What Is An Intensive Outpatient Program And How Does It Work?

Ian Henyon, LPC   |   May 8, 2024

An Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is a structured treatment program where eating disorders, mental health disorders, and substance addiction are addressed. Similar to a partial hospitalization program, this type of program does not require around-the-clock supervision. What Is an Inte

An Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is a structured treatment program where eating disorders, mental health disorders, and substance addiction are addressed. Similar to a partial hospitalization program, this type of program does not require around-the-clock supervision.

What Is an Intensive Outpatient Program?

So, what exactly is intensive outpatient therapy, and what do they do? When an individual enrolls in an intensive outpatient program, they have to receive regularly scheduled treatments and go home between treatments. Medical professionals consider this type of treatment “intensive” because of the number of hours involved. According to the Substance Substance and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), most programs require 9 to 20 hours of engagement per week.

Who Benefits From Intensive Outpatient Programs?

Intensive Outpatient Programs are not usually recommended for people who have severe cases of addiction or those with co-occurring disorders. Patients IOP is most beneficial for people who:

  • Do not require a detox
  • Not in need of inpatient therapy or 24-hour supervision
  • Have a strong support system at home
  • Need to continue going to work or school during treatment
  • Do not pose any danger to themselves or others.

Ideal candidates for an IOP have a supportive environment where they are not around others who can disrupt their recovery. This means that patients should not live with others who use drugs or drink alcohol. If a person lives in this kind of environment, they might be encouraged to look into a residential program where they are not exposed to these kinds of triggers.

What to Expect in an Intensive Outpatient Program

The specifics of what to expect in your intensive outpatient program will depend on the facility you choose. The care that you will receive will generally be composed of the following treatment components:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Support Groups
  • Medication management
  • Education about one’s condition and how to manage it
  • Psychiatric care
  • Patients are also encouraged to participate in a 12-step program.

These sessions are offered at the therapeutic facility and are generally a consistent number of hours per week. Intensive outpatient programs provide a more vigorous approach to care, so patients spend between nine and twenty hours per week getting treatment.

Individual Counseling

Individuals in intensive outpatient care will be offered individual counseling sessions. Individual therapy focuses on addressing the client’s personal issues. With this one-on-one time, clients and their therapists can talk about things that may not be comfortable to talk about in a group setting. They can also focus on the root causes of their conditions and other personal matters while finding healthy ways to cope and overcome them.

In intensive outpatient programs, individual therapy is offered at least once per week, depending on the time spent in treatment and the therapist’s assessment of progress.

Group Therapy

One of the core components of an IOP is group therapy. Group therapy is designed to provide a safe space for individuals to share their stories with people who have similar experiences. Group therapy is especially beneficial to those who struggle with addiction to strengthen interactions and communication skills, which are essential for recovery. More experienced group members will often be open to offering guidance to those who are in the early stages of their recovery.

Groups are generally assigned to individuals with similar backgrounds, sometimes even more specialized than substance use or mental health issues. Groups can be focused on a type of client, for example, men or women, veterans, or sexual or domestic abuse survivors.

Support Groups

Intensive outpatient programs heavily encourage support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) to make it easier for clients to relate and connect with others in similar treatment programs. These types of support groups are widely available around the United States and in other countries around the world. These meetings are also held at various times throughout the week to allow individuals in recovery to fit them into their schedules easily.

How to Find a Good Program

Although treatment strategies can differ between programs, the basis for all intensive outpatient programs should have the same baseline. Treatment should include ongoing medical care, provide social support, and personalized care. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to recovery. Each individual deserves to be treated based on their personal situation.

Is an Intensive Outpatient Program Right for You?

Only a medical professional can recommend your placement in an Intensive outpatient program. However, here are some reasons why a doctor or medical health professional might suggest an IOP:

  • The patient does not require 24-hour supervision with inpatient therapy
  • The patient has already undergone inpatient therapy and needs help to transition out
  • The patient needs help learning to recognize and manage the early stages of relapse
  • The patient needs to develop coping skills and address issues related to their emotional, social, and psychological well-being.
What Is the Cost of Intensive Outpatient Treatment?

Treatment on the way to recovery can become increasingly expensive and can be discouraging to some people. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, the average cost of drug rehabilitation per person in 2023 is $13,475. For the average person, this number can be daunting, but there are options available to help with the financial responsibility of rehab.

Like other rehabilitation programs, there is a chance that the cost of your IOP will be fully or partially taken care of by your insurance. Some treatment centers will also offer payment plans or another flexible option to help with payment.

Top Rated Intensive Outpatient Program in Birmingham, AL

Birmingham Recovery Center is a trusted Recovery Center in Birmingham, AL, that offers comprehensive treatment services for those who might need it. Our team of experienced experts is dedicated to helping individuals and their families find long-term recovery through evidence-based treatment plans and personalized care.
For more information about the intensive outpatient program offered at our center, contact us today. We are here to help you or your loved one regain control of their life and begin working toward sustainable recovery.

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About the Author

Having worked in a variety of clinical settings since 2008, Ian brings well over a decade of treatment center experience to the leadership role at Birmingham Recovery Center. As Executive Director, he is responsible for all aspects of BRC’s operations and provision of services. Being firmly grounded in the notion of servant leadership, Ian is focused on establishing a supportive work environment as a foundation for providing superior clinical services...

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