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Intensive Outpatient Programs for Addiction

What Is an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)?

An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is a level of addiction rehab treatment that is more intensive than standard outpatient treatment, but less intensive than a partial hospitalization program (PHP).1 Intensive outpatient programs let you live off-site and go about your daily life while not in treatment. In this way, IOPs can offer more flexibility for people who need to balance work, school, or family.

The time commitment for IOPs can vary depending on the state you live in, the treatment center, and your specific treatment needs.1 In an IOP, you generally attend treatment for 9 to 30 hours per week over 3 to 5 days for about 3 months.1

The Continuum of Care

Treatment for substance use disorders (SUDs) often happens on what is referred to as a continuum of care across different treatment settings and intensity levels. A continuum of care is flexible, letting you enter treatment at the level that you need during the time that you need it. This means that you can either move up to more intensive treatment or down to less intensive treatment, depending on your progress and evolving treatment goals and needs.1

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) outlines the care levels as follows, ranging from least intensive to most intensive:3

  • Level 0.5: prevention/early intervention
  • Level 1: outpatient services
  • Level 2: intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization programs
  • Level 3: residential/inpatient services
  • Level 4: medically managed intensive inpatient services

What to Expect in an IOP

In most IOPs, treatment has 4 general stages: 1

  • Stage 1: Treatment engagement. In this stage, your care team will stabilize any crises and identify treatment problems and goals. Then, together, you form a treatment plan with appropriate services and interventions.
  • Stage 2: Early recovery. In this highly structured phase of treatment, you learn recovery skills and address relapses (using substances again after a period of not using).
  • Stage 3: Maintenance. Stage 3 helps you improve emotional functioning, grow your social support network, and continue to build on the skills you learned in the first 2 stages.
  • Stage 4: Community support. At this point, you’ll have established some independence from the treatment program, and will maintain your quality of life and abstinence (not using substances) through strong connections with your support system.

You can also expect some combination of the following:1

  • Group therapy.
  • Medical detoxification services (if part of a hospital setting).
  • Job and other skills training.
  • Educational groups.
  • Family counseling.
  • Individual therapy.
  • Support groups.
  • Drug monitoring.
  • Medications, if needed.

IOP Goals

IOP works to achieve many goals, which can vary depending on the treatment program’s mission, the treatment population, and the services offered in the program.1

Some common IOP goals include:1

  • Create and support behavior changes that reduce substance use and improve areas of daily functioning.
  • Teach you healthy coping and problem-solving skills.
  • Help you develop a social support system and engage in peer support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), or SMART Recovery.
  • Identify and resolve certain challenges, such as unemployment, homelessness, and legal issues.

Keep in mind that the goals of IOP are not limited to the objectives listed above, and your treatment plan will be focused on your individual treatment goals that are specific to you.

Why Choose an IOP?

Whether an intensive outpatient program is right for you depends on a number of factors, such as:3

  • Your overall physical and mental health.
  • How ready you are to make changes in your life.
  • Your substance use history.
  • Your living situation.

An IOP may not be good fit for you if you:3,4

  • Are not ready or willing to engage in treatment.
  • Are at a high risk of severe withdrawal or relapse.
  • Have physical or mental health problems that are not being well managed or that can’t be treated in an outpatient setting.
  • Have an unstable or unsupportive living environment.

If you’re curious about what type of substance use treatment program best fits your needs, talk to your doctor or an addiction treatment professional. They can help match a treatment setting to your specific treatment needs and individual recovery goals.

How to Find Intensive Outpatient Programs Near Me

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of rehab with treatment centers across the nation. You can call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to discuss your treatment options at .

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