When a person has an addiction to drugs or alcohol or a co-occurring substance and mental health disorder, finding the correct level of treatment is essential. For those people who do not need round-the-clock supervision or medical detoxification but still need more support than traditional outpatient therapy, an intensive outpatient program (IOP) may be the ideal level of treatment for them. IOPs are generally used for two reasons.
- When an individual is potentially at risk of being hospitalized and needs more than traditional outpatient therapy.
- When an individual has been in an inpatient residential treatment center and needs support as they transition to their regular life.
What is an Intensive Outpatient Program?
An intensive outpatient program (IOP) provides direct treatment to people who require more frequent interaction and support from treatment professionals. IOPs are designed to:
- Establish or reestablish psychosocial supports
- Help clients develop coping strategies
- Teach early-stage relapse management
- Address problems related to psychological, emotional, and social well-being
People in intensive outpatient programs usually live at home, and some may go to work or attend school.
Depending on the individual’s needs and the location of the treatment center, people typically attend support groups and therapy sessions, both individual and group, with clinicians and therapists about 3 or 4 hours a day, several days a week. Most intensive outpatient programs also encourage people to attend a 12-step program, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
What Happens in an Intensive Outpatient Program?
In the early stages of recovery, many people feel vulnerable. An IOP provides a safe place for people to interact with others in healthy ways. Individuals further along in their recovery often help newcomers by providing encouragement and support. An IOP can provide core and enhanced program elements based on the specific group in treatment.
One of the main components of an IOP is group therapy, which includes cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Group sessions help newly sober members in many ways, including:
- Facilitating structure, socialization, and support for newly sober individuals
- Providing a place where group leaders can teach new skills, provide new information, and guide members as they practice new skills and behaviors
- Developing communication skills and providing the chance for individuals to socialize without alcohol or drugs
- Reinforcing healthy ways of interacting with others in a supportive, safe environment
- Creating an environment where members can support, help, and confront one another
- Establishing discipline and structure for those whose lives were often chaotic in active addiction
In addition to group therapy and counseling, people meet with their therapists and counselors individually at least once weekly. If an individual is on medication, medication management may be included in their IOP. Medication management typically includes psychological assessment, psychopharmacologic monitoring, and consultation. Individuals are routinely monitored for any drug or alcohol use. Monitoring helps determine if the IOP is working for the person. Monitoring ranges from self-reporting to tests, such as urine, blood, saliva, or hair.
Individuals learn about addiction, their condition, and how to manage it. Their IOP may include psychiatric care and holistic or complementary therapies, such as art therapy, meditation, yoga, nutritional services, vocational training, family therapies, or fitness programs.
Types of Groups
Most IOPs may include the following groups:
- Psychoeducation groups: may involve education on substance dependence and its consequences, stress management, assertiveness training, skills development, problem-solving techniques, coping skills, and relapse prevention strategies.
- Support groups: learning how to relate to others; resolving or tolerating conflict without using drugs, alcohol, or violence; seeing how one member’s actions affect others and the group as a whole; learning ways to change negative emotions, thinking, and behavior.
- Skills development groups: practicing in a safe setting specific behaviors such as drug or alcohol refusal, relapse triggers and prevention techniques, stress management, and assertiveness training.
- Single interest groups: focus on an issue such as gender issues, criminal offense, histories of physical and sexual abuse, or sexual orientation.
- Family or couple groups: assist member’s significant others and relatives in learning about the negative effects of substance use, its effect on others, and how to resolve issues.
Do Not Struggle Alone
If you or a loved one struggles with a substance use disorder, it is critical to get help right away. Call and speak to a professional at English Mountain Recovery in the Smoky Mountains of Eastern Tennessee. We will help you determine if our residential inpatient or intensive outpatient program is right for you. We also offer men’s, women’s, and veteran’s programs. Take the first step to a sober life.
About the Author:
Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.