What is an Intensive Outpatient Program?

Flexible and Effective Treatment

Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) focus on helping clients recover from substance abuse issues while they also experience daily life in sobriety.

Flexible and effective treatment options for drug and alcohol abuse are necessary for successfully getting people on the road to recovery. Detox is typically the first step in stabilizing people so they can go on to further treatment.

After detox, one option for treatment called an intensive outpatient program, allows individuals to work on their recoveries while meeting family, work, or school responsibilities. An IOP also offers opportunities to transition from higher levels of care into more independent living.

While attending an IOP, clients can live at home. Typically, you’ll find a lot of flexibility in IOP programs as to when and what services you’ll receive. You can customize your IOP but, generally, you’ll go to treatment sessions for several hours a day for at least 3 days per week.

Taking the Next Step in Recovery

IOPs are dеsigned to help prepare their clients for the next steps in the recovery journey, which is typically a step down into an outpatient treatment program (OP). Services provided by IOPs include individual and group therapy sessions, 12-step groups, peer support groups, and aftercare plans.

IOP vs Residential Rehab

An IOP can be a very effective alternative to inpatient rehab when the person does not need 24/7 support and monitoring. Also, an IOP allows their clients to have flexible schedules while attending to their other commitments.

Benefits of an IOP

  • You can work or attend school while going to IOP treatment
  • Going to an IOP costs less than residential treatment
  • An IOP keeps you close to home and the support of your family and friends
  • You choose from different times and types of sessions that fit best with your schedulw
  • You’ll live at home during rehab – not in a treatment facility

Length of an IOP

The length of stay in an IOP will vary according to a person’s unique needs and situation. An intensive outpatient program can last anywhere from 9 to 12 weeks and sometimes longer.

Services in an IOP

Starting with a basic framework, IOPs customize their options for each client. The basic framework for IOP services includes:

Talk Therapy

Also called “psychotherapy”, it is a core part of substance use rehab. For many, abusing substances has roots in previous experiences. The emotional and psychological effects of these experiences can be healed by talking about them in therapy sessions. Individual or group talk therapy sessions help their clients think, feel, and cope in different and more healthy ways.

CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)

CBT is a therapy designed to produce behavior changes. CBT does so by helping to change the clients’ way of thinking about themselves and their environments. In group sessions, CBT participants can meet others and build a support network that promotes continued sobriety.


Skills Development

Training classes help people learn specific coping skills they need to stay sober. Coping skills include how to avoid things that can trigger substance use, how to cope with urges to use drugs or alcohol, and how to stay away from or refuse drugs or alcohol. Stress reduction, anger management, and problem-solving skills may also be taught.

Alternative Therapies

Nonverbal or creative therapies can include journal writing, art and music therapies, drama, dance therapy, poetry writing, yoga, and meditation.

MAT (Medication-Assisted Treatment)

MAT helps people with certain addictions, such as heroin or opioids, function better. Since addiction typically causes profound brain changes, urges and cravings will continue to occur while in recovery. Medications can relieve urges and cravings and help reduce relapse risks. A few examples of drugs used in MAT include methadone, Suboxone, Subutex, and Acamprosate. MAT drugs help relieve cravings and urges that can otherwise motivate someone to return to substance abuse.

Relapse Prevention Plans

Relapse prevention plans help people stay sober by teaching them to manage risky situations. These plans also aim to increase stability in life by encouraging behavioral changes in clients.

Where Are You in Your Recovery Journey?

If you or a loved one are looking at different treatment options for alcohol or drug use, talk to your doctor or therapist about an assessment. Undergoing an assessment can help you make the best treatment choices and find out if an intensive outpatient program is right for you.