Intensive Outpatient Program for Substance Abuse

Substance use disorder treatment addresses addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. While some people attend an inpatient treatment program, others have personal reasons they can’t attend a live-in facility. An IOP treatment center allows people to focus on healing while still working or caring for the family. 

What is an Intensive Outpatient Program?

Intensive outpatient program offers the intensity of inpatient treatment with more flexibility. For example, instead of attending treatment all day, clients typically spend three hours, three days a week in therapy. 

Therapy in IOP substance abuse treatment focuses on:

  • Establishing a support system
  • Building coping skills and tools
  • Relapse prevention 

As part of a continuum of care treatment plan, clients generally step down into an IOP program after a PHP, or partial hospitalization program. Slowly increasing clients’ freedom allows them to use the tools learned in therapy while still focusing on recovery.

Is an IOP Treatment Center a Good Choice?

An IOP program offers various benefits, but it’s crucial for the program to work. Although many people prefer an intensive outpatient program, they need to meet the following criteria:

  • Have a strong support system at home
  • Does not need round-the-clock monitoring
  • Has commitments that prevent being away from home

Individuals with a dual diagnosis also benefit from IOP substance abuse treatment. 

How Long Does an IOP Program Typically Last?

An IOP program typically lasts 90 days. However, the length of any treatment program depends on the individual, their addiction, and co-occurring mental health disorders. For some people, a few weeks of an IOP program are enough. However, others may continue in an IOP treatment center for up to a year. 

Who Can Benefit From IOP Substance Abuse Treatment?

Individuals who benefit from an IOP program have completed detox and don’t need round-the-clock monitoring. Some people struggling with addiction may attend inpatient treatment before stepping down into an intensive outpatient program. 

If a person has a career, attends school, or cares for the family, they can benefit from intensive outpatient programs. The flexibility of treatment can be tempting, but a person needs to be honest about their addiction needs. The freedom of IOP substance abuse treatment may be too much and lead to relapse.

What Does an Intensive Outpatient Program Consist of?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) outlines what an IOP program may typically look like. However, each IOP treatment center has its own schedules based on the client’s individual needs. 

Week 1-4 of IOP Substance Abuse Treatment

The first four weeks in an IOP treatment center focus on building recovery skills and the tools for relapse prevention. Clients generally attend treatment three times a week for three hours at a time. However, an IOP program also recommends attending 12-step meetings on days not in therapy.

Weeks 5-16 of Intensive Outpatient Program

The focus of the following 12 weeks is on relapse prevention, family education, and social support. Depending on the individual, the time in treatment may decrease. Those progressing in recovery generally spend 90 minutes three times a week in relapse prevention therapy while still spending the other four days in 12-step meetings.

Aftercare in an Intensive Outpatient Program

After 12 weeks in an IOP program, clients may begin aftercare treatment. The freedom in aftercare puts the skills learned in treatment to work. Clients still meet for therapy once a week and attend 12-step meetings four times a week.

Types of Therapy in an IOP Program

Therapies in an IOP treatment center are often identical to inpatient or residential treatment. Clients may still attend psychotherapy or individual therapy for support through the mental challenges of recovery. However, many therapy sessions focus on group and family therapy and relapse prevention. 

Individual Therapy in IOP Substance Abuse Treatment

Individual therapy in IOP focuses on the pressing struggles of staying clean and sober. It also helps clients dig further into topics brought up in group therapy. Other benefits of psychotherapy include:

  • Early intervention of relapse
  • Resolve childhood trauma and other issues of abuse
  • Build better behavioral coping skills
  • Create lifelong goals
  • Enhance employment skills
  • Educational encouragement
  • Satisfy legal obligations

Group Therapy in an IOP Program

Although individual therapy is available in an IOP program, the main focus is group therapy. In group therapy, clients can share their experiences, good and bad, and receive support and guidance from other members. 

Benefits of group therapy include:

  • Manage anxiety and co-occurring mood disorders
  • Maintain relapse prevention
  • Mindfulness of thoughts and emotions
  • Reinforce self-monitoring
  • Support emotional development

Group therapy isn’t just sitting in a room talking with people. Group therapies may include:

  • Skills-development group helps clients practice specific behaviors and reactions in a safe space.
  • Psychoeducational groups focus on problem-solving skills and change unhealthy beliefs.
  • Refusal training lets clients practice handling an invitation to use drugs or alcohol. 
  • Relapse prevention groups help identify triggers and high-risk situations while building the skills to manage them. 

Family Therapy is Important in IOP Substance Abuse Treatment

Substance use disorder is a family disease. Meaning while only one person may abuse drugs or alcohol, it affects the entire family. In fact, substance abuse plays a significant role in destroying relationships along with domestic violence and child abuse. 

To repair the damage substance abuse does to families, family therapy in IOP programs:

  • Reinforce communication skills, problem-solving together, and conflict resolution
  • Restore, rebuild, and repair the family dynamic
  • Teach staying connected while creating personal boundaries and safe spaces
  • Educate on the healing process
  • Teaches what to do with shame, guilt, and other emotions
  • Educates on the behaviors of addiction and their impact
  • Strengthens relationships with spouses, children, and other family members

Holistic Wellness Therapies at an IOP Treatment Center

More and more IOP treatment centers are incorporating holistic and spiritual-based treatments. Holistic therapies focus on healing the mind, body, and spirit. Spiritually based treatment doesn’t specifically refer to religion but a belief in a power higher than yourself. 

Examples of holistic therapies include:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Reiki
  • Mindfulness
  • Excercise
  • Music
  • Art 
  • Journaling

Support Groups in an Intensive Outpatient Program

Clients in an intensive outpatient program are strongly advised to attend support groups outside the IOP treatment center. Support groups build lasting friendships and provide shoulders to lean on. They may mean the difference between staying sober and relapsing. 

12-step support groups include:

  • AA or Alcoholics Anonymous
  • NA or Narcotics Anonymous
  • Community or Church support groups

Benefits of an IOP Treatment Center

While there are many benefits of an intensive outpatient program, the most significant is the ability to put things learned in treatment to immediate use in the real world. The benefits of attending an IOP treatment center include:

  • Increasing time in treatment leads to better recovery outcomes
  • The flexibility allows clients to maintain regular routines
  • Costs less than inpatient treatment
  • Greater response to clients changing needs than general outpatient treatment
  • Increase in clients accountability
  • Higher level of privacy
  • Participating in group therapies builds a lasting support system

What is the Difference Between a Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient Program?

The most significant difference between a partial hospitalization program (PHP) and an intensive outpatient program is the amount of time spent in treatment. A PHP requires more extended hours and more days in treatment. 

A PHP is beneficial for individuals who complete inpatient treatment but are not ready for the freedom of an IOP program. At the same time, an IOP treatment center is helpful with long-term addiction management or for those who relapse. 

Clients in IOP typically spend 9 hours in treatment. However, clients in PHP spend up to 8 hours a day, five days a week in therapy. 

Which Program is Right for Me?

Deciding if an IOP program, a PHP, or inpatient treatment is better depends on a number of factors. While the convenience and freedom of PHPs and IOPs are tempting, those seeking treatment may need more strict treatment for the first time. 

Inpatient treatment is effective for the same reason a person doesn’t want to go: it removes them from the environment that permits substance abuse. But, for some people, that is the only way to be successful in recovery. 

Substance abuse and recovery are personal journeys. As a result, only you can decide which treatment to choose. But, seeking advice from an IOP treatment center or therapist can help in making the decision.

Find an Intensive Outpatient Program with BRC Healthcare

Intensive outpatient programs help clients face and conquer their addiction through traditional, holistic, spiritual-based therapies and 12-step immersion. If you are struggling with multiple relapses or have been in and out of treatment without success, we can help.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, you are not alone. Contact us today and start your journey to a better future.

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