Standard inpatient programs will not work for everyone, particularly people who are not making the progress they need in addiction recovery. Also, some people, upon successfully completing their inpatient program, may want or need additional therapeutic support. People in this group may want to consider the intensive outpatient option.

Like outpatient programs, intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) allow flexibility when it comes to where to live and personal obligations, but they provide intensive therapies that promote achieving and maintaining sobriety. Clients can reap all of the benefits from continuing with intensive counseling for their substance abuse disorder without the disruption to their daily lives and schedules.

What is Intensive Outpatient?

Intensive outpatient programs are a form of treatment service and support programs that are used in treating a variety of mental health issues such as depression or chemical dependency. IOP groups are usually smaller than other support groups, allowing patients to have more focus placed on them and their individual needs.

IOP does not require nor includes residential or partial day services utilized by larger addiction treatment facilities. Intensive outpatient for substance abuse allows individuals in recovery to receive addiction counseling while still maintaining outside activities separate from treatment, such as work or family obligations.

Intensive outpatient is usually a fairly attractive feature of the substance abuse treatment industry due to the more flexible scheduling offered in these programs. However, it should be noted that IOP for substance abuse DOES NOT offer any type of detoxification services, and therefore is not recommended for someone in active addiction.

These services primarily help those who have already received detoxification or inpatient treatment elsewhere and are medically stabilized. Since certain withdrawal processes from particular substances can be not only severely uncomfortable, but even life threatening, it’s important to ensure proper medical care is received prior to admittance to an IOP.

What Types of Therapies/Methods are Involved in IOP?

Since intensive outpatient for substance abuse involves “intensive” therapies, you’re probably wondering what types of therapies or services are actually offered in these programs. IOPs will always have a unique curriculum that fits the model supported by the individual program you attend. However, there are certain commonly seen types of therapies at the majority of IOPs.

Group Therapy

While every program is different, the typical IOP will operate on a group basis. This means that at your IOP sessions, there will be other recovering addicts and alcoholics present. Research has shown that in these types of programs, group approaches are just effective if not more so than one-one-one formats. Here, clients can talk about challenges among other recovering people who can provide support and understanding from a first-hand point of view while also under the care and guidance of a therapist.

Individual Counseling

Many times, IOP for substance abuse also puts emphasis on one-on-one time. While more time may be spent in group therapy, often the primary therapist of the program meets with each patient in a more private setting where more personal issues can be addressed.

Psychoeducational Programming

In intensive outpatient programs, it’s important for clients to learn about addiction in general. During these types of therapy sessions, the well-versed therapist will educate their patients on addiction and stimulate personal experience discussion among participants. Through these educational sessions, clients can both learn and make behavioral changes based on their newfound knowledge.


Despite not having an entire medical staff like a medical detox facility or inpatient treatment center, IOPs will often have psychiatrists and certain medical professionals on staff. Since many addicts and alcoholics suffer from dual diagnosis, or co-occurring mental health conditions, sometimes prescription medication for these conditions is required. These prescriptions are written and monitored by the doctor on staff to ensure the safety and progress of the client.

Monitoring Drug and Alcohol Use

Since the ultimate goal of recovery is to stay away from drugs and alcohol, intensive outpatient for substance abuse involves strict monitoring of substance intake. This usually comes in the form of weekly (sometimes less or more frequent) random drug tests that are submitted to specialized laboratories for analysis. By doing so, it helps keep clients accountable to their recovery and also allows the program staff to monitor the patient’s progress more closely.

Who Benefits from Intensive Outpatient Programs?

Intensive outpatient programs are viewed as just as effective as inpatient treatment for people with alcohol and drug use disorders. However, there are different needs in addiction treatment. Certain addicts and alcoholics may benefit from IOP for substance abuse, while others may not. Discerning if you’re a good candidate is crucial to your success in whichever route of addiction treatment you take.

Intensive outpatient treatment focuses primarily on relapse prevention. It is recommended that clients receive counseling between three to five times per week, but sessions can be scheduled according to your needs. The flexibility of IOP allows for an individual treatment plan to be created around your schedule.

Who is a Good Fit for IOP?

  • Have completed higher levels of care (detoxification, residential treatment, partial hospitalization)
  • Have recently relapsed and need additional time to recover
  • Need help with transitioning to full-time sober living
  • May have co-occurring disorders along with substance abuse disorder
  • Require ongoing support of therapists, mental health professionals, peers, supportive friends, and family while receiving IOP services

How Long is Intensive Outpatient?

IOP clients may attend five three-hour sessions a week for anywhere from a month to three months. During this type of treatment, you may also choose to go to counseling or therapy between eight hours a day and three to four hours a week. Once clients reach pre-determined milestones, the weekly session requirements may be reduced. The time you spend in treatment depends on the type of program you are in and how severe your addiction is.

People who require more support are highly suggested to attend intensive outpatient therapy sessions more frequently. This usually refers to people newer to recovery, with only perhaps days or weeks off of their substance of choice. Individuals who may have more sobriety time under their belts may be able to only attend two times a week and receive the same benefits. An initial assessment will always be taken upon your admittance to an intensive outpatient program, and a treatment plan will be designed according to your needs.

Need Help?

Whether it is an outpatient program or an intensive outpatient program, these kinds of therapies work only if the person can remain abstinent and successfully navigate living on their own while doing so. If not, inpatient or residential rehab that starts with a drug or alcohol detox is likely a better arrangement.

At Delphi Behavioral Health Group, we pride ourselves on providing top-quality addiction treatment care no matter what your individual needs may be! With our knowledgeable staff standing by 24/7 ready to answer your questions and get you on your way to sobriety, you’ll be matched with the perfect program at one of our amazing facilities! Don’t delay; call now at844-937-2860 and get connected to the help you need and deserve!

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