What is an Intensive Outpatient Program?

Posted by Jackson Bentley on May 17, 2018 8:00:00 AM
Jackson Bentley
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Intensive Outpatient Rehab is an effective form of treatment for many individuals. However, depending on the situation, it may or may not be ideally suited to match your specific needs. For those trying to get off drugs and alcohol, IOP is a step towards recovery that is less intensive than inpatient rehab but more involved than solely detoxing, attending therapy, or pursuing medication assisted recovery by itself.

Intensive Outpatient should be looked at if you recently completed medical detox, if a licensed clinician recommends it, or if you are looking for a less time intensive form of rehab. IOP's are generally recommended for those who don’t need medically-supervised detox. If detox is needed, however, IOP is an option to consider trying after completion. IOP provides flexibility, accountability, and the continued support to keep you free from drugs and alcohol.


What is Intensive Outpatient treatment?


It’s difficult to accurately document the true success rates for different forms of rehab, but a promising study was published in 2014 by the American Psychological Association. The study examined 12 individual studies from the Educational Resources Information Center, PubMed, the Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts, PsycINFO, Social Services Abstracts, Published International Literature on Traumatic Stress, and the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature. Each study centered around examining the efficacy of INtensive Outpatient Programs. The results:


  • IOPs emerged as a critical facet of 21st century addiction treatment for people who need a more intensive level of service than traditional non-intensive outpatient treatment. IOPs allow participants to avoid or step down successfully from inpatient services. This is an important consideration for policy makers, providers, and individuals engaged in substance abuse treatment services when deciding which level of care is most appropriate for specific clinical situations.
  • IOP offers the opportunity to engage and treat consumers while they remain in their home environments, which affords consumers the opportunity to practice newly learned behaviors
  • Overall, studies have found that 50 to 70 percent of participants reported abstinence at first follow-up, and most studies found that this outcome did not differ for inpatient versus outpatient settings of care.
  • Compared with inpatient care, IOP services have at least two advantages:
    • Increased duration of treatment, which varies with the severity of the patient’s illness and his or her response
    • IOPs are an important service for inclusion as a covered benefit for people with substance use disorders.


What is an Intensive Outpatient Program like?


Intensive Outpatient Rehab (known as IOP or Intensive Outpatient Program) is designed for people with substance abuse problems as well as dual diagnoses with co-occurring mental and substance abuse disorders. IOP’s are an alternative to inpatient rehab. Whereas with inpatient you will be in a medically supervised environment for 1 to 3 months, IOP allows the freedom to come and go. IOP contains many of the same services however, such as therapy, relapse management, and coping strategies.

 Individuals talking at an IOP meeting.


Research has shown intensive outpatient rehab to be as successful as other forms of treatment available. IOP typically ranges from 9 or more hours per week of sessions in a facility, allowing the patient to live at home and carry on with their day to day activities. IOP is sometimes preferred in less severe cases of addiction because it allows the patient to continue working, take care of any dependents, and hopefully become more well adjusted to sober life in their community.


A typical IOP session will last from 1-3 hours per session and can include group recovery work, individual counseling, family therapy, individual therapy, or expressive therapy. Because of its more voluntary and less restrictive nature, patients may choose to drop out or gradually lessen their involvement in IOP. This is strongly discouraged, unless doing so is the recommended course of action from the clinical professional seeing that person.


Although IOP may not be the perfect solution for every candidate, it is great for those deemed to be qualified.


At Landmark Recovery, Intensive Outpatient Rehab has the following programs:


  • 12 Step Meetings
  • SMART Recovery Meetings
  • Individual Counseling
  • Group and Family Therapy
  • Medical Check Ups and Support
  • Alumni Mentorship and Coaching
  • Relapse Prevention and Coping Strategies.


IOP seeks to address the intermediate and pressing concerns that solidify recovery. This is typically referred to as the maintenance stage when viewed from the total continuum of care. The goals and criteria that IOP typically covers are:


  • Reinforce abstinence from alcohol and rugs
  • Practice daily relapse prevention and coping techniques
  • Improve overall emotional health
  • Expand the network of support
  • Address other areas of concern such as environment and physiological factors
  • Continually teach and refine relapse prevention plans
  • Help clients acknowledge underlying triggers leading to substance abuse
  • Support clients through painful or negative emotions and feelings
  • Link clients to other resources online and in their community
  • Emphasize the importance of meditation, introspection, physical health, and fitness
  • Continually monitor with drug tests and psychotherapy sessions


Intensive Outpatient is generally considered to be successfully completed when patients have achieved a number of significant milestones. These include:


  • Sustained abstinence from drugs and alcohol for at least 30 days
  • Improved emotional well being
  • Improved relationships with family, friends, and significant others
  • Understanding and successful deployment of coping and problem solving skills
  • Stable financial and living conditions free from influence of drugs and alcohol
  • Healthy and active participation with support and aftercare programs


If you’re considering Intensive Outpatient for yourself or another person, consider the pros and cons before enrolling. IOP is ideal if your symptoms are not so severe that you can’t handle being without supervision. IOP offers flexibility and structured support to keep you on track when it comes to maintaining sobriety. Success doesn't happen overnight. That’s why IOP helps teach you the long lasting, daily skills necessary to overcome substance dependency. Promising research has also shown IOP to be an effective form of treatment for people that undergo it.


Next Steps

At Landmark Recovery, or experienced staff has dealt with a wide range of treatment methods and approaches for substance abuse disorders. If you’re seeking intensive outpatient treatment in Louisville or Lexington and are concerned for the well-being of yourself or a loved one abusing substances, reach out to our team and we’ll walk you through the process for enrolling.



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Topics: intensive outpatient

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