Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)

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intensive-outpatient-programs-iopGetting help for drug addiction or alcoholism can be extremely difficult. For people suffering from addiction issues, even choosing the right type of care can feel overwhelming. Intensive outpatient programs provide more in-depth therapy without the need for the patient to reside at a rehab facility. This can be extremely beneficial to anyone who is struggling with substance addiction, but cannot abandon certain home or work responsibilities.

What Are Intensive Outpatient Programs?

An intensive outpatient program, commonly referred to as an IOP, is a unique type of treatment option that’s not like regular outpatient care or inpatient addiction rehabilitation. For many, this type of treatment is ideal, especially if they do not need medical detox.

With typical IOP programs, patients stay at home in the care of loved ones or family members. This allows them to begin mending the bonds that have been broken due to addiction right away.

Unlike more comprehensive programs where daily activities are likely scheduled, many IOP programs offer services roughly 10 to 15 hours per week. This allows many people recovering from addiction to focus on their home life and continue their work or education as they go through the steps of recovery.

What are the Benefits of IOPs?

Intensive outpatient programs provide a wide variety of benefits for people seeking treatment for drug or alcohol addiction, including:

  • Lower patient cost. IOPs don’t require inpatient care, around the clock medical staff or large, full-service facilities.
  • Patients are able to stay at home in familiar surroundings that provide comfort while remaining connected to family and loved ones who can support them.
  • IOP patients can continue at work, school and other necessary activities.

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How Do the Programs Work?group-in-therapy

IOP treatment works to help patients find long-term solutions to addiction issues. While individualized treatment plans are developed with patients, most IOPs use similar activities as part of their program structure.

Some of the common treatment protocols used include: 

  • Individual therapy designed to help patients address personal issues that led to addiction, as well as how to cope with life after drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Group therapy meetings with other addicts to talk about experiences and share healing advice and tips.
  • Workshops to help patients grow and become happy, healthy people without using substances.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy to help break old modes of thought, routines and habits.
  • Goal setting techniques to help patients get to the next step in recovery.
  • Drug testing to avoid patient relapse during treatment.
  • Family therapy to repair broken bonds and build a valuable support structure.

Are IOPs Effective?

According to findings published by the The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), IOPs have a high success rate when patients that fit treatment criteria enter these programs. Randomized trials have compared the success rates of IOPs with more expensive inpatient care and found similar success rates in both program types.

While the effectiveness of IOPs varies from person to person, it’s safe to say that IOP treatment can work very well for some.

What About Aftercare?

After completing an intensive outpatient rehab program, many patients continue treatment in a less intensive fashion. Addiction aftercare programs are typically developed with the patient, and may include group, individual or family therapy, as well as more cognitive behavioral therapy or treatment. Detailed plans are developed on a patient-by-patient basis.


  1. McCarty, D., Braude, L., Lyman, D. R., Dougherty, R. H., Daniels, A. S., Ghose, S. S., & Delphin-Rittmon, M. E. (2014, June 01). Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient Programs: Assessing the Evidence. Retrieved August 30, 2016, from

Last updated on June 21st, 2017 at 05:28 pm

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