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Intensive Outpatient

An intensive outpatient program (often referred to as IOP) is a form of drug and alcohol addiction treatment that does not provide residential treatment, but still provides more intensive care relative to some other outpatient programs.

About Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)

IOP may be thought of as a step down from residential and partial hospitalization (PHP) programs. Like PHP, there is no residential component to provide 24/7 supervision and care, as there is in inpatient/residential treatment. At the same time, intensive outpatient is generally less frequent and comprehensive than PHP.

How Intensive Outpatient Programs Work

In general, IOP takes place over an aggregate of 10-12 hours per week. Each program varies in how frequently it takes place. For instance, one IOP may meet 3 days a week for 4 hours each, while another may meet 2 days a week for 6 hours each.

Each session may take place as individual therapy, group therapy, or a combination of the two. Certain specialized sessions may incorporate family therapy, as well. In addition, patients will usually have access to the same vital clinical services that they do in residential treatment (i.e. on-site psychiatrist, etc.).

In intensive outpatient, patients must adhere to the following rules or else risk being discharged and failing to complete the program:

  • Submit to drug tests, which are usually random
  • Stay sober
  • Act appropriately in therapy sessions
  • Do nothing to otherwise endanger the safety of themselves or the group

Who is Intensive Outpatient For?

Due to its nature, IOP takes up less time than more intensive programs such as inpatient and PHP. It allows addicts to still attend to their responsibilities, such as their job or education. Thus, it is less intrusive on an addict’s life.

Most often, intensive outpatient is a step down from these more intensive treatments. That is, it is not usually the first stage in treatment. However, many opt to begin their treatment in IOP because they are not comfortable with taking such a drastic change in inpatient programs. In such cases, IOP may be beneficial for addicts who:

  • Are unable to leave home for extended periods of time
  • Do not need medically managed detoxification
  • May not otherwise need the services of inpatient treatment
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