Understanding an Intensive Outpatient Program

Addiction treatment is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. In fact, a variety of different rehab and recovery programs are available to those who are struggling with addiction. One option that can benefit a number of prospective patients is intensive outpatient care.  

These programs are flexible and well-suited to many patients who juggle multiple responsibilities in their daily lives. By taking a closer look at what intensive outpatient programs are, individuals struggling with addiction, along with their family members, can determine whether this option is best for their recovery.

Comparing Inpatient and Outpatient Programs

To truly understand what intensive outpatient rehab consists of, it’s necessary to clarify the differences between inpatient and outpatient programs. For starters, there are many similarities between inpatient and outpatient care. Both types of programs offer addiction treatment, counseling and a range of therapies to help patients tackle their addictions and prevent relapse in the future.

The biggest difference between inpatient and outpatient rehab programs is the accommodation. Whereas inpatient programs include accommodation and a secure environment around the clock, outpatient programs allow patients to leave the premises independently and sleep in their own homes. Because of this major difference, outpatient programs are typically more affordable and more accommodating to nontraditional patients who need to work, attend school or care for family members while receiving treatment for addiction.

Defining Intensive Outpatient Care

Within the category of outpatient care, there can be additional differences that separate specific program types. The two major options for patients will be general outpatient care and intensive outpatient care. In many respects, these two programs are similar. However, the biggest difference between the two is generally the time commitment.

An intensive outpatient program may well be like having a full-time job. Patients are expected to stick to a regular schedule, and they might have a curriculum filled with appointments for fitness classes, meals, group counseling sessions, educational lectures or one-on-one behavioral therapy. This creates structure for participants, and it’s a significant time commitment. Of course, patients enrolled in these programs will still be able to leave at the end of the day, giving them independence and an additional layer of personal responsibility.

What to Expect From Intensive Outpatient Programs

Those who are ready to begin their road to recovery might be curious about what intensive outpatient programs actually consist of, as well as what they can expect as patients. Be prepared to undergo some kind of admission evaluation. This is a brief assessment that allows staff to learn more about patients, and it can include aspects of addiction history, physical condition or mental health.

Patients should be prepared for anywhere from five to seven days of treatment each week. Each facility sets their own schedules, of course, but the nature of the intensive outpatient program is that it provides near-daily structure to participants. Most programs start with breakfast in the morning and conclude in the evening, providing a full schedule of activities each day.

The specific items that patients will find on their schedules during each day of intensive outpatient care is typically personalized to the needs of each guest. That means a person who requires ongoing mental health treatment might be scheduled for more one-on-one therapy sessions, while people who are finding strength in yoga therapy might have that on their schedule each day. Some of the treatments, therapies and activities that patients can expect during intensive outpatient programs including the following:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • 12-step meetings
  • Group counseling
  • Communal meals
  • Sobriety education classes
  • Physical fitness classes
  • Yoga or meditation courses

Exploring the Ideal Candidates for Intensive Outpatient Care

There are a number of people who could potentially benefit from intensive outpatient programs. Both those that are new to recovery and those who have completed residential programs previously may be suited to the schedule of intensive outpatient care.

Individuals who have recently completed a residential treatment program of 30, 60 or even 90 days might be the ideal candidates for intensive outpatient care. IOP is a step down from residential programs, meaning that patients will have slightly more independence but still have a large support system available on a daily basis.

Other candidates who can thrive in intensive outpatient care programs are those who want the benefits of rehab but who have other obligations that prevent them from attending inpatient programs. For instance, parents with young children may appreciate that outpatient care lets them spend the evenings and mornings at home with their family. Those who care for family members, or who simply can’t commit to a 24/7 program, often gravitate toward the accommodating nature of intensive outpatient treatment.

Benefits of Intensive Outpatient Recovery Programs

Some of the advantages of an intensive outpatient recovery program include continued care for patients leaving residential care, lower overall cost, greater likelihood of full health insurance coverage and more individual responsibility.

Intensive outpatient programs are often the ideal transitional phase between full-time inpatient care and independent living. Intensive outpatient programs provide structure and accountability, and are an excellent way to ease back into everyday life without losing the goal of sobriety.

Intensive outpatient programs may also be beneficial to patients who have financial concerns. Since outpatient programs don’t include accommodation, they tend to be more affordable. As a result, many health insurance providers specifically note that they will cover outpatient care but not inpatient care.

Arguably the biggest advantage of intensive outpatient programs is that they can foster a sense of individual responsibility for patients. In a controlled residential environment, patients don’t have the option to go back to their addiction. When they head back to their normal lives, the transition can be jarring. Through intensive outpatient programs, patients can ease the transition and understand their personal responsibility while still having access to daily support and sober resources.

An intensive outpatient program can be an effective way to treat addiction. Patients appreciate this form of rehab because it offers greater levels of independence, includes the necessary treatments and therapies and is flexible enough to accommodate a range of lifestyles.