facilitated by a licensed therapist, recovery support groups give you a chance to hear from others who understand what you are going through. You can share your story and offer feedback to others. Support groups are a great way to improve your social skills. 

Other Types of Groups

As you progress through IOP, you may want to add groups to your schedule. Many people choose special interest groups to attend. For example, you can join a co-occurring group if you have a co-occurring mental health disorder. There is likely a group-specific to that disorder if you have post-traumatic stress disorder.

12 Step facilitation groups are great places to meet sponsors and start working through the steps. Family groups allow your loved ones to get the help they need to support you in recovery. 

Types of IOP Counseling Methods

Therapists are responsible for choosing techniques with individuals and groups in IOP. One of the most common is cognitive-behavioral therapy, a form of talk therapy based on the theory that your thoughts influence your feelings and behaviors. Recognizing negative thinking patterns and replacing them with positive ones can lead to healthy feelings and actions.

Contingency management is another therapeutic method used in intensive outpatient programs. Therapists establish a reward system, and participants earn prizes for staying sober and reaching milestones.

Motivational enhancement therapy is a technique utilized when an individual is not quite ready for recovery. The therapist helps them recognize the many damages and consequences that have resulted from misusing substances. The goal is to motivate to want change.

Who Can Benefit from Intensive Outpatient Services?

Most intensive outpatient programs are for adults, but there are adolescent and young adult programs available at some facilities. The following is a list of people who can benefit from IOP:

  • Male and female adolescents
  • Male and female young adults
  • Male and female adults
  • Anyone needing medication assistance for withdrawal symptoms and cravings but is not at risk for seizures, delirium tremens, or other dangerous symptoms when withdrawing
  • Anyone in the criminal justice system with a substance use disorder
  • Anyone with co-occurring disorders
  • Anyone needing recovery skills

Meeting the criteria for IOP level of care will be determined at your initial meeting, along with your schedule of activities.

Sample Schedule for Intensive Outpatient Programs

Most intensive outpatient programs offer daytime and evening services for those who have other responsibilities like a job or children. Your schedule will be filled with around ten hours of activities. Below is a sample schedule.

Week 1 Sample Schedule

Monday – 2 hours in Early Recovery group (skill building)

Tuesday – Attend 12 Step group in the community (recovery support)

Wednesday- 2 hours in Relapse Prevention group (skill building)

Thursday- 1-hour individual counseling (personal therapy)

Friday – 2 hours in Psychoeducation (increase knowledge)

Weekend- Recovery activities and support groups

Another sample is below, for week 6, which you will notice is different than early treatment schedules and prepares you for making the transition back into your home environment.

Week 6 Sample Schedule

Monday – 3 hours in Relapse Prevention group (skill building)

Tuesday – Family therapy

Wednesday- 3 hours in a psychoeducation group (skill building)

Thursday- Attend recovery activity, like a cookout or other fun event with sober groups

Friday – 3 hours in vocational counseling (connecting to resources)

Weekend – Recovery activities and support groups

Intensive Outpatient vs. Partial Hospitalization

Intensive outpatient programs share level 2 care with partial hospitalization programs (PHP). IOP is level 2.1, and PHP is 2.2. While similar, one significant difference is the time a person spends in treatment each day.

Partial hospitalization services run between ten and twenty hours each week, doubling the treatment time of IOP. Many people choose to attend five days a week for four hours. The programs offered are the same at both levels, only for a more extended period.

To find out if you meet the criteria for intensive outpatient or want to learn more about IOP, give us a call.