Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are treatment services used to address addictions, depression, trauma, or other dependencies that do not require 24 hour supervision.
Finding the appropriate support level is crucial for recovery goals for mental health or substance abuse disorders.
Some people may require inpatient treatment with around-the-clock care to manage their health, while others may have less severe needs and achieve their goals by attending outpatient therapy sessions once or twice a week.
However, only some people in recovery fall into the category of needing either the most or least intensive forms of care. This is where an intensive outpatient program (IOP) can bridge the gap. If you need a more comprehensive level of support than weekly therapy can offer but do not require the 24/7 care of residential treatment, an IOP may be the ideal option.
What is an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)?
An IOP provides several hours of structured mental health treatment per week, but participants return to their homes afterwards. You can think of an IOP as a mini mental health boot-camp, where you receive targeted therapy for a few hours each week and then go back to your own personal space at night. You get the best of both worlds- intensive support during the day and the comfort of your own home at night.
Most IOPs include a mix of individual, group, and complementary therapies. And if you’re facing a specific challenge, like grappling with depression, navigating an eating disorder, or coping with the aftermath of trauma, you can find specialized IOPs tailored to your needs.
Your IOP experience will depend on your unique treatment needs and your program’s offerings. But most IOPs include a minimum of 9 hours of services each week for adults.
What Are IOPs Used For and When Are They Recommended?
Initially, intensive outpatient programs (IOP) were used as a treatment option for substance use disorders, but now they assist individuals with various conditions. They are specifically helpful for people who require more attention than is possible during once-weekly therapy, but don’t require inpatient care in a hospital, clinic, rehab, or other facility.
A person can enter an IOP as either a step up or a step down in their level of care to treat:
- Mental health issues such as anxiety disorders (panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder) or major depressive disorder
- Psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder
- Substance use
- Eating disorders
While some find intensive outpatient programs to be a great option, healthcare providers often recommend IOPs for individuals who exhibit mild to moderate symptoms, are medically stable, and have a support system in place. It is important to note that IOPs may not be suitable for those with severe cases or those who have co-occurring disorders. A qualified mental health professional can determine if an IOP is the right option for an individual.
What Can You Expect During an Intensive Outpatient Program?
In an IOP you can expect a combination of different therapy activities. While each program is structured differently, some common services include:
- Individual therapy. Work one-on-one with a trained mental health professional to address your specific challenges and goals.
- Group therapy. Share and learn from others facing similar struggles in a safe and supportive group environment. Find a sense of community and connection while gaining valuable insights and tools for your recovery.
- Family therapy. Loved ones can receive guidance and support as they navigate the recovery journey alongside you.
- Medication management. In combination with therapy, medication can play a crucial role in promoting desired behaviors and effectively treating both mental health and physical concerns.
- Education about substance use and mental health conditions. Educational sessions that provide essential information and helpful resources.
- Case management & care coordination. A team of professionals that share a patient’s treatment plan with their other physicians and provide access to other community resources.
Some of the topics covered in intensive outpatient programs may be tailored to the needs of the participants. These sessions can offer support and guidance on:
- Alcohol or drug misuse
- Compulsive behaviors
- Coping skills
- Anger management
- Life skills
- Healing family relationships
- Relapse prevention
- Stress management
Each program is designed to address the specific needs of those who attend, providing valuable tools and strategies for managing their unique challenges.
How Long is an Intensive Outpatient Program?
IOPs aren’t designed to last forever, just like other forms of more intensive care. The length of an IOP can vary depending on the individual’s specific needs and progress in treatment. On average, most people stay in an IOP for approximately 12 weeks, with sessions occurring several times per week. However, your time in an IOP will depend on your unique treatment needs. However, the length of an IOP is ultimately determined by the individual’s progress and the recommendations of their care team. The duration of an IOP can be adjusted to ensure the person receives the most effective and necessary care for their journey toward healing.
As you begin a journey in an IOP, your care coordinator, aftercare planner, or therapist can help you create a plan for when your time in the program comes to an end. This may involve transitioning to a lower level of care, such as weekly outpatient individual or group therapy in the community. On the other hand, some individuals may require a more intensive level of care, like residential treatment, to continue their progress. Whatever the plan may be, the goal is to provide the best support for your ongoing recovery. The length of an IOP may be temporary, but the tools and skills you gain during this time will last a lifetime.
Does Insurance Pay for IOP Treatment?
Many health insurance plans cover IOPs, but it’s best to talk to your insurer to understand what’s included with your coverage. Review your plan’s documents or call the number on the back of your insurance card to inquire about your benefits.
In addition, you can also contact IOPs to ask about costs before entering treatment. You can also ask them which insurance plans they accept. Their billing department can help with any pre-approvals you might need to send your insurance company.
Intensive outpatient programs can be an effective form of treatment for those in need of support for mental health issues or substance abuse. They offer a flexible yet structured approach to treatment and can provide individuals with the necessary tools for recovery.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health disorder or substance abuse, consider looking into an IOP as a potential option for treatment. With the proper support and resources, recovery is possible.