An Introduction to IOP

Intensive Outpatient Programs are a form of treatment that is carried out on a rigorous schedule, requiring frequent visits during the course of a week, and lasting several weeks. An Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) sits on the continuum of care between residential in-patient facilities, partial hospitalization, and once-a-week outpatient treatment programs. In an IOP, patients receive services primarily through group therapy, but are also assigned an individual therapist for weekly psychotherapy. Groups are small and generally do not exceed 10 people. The intensive nature of an IOP typically requires 3 hours of group sessions, twice a week, and 1 hour of private sessions, once a week. The typical IOP program often lasts for 12 weeks, although some centers continue care for much longer.

The roots of intensive outpatient programs are found in the drug addiction epidemic of the 1980’s. During that time, the government started shifting its “war on drugs” from incarceration toward preventive measure, such as outpatient therapy. Additionally, the acceptance by the medical community that substance abuse is a chronic disorder, similar to such diagnoses as hypertension, led researchers to question the traditional approaches for treating substance abuse. To that end, outpatient treatment programs were seen as effective and cost-sensitive approaches for combating addiction.

While IOP can be used for treating various forms of mental illness, they are very frequently diagnosed for treating addition. It is believed that 1 in 11 people suffer from an addition to drugs or alcohol. It is also believed that nearly 60 percent of those fighting addiction have underlying psychiatric disorders. IOP can help patients with immediate concerns such as withdrawal management and learning coping skills, as well as uncover and help resolve the underlying disorders that contributed to the addiction.

Generally speaking, IOPs are designed to establish the necessary psychosocial support and help facilitate relapse management and coping methods. IOPs are offered in small, safe group environments that are ideal for building supporting relationships. Treatment is offered through a team-focused approach and program participation includes various therapeutic components, including creating a care plan, as well as providing aftercare assistance and post-treatment services.

Severe cases of addiction may require full hospitalization or participation in full residential programs. When medical supervision for detox is not required on a full-time basis, IOP may be recommended. The outpatient nature of the programs, enable participants to work on their recovery while continuing to partake in work and family life. It should be noted, however, that IOP participation can also be combined with residential approaches, as discussed later.

At the two ends of the treatment spectrum are full hospitalization and outpatient visits, one hour a week. The traditional weekly visit approach can be problematic as there is not enough rigor for managing temptations and building the tools required to abstain, moderate, or properly handle relapse. Additionally, it is believed that drop-out rates are higher in the sporadic, one-hour-a-week approach. The structure of an IOP is inherently built to close those gaps. Additionally, IOP can be a great transition program after residential program completion. IOP can help enforce and build out behaviors and tools, while one re-integrates into their social environment.

Copyright 2017. Talk Therapy Psychology Center.

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