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Intensive Outpatient 2018-07-26T08:12:52+00:00

The Benefits of Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Intensive outpatient treatment (IOP) is a valid option for care for anyone struggling with a substance use disorder. It includes programming and services several days a week but does not require a stay in a residential facility. An IOP is not right for everyone, and every treatment plan must be customized for an individual client to be most effective, but there are many benefits. It is an option for treatment that should be carefully considered alongside residential and other types of care.

What is an IOP?

An intensive outpatient program is a type of treatment that combines the rigor of inpatient care with the flexibility of being able to live at home. Most IOPs offer the same range of services as a residential program, and in fact many IOPs are housed in residential facilities where clients can access all of the same care.

An IOP is different from residential treatment in that there are fewer hours per week of treatment and the clients live at home. A typical IOP may include four to five days per week of treatment, with sessions lasting for one to four hours each. Components of IOPs generally include individual therapy sessions and counseling, group support, family or couples therapy, alternative therapies, life skills, relapse prevention, health and nutrition counseling, and recreation and social activities.1

Intensive Outpatient Care is Effective

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An IOP can be used as a sole form of treatment, in place of residential treatment. There is a common misconception that any type of outpatient treatment is less effective than inpatient care. However, research has proven that this is simply not true. One study2, a review of multiple other studies on treatment and recovery, showed that the outcomes for clients in IOPs and those in residential treatment programs were comparable. IOPs proved to be just as effective in reducing or stopping substance use as traditional residential programs.

IOPs Offer a Safe Transition from Residential Care to Home Life

While an IOP can be the first step in treatment, it can also be a stepping stone between phases of recovery. Spending an adequate amount of time in treatment is crucial for effective recovery from a substance use disorder3, but no one can stay in rehab forever. Eventually it is necessary to go back home to begin to build a healthy, sober life. That early stage of leaving rehab and learning to live a different life, without drugs and alcohol, is full of triggers, and relapse is a very real possibility.

Participating in an IOP after rehab can help ease the transition and make relapse less likely. The ongoing but stepped-down support allows a person to make a safer transition that is not so abrupt. The IOP provides a safe place to turn when cravings threaten to cause a relapse. The ongoing care also strengthens sobriety and the tools learned in rehab for managing triggers and making positive lifestyle changes.

Outpatient Care Provides Greater Flexibility

While staying in residential rehab is a necessity and the best choice for many people, for others it may not be necessary. A benefit of choosing an IOP instead is that it gives a person more flexibility. While in residential care it is impossible to do anything else, including maintaining a job, looking for a job or being with supportive family and friends to help develop healthier relationships.

IOPs vary in terms of their scheduling, but many offer both day and evening options. This allows clients to be able to choose the option that works best and even provides an opportunity to continue going to work or to school to continue an education. With an IOP a person can continue to socialize with friends and family in safe environments, benefitting from their support and practicing new skills for managing triggers and preventing relapse.

An IOP Allows for Treatment Extension with Minimal Disruption

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Because an IOP can be used to give clients the flexibility needed to be able to manage family responsibilities, go to work, go to school or participate in ordinary activities, it can also be used to extend treatment. There are time limits on staying in residential care for practical reasons, like cost and work. But, because IOPs cause less disruption and have more flexibility, they can be extended beyond the end of one treatment session. If a client needs more care it is easier to start another IOP session and to continue living a normal life at home and outside of care.

IOPs Include the Comfort of Home

Everyone is different and this means that choosing a treatment program will be based on the unique needs of the individual. For those who feel uncomfortable in a residential facility, who have a supportive and loving family at home and who generally feel safer and more comfortable in their own home with their own things, an IOP can be a comfort. It allows the client to remain where he or she feels best, and this only benefits treatment and recovery.

The choice of an IOP for treating a substance use disorder is a personal one. One of the most important ways to make treatment effective is to ensure that it meets the unique needs of the individual person. For some people, residential care is best, but for others there are too many benefits of an IOP to not consider this as a valid option for primary or extended care.

1Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Substance Abuse: Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64094/

2Psychiactric Services. Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient Programs: Assessing the Evidence.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4152944/

3National Institute on Drug Abuse. Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide.
https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment

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