Intensive outpatient programs, also known as IOPs or outpatient treatment, are one option for treatment for a variety of disorders, including substance use disorder.1 It provides treatment to address disorders when round-the-clock supervision or medical detoxification are not required.
IOPs allow for patients to continue their everyday life and pursue daily responsibilities while still receiving treatment and pursuing recovery. As a result, it provides a unique opportunity outside of residential treatment, or in-patient treatment, that allows it to become the preferable recommendation for some patients or circumstances.
Both IOP and residential treatment are valuable options for those with mental health disorders seeking treatment and professional medical advice.3 However, there are some situations in which an IOP is a better option than residential treatment. It is often because of the benefits it provides that are exclusive to outpatient programs, including privacy and flexibility. In some circumstances, choosing IOPs over residential treatment programs can help improve the chance of a successful recovery and treatment.
One of the main reasons that IOP may be recommended to a patient recovering from a substance use disorder is because of the variety of benefits it offers. Since IOP functions outside of a medical or rehabilitation center, it allows for more flexibility in treatment.
One of the main benefits is privacy. By partaking in an intensive outpatient program, patients will not have to inform family members, friends, or employers of potential absences as they would with a residential program that provides constant medical care. It allows for the pursuit of discrete care, which can be beneficial to many.
Another benefit to pursuing an IOP rather than a residential treatment is the ability to continue safely staying in a personal space. This aspect helps reduce any sudden changes, which could potentially be triggering depending on the mental health condition presenting in the patient.
A safe stay at home also allows for an extended duration in recovery. With a residential program, the stay is often short-term before the patient reenters their daily life. Increasing the duration of the recovery treatment helps bolster efficacy, improving the rate of success.
This factor also allows patients to practice what they learn in their daily life without delay.
For some, a major change in routine can be startling and even triggering. An IOP allows the patient to continue their routine with minor changes, such as participating in therapy or support groups in otherwise free time.
In residential or in-patient programs, individuals will have to leave their usual daily life to pursue a new daily routine at an around-the-clock medical facility. It also removes the patient from daily challenges and successes, creating a vacuum where they are unable to practice the coping skills and emotional management skills they are learning.
For those that are safe to stay home, adhering to their routine while also being able to incorporate new skills and knowledge greatly increases the likelihood of treatment success.
IOP is best suited for any patient that does not require medical detoxification, such as those required during the beginnings of recovery from addiction, or other forms of medical supervision.3
However, while anyone not requiring this form of treatment may pursue IOP rather than residential treatment, some people may be better suited to an intensive outpatient program. This factor can include anyone who would thrive better in a familiar environment and would otherwise have negative effects or decreased efficacy during recovery and treatment.
While each IOP is unique, there are a few foundational aspects that are similar despite different programs, including:
CBT, or cognitive-behavioral therapy, is one of the most common psychotherapies utilized by both in and out-patient programs. It can be expected in nearly every program, but especially those designed for substance use disorders.
12-Step programs come in many forms, with some of the most common being Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. These programs allow individuals to collaborate in recovery for bolstered success rates.
One reason that IOPs are such an efficient option for those with a substance use disorder is because of the variety of treatments it can consist of in a familiar setting. These types of treatment can include:
Counseling can extend to many aspects of life, from relationships to personal finance. Seeking counseling as a treatment through IOP can provide an individual with a self-guided discussion about a variety of important life aspects.
Studies have shown that collaboration among peers can boost the efficacy of treatment, especially for those seeking recovery for a substance use disorder. Individuals can share coping mechanisms and anecdotes, aiding in the prevention of relapse.
Education, especially about an individual’s conditions, allows for them to make informed choices about their lives and decisions. As a result, different courses and education programs are often included in IOP.
Like relapse prevention groups, support groups allow individuals to meet with peers in similar conditions that are dealing with similar challenges. These groups allow individual and group growth, as well as the possibility for the development of lasting connections.
Narcotics Anonymous is one example of a support group providing addiction therapy.
Psychotherapy is one of the most beneficial forms of treatment included in IOP, as well as inpatient programs. It can come in several different forms designed to address and treat different aspects.
One of the most utilized therapies in IOP is cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, also known as CBT, is psychotherapy dedicated to helping foster understanding of the relationship between cognitive processes and behavior.4 It helps understand what mindsets can lead to which behaviors and how to promote healthy attitudes for safe actions. As a result, it is one of the most common addiction treatments and addiction therapies.