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Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP) for Substance Use Disorders

An intensive outpatient addiction program (IOP) is a type of addiction treatment that offers structure while allowing a person to keep living at home. Some people may begin with IOP treatment or it could be a part of step-down care following inpatient treatment. Regardless of when a person enters IOP treatment, it can be a valuable part of a person’s recovery journey.

Below you will find the following information about IOPs:

What Is an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)?

Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP) is an outpatient addiction recovery program that provides a more structured, intensive level of care for people with “multi-dimensional instabilities,” such as co-occurring disorders.6 People in IOP treatment may be required to spend more hours per week in treatment or receive more supervision than other forms of outpatient treatment, generally between 9 and 19 hours per week.1, 6

Like other outpatient programs, people are able to continue living at home, going to work, and school for the duration of treatment. Intensive outpatient treatment can be used as a follow-up after the detoxification process, as a primary form of treatment, or as part of a continuing care plan for someone who has completed an inpatient program.

While IOP can be a person’s primary type of care, some people may transition to an IOP after completing an inpatient program to continue building their coping skills, receive counseling, and other services to decrease the risk of relapse.

What’s the Difference Between Inpatient and Intensive Outpatient Programs?

The most notable difference between inpatient care and IOPs is that inpatient or residential rehab programs require that a person lives at the facility. Intensive outpatient rehab programs allow a person to go home after their daily treatment sessions.

Inpatient programs can last 30, 60, 90 days, or even longer depending on the level of care a person needs. Since a person has to live at an inpatient facility, it may be difficult for them to stay away from home for an extended period of time. That’s when an outpatient program may be helpful if it’s the appropriate level of care for that person.

Intensive outpatient rehab programs allow people to schedule treatment services at times that work better with their schedule. The amount of time a person spends at the outpatient facility per week will vary depending on several factors like the substance being misused and the services they require.

Most IOPs offer similar services to inpatient programs such as detox, therapy, and mutual support groups.

What Happens During Intensive Outpatient Treatment?

Upon entering an intensive outpatient program, you will be assessed and work with a treatment team that may consist of mental healthcare practitioners, treatment professionals, doctors, therapists, or nurses, depending on the level of care you’ll be receiving.

The team will work with you to create a treatment plan based on your intake evaluation and individual needs. Below are several common services offered in IOPs:

Group Counseling

Intensive outpatient treatment, and other forms of addiction treatment, often use group therapy to enhance positive, healthy behaviors, develop communication skills, introduce structure, and provide guidance.2 Groups can focus on different aspects of recovery, such as addiction education, relapse prevention, stress management, coping skills, life skills, interpersonal process, and support.2

Family Therapy

In family therapy, family members and loved ones work together with a therapist to help mend broken relationships, improve the home environment, and help family members better understand the nature of addiction.4 Both the person struggling with addiction and their family members may receive assignments to help practice new behaviors at home and set reasonable goals to encourage positive behavior changes.4

Individual Therapy

During individual therapy, a person will work with their therapist to uncover underlying issues that influence drug or alcohol misuse and create new patterns of behavior.

Medication Management

Medication can be effective in helping a person through withdrawal, promoting abstinent behaviors by decreasing cravings, blocking the desired effects of substances, or treating co-occurring mental health conditions, which may contribute to drug or alcohol misuse. Medication can also be prescribed to treat some physical ailments caused by addiction.

Detoxification

Some IOPs may offer detoxification services for those who aren’t at risk for experiencing severe and dangerous withdrawal symptoms associated with certain substances. Detox is an important first phase of treatment for addiction. However, detox alone is not typically sufficient enough treatment for a person to maintain long-term abstinence and recovery.5 It’s important for you and the treatment team at the intensive outpatient program to discuss continuing care after the detox phase.

Matrix Model

This therapeutic intervention is commonly used to treat addiction to stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamine. The therapist, who acts as both a coach and a teacher, creates an empowering and encouraging environment and promotes high self-esteem and self-regard. Some treatment approaches include family education groups, skills groups, relapse prevention groups, urine tests, social support groups, drug education, self-help, relapse analysis, and 12-step programs.3

How Long Does Intensive Outpatient Treatment Last?

Intensive outpatient treatment varies in duration and may range anywhere from a few weeks to months depending on the treatment plan created by you and your treatment team.

A person may attend treatment anywhere from 9 to 19 hours per week and programs are typically available throughout the day, on weekends, and after school or work to help accommodate people’s schedules.6

Who Can Benefit from IOP Treatment?

If you or a loved one are considering intensive outpatient treatment, it’s important to remember that no matter what type of treatment you choose, individualized care is key in promoting long-term abstinence and recovery.5 Additionally, your treatment team should continue to evaluate your progress in treatment to readjust your treatment plan as needed.5 This may mean stepping down care to less intensive treatment or stepping up into a more structured and supportive environment.5

In general, factors that make someone a good fit for an IOP include people with:

  • A strong support system at home, work, and community.
  • Stability in their home.
  • Not previously engaged in an IOP.
  • Lower risk of relapse when returning home.
  • Comfort working in group settings.
  • No risk of severe withdrawal symptoms.
  • Jobs or school responsibilities that require flexibility with their schedule.

Cost of an Intensive Outpatient Program

Generally, an IOP costs less than an inpatient recovery program because it doesn’t provide food or housing. The cost of treatment for an IOP program will vary depending on several factors like:

  • Location.
  • Duration and frequency of treatment.
  • Services offered.
  • Medication management.
  • Insurance accepted.

Most insurance companies offer some level of coverage to treat substance use disorders (SUDs). The Affordable Care Act (ACA) considers substance use disorder services as an essential health benefit, which means that many private insurance companies opt to cover treatment for SUDs to align with the ACA.7 Coverage through Medicaid and Medicare should also apply to treatment, as long as the treatment facility accepts your particular plan.

How to Pay for an Intensive Outpatient Program for SUDs

Paying for addiction treatment can seem overwhelming. Treatment costs can be high; however, there are several ways to help pay for rehab if you don’t have insurance or your insurance plan doesn’t provide full coverage:

  • Payment plan/sliding scale: Many treatment centers understand financial hardships and allow you to create a customized payment plan based on what you can realistically afford.
  • Financing options: Some facilities may offer financing to help pay for treatment. Contact a facility representative to discuss what options they may have as they will vary depending on the program and facility.
  • Grants and scholarships: Some facilities may offer grants or scholarships to those who qualify and are in need of low-cost or free rehab.

Finding an Intensive Outpatient Program Near Me

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, know that you don’t have to battle addiction alone. American Addiction Centers offers a free, confidential helpline at to help you find treatment any time day or night. Our compassionate team of admissions navigators understand what it’s like to struggle with addiction and are ready to help you start on the path toward recovery. If you have insurance and want to know if treatment is covered at an AAC facility, we can help you quickly check your coverage so you can start treatment today.

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