What is Intensive Outpatient Program

Once making the very important decision to change your life for the better through committing to sobriety, you will find that you have access to quite a number of options available for support. For those who are able to afford the time and expense associated with full-time support, there is the option of receiving inpatient substance abuse recovery. For those who are able to develop and maintain their sobriety with minimal community support, outpatient services will offer weekly group and individual therapy sessions.

For those who find themselves somewhere in the middle of needing daily support and needing the autonomy to continue with regular life, an intensive outpatient program suits the bill. As the name implies, an intensive outpatient program – or, IOP – combines the best of both treatment worlds. These programs enable a person in recovery to maintain their own living space and routine, while also participating in multiple recovery support activities throughout the week.

What is Intensive Outpatient Program?

The success of all outpatient services depends on the availability of a person in recovery to sustain determination, focus, and resolve toward sobriety, even when apart from treatment. This means that, for someone considering outpatient treatment, it is important to have some safeguards against returning to substance abuse already in place. While intensive outpatient treatment typically requires up to 10 hours, per week, of participation, there are many more hours in a week that remain.

A person who chooses an IOP treatment program will be best off having a supportive friend and family environment. Those with severe alcoholism or drug addiction, experience a highly dysfunctional home life, or struggle with acute mental health problems may be better suited for an inpatient setting.

Types of Support Offered in an Intensive Outpatient Program

The specifics of what an IOP offers in regard to recovery services will vary according to the individual agency. In general, the focus of the program will be to provide you with enough support to eventually transition to managing your life with more autonomy, such as through graduating to a less-intensive form of support. To that end, the following types of services tend to be part of an IOP treatment plan.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is central to most IOP programs, and participation is likely to be required at least twice a week.

The therapeutic benefits of group therapy include having the support of peers who have experienced similar struggles, learning to express oneself in regard to matters that have been previously swept under the rug, and being able to encounter ideas that challenge previously held, dysfunctional, beliefs. Group sessions are also a place to increase knowledge about the process of addiction and recovery and develop healthy social skills.

Groups are typically facilitated by trained professionals, who are both knowledgeable about the process of recovery, and skilled in ensuring that the group dynamics are well maintained.

Individual Counseling and Therapy

Individual therapy is that which is provided by a person who is clinically registered or licensed to provide therapy.

Individual counseling is provided by a person who has a recognized skill or set of credentials. The structure of both forms of support allows for a private space to work through issues that may not be suited to sharing with a group. Counseling and therapy also work in tandem with the types of issues that may arise for you during the course of group sessions.

Most IOP programs require weekly, or biweekly, participation in individual sessions. Many programs also offer additional individual sessions as specific issues arise.

Medication and Sobriety Checks

Intensive outpatient programs also tend to include a medically-based component. Some people find that their cravings, impulses, and mental health issues are best controlled through the application of psychiatric medications. An IOP program will assist with linkage to a medical provider for the purpose of assessing medication needs and will check in with you about your success in sticking to the prescribed regimen.

Many IOP programs also institute a system of accountability that involves regular drug testing. Submitting a weekly urine sample for testing may be required in order to stay connected to the program, and failure to submit or pass a drug test can be cause for warnings and eventual removal from services. Not only do these tests assist a person in recovery in resisting temptations to use substances, monitoring member sobriety is also providing a courtesy to the rest of the group.

Resource Linkage

As previously mentioned, intensive outpatient programs are not meant to last forever.

The goal is to provide a person in recovery with enough skills and support to be able to transition to living a life of sobriety with minimal outside intervention. While you are actively involved in addressing matters of your substance abuse history, an IOP team will also be encouraging you to be planning for your future. Successful recovery will be tied to the ability to recognize and make healthy connections within your local community, and you will be assisted in learning about the types of activities and supports available to you within your geographical area.

Getting Started With an Intensive Outpatient Program

If you are considering becoming a part of an IOP, making a call to your program of interest is a good first step.

An intake specialist will be available to answer all of your questions and will be able to provide you with a general framework of how the program operates. You will have the opportunity to consider whether the time and energy investment is something that you are willing to invest in. Once you have determined that an IOP is what is best suited to your individual needs, you will be scheduled for an assessment with a qualified professional.

Together, you and a counselor or therapist will design a treatment plan that is customized to your needs, goals, and schedule.