Why Outpatient Treatment Helps Police Officers

Police officers deal with lots of difficult things on the job. They often work long hours, extended shifts, and see things not everyone else will encounter on a daily basis. Intensive outpatient treatment is just one way to seek help for addiction and substance use disorder. Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are a police officer’s first place to look for help with substance use and drugs. One result of constant exposure is also mental health needs. Getting these needs met in substance use treatment on an outpatient basis can make a huge difference for a police officer.

Why Substance Use Occurs

The use of substances on the job occurs at higher rates for police officers due to the challenges they face on the job. They put their lives at risk, encounter difficult situations, and see trauma on many of their shifts. They might turn to binge drinking to cope, which is sort of acceptable in some circles. As long as the job does not suffer, many police officers sit in silence about how bad their drinking is and continue to drink with others off the clock but may never get the help they need. There is also the consumption of alcohol while on duty, which might take place with others who are just taking a break from work when they get a call to another scene. The risks are high for police officers when they are not well-rested, struggling with mental health issues, and deal with physical health complications on top of it.

PTSD in Police Officers

Getting help for mental health is part of seeking outpatient treatment. Not every police officer is going to benefit from receiving mental health support in outpatient settings but many can get support. Law enforcement personnel are at higher risk for PTSD because of serious conditions they face on the job that put them at risk. This might be violence, trauma, assault, injury, or even be related to past injuries and issues they faced. Finding ways to combat this in outpatient addiction treatment are complicated but necessary. It should include family and work colleagues in making sure they get a high level of care directed at first responders.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP)

Intensive outpatient treatment (IOP) provides flexible daytime and evening schedules. This allows police officers the ability to continue working if they so choose and continue with their lives while they seek treatment. This integration model helps them deal with real-life triggers as they heal and, in certain circumstances, can be quite beneficial if they are ready. With IOP, police officers get support from counselors and treatment peers to deal with the challenges of recovery. The length of treatment depends on their needs. An IOP will provide space for therapy, training in skills to deal with triggers, counseling, psycho-educational groups, peer support, aftercare, and long-term planning for their careers in recovery. Dual diagnosis programming is also important to help tackle the challenges of dealing with addiction and mental health issues while being able to work on the job.


IOPs can recommend a transition for someone who needs more support if they begin in outpatient but require additional treatment. As an outpatient, they may also come from inpatient treatment and be at the tail end of their initial recovery program. Working with them means being flexible and offering ways to participate that support the police officer. They can maintain their normal commitment to family and work while doing an IOP. The process is flexible with participation being decided upon by treatment professionals and the individual.

Why IOPs Work

Police officers often have to maintain status and their jobs while they are working on recovery. It is hard to deal with all the triggers at work but if they are ready to be back at work while in rehab, they can continue to process these triggers in a healthy way with people who will support them. If they are able to deal with it in a healthy way, they can find support from peers, therapists, and superiors to work around their schedules in a way that supports recovery first. Police officers do hard work of keeping people safe and should feel their needs matter, too. Not only them but their families as well. Many programs offer integrative family programs for spouses, partners, and children to come alongside them. Community and family is an important part of recovery for people with addiction.

When to Seek Help

If the work of outpatient treatment is not helping, it may be time for more intense work in an inpatient setting. If the person needs support from their work to continue recovery, it may require additional time off. For mental health, it may be necessary to seek medication, change of medication, meditation, mindfulness, or some other form of therapeutic work to help them in recovery. It is important to keep channels of communication open to discussing what they need so they get the right help when necessary. The right help for one person is not right for all. Intensive outpatient programs are a great place to start for some and a place to begin again after inpatient treatment, to continue the journey of healing in recovery and returning to their lives with a better sense of focus and peace.

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