What is an Intensive Outpatient Program or IOP?

Understanding the Intensive Outpatient Program

If you spend much time researching addiction treatment, you will certainly encounter the term ‘Intensive Outpatient Program’ or IOP, for short. But what is an Intensive Outpatient Program or IOP exactly? The best place to start is looking at addiction treatment as a whole. Addiction treatment is made up of several parts and pieces. This is because addiction is a complex issue with many layers and causes and because different people respond differently to a variety of treatment methods.

The only way to ensure people get the help they need is to combine several approaches and angles. This has two main benefits. By offering options, you make it more likely for someone to find a program that fits their needs, budget and level of commitment. Offering more than one type of treatment within a single program helps ensure that people with different learning styles and experiences can all find something accessible to them.

Good quality addiction treatment includes a variety of elements. They include:

  • Different levels of care, i.e. Partial Hospitalization, Intensive Outpatient Program etc.
  • Psychiatric assessment and biopsychosocial workup.
  • Utilization of evidence-based methods of care with proven track records.
  • Individual or one-on-one therapy and counseling.
  • Group therapy and/or counseling.
  • Continuity of care and thorough aftercare planning for post-treatment.

Where does an Intensive Outpatient Program Fit in a Recovery Plan?

The first item in the list above is levels of care. The levels of care in a professional, clinical addiction treatment center in the United States are a system for delineating different intensities of treatment. An intensive outpatient program is one of these levels of care. An organization called the American Society of Addiction Medicine or ASAM is the one who devised these levels of care and is responsible for certifying facilities and confirming that the offer the levels of care as advertised. One of the most intensive forms of outpatient addiction treatment is what’s called an IOP. This usually consists of at least 3-4 days a week of treatment for several hours at a time. An IOP is one step down from a Partial Hospitalization Program or PHP in intensity. A PHP is about as intense as it gets before you get into a full residential inpatient program with 24-hour medical supervision. As far as where IOP fits, it is the level people usually go to after they complete detox, if needed and PHP treatment, but before moving on to weekly outpatient for only a couple of hours each week.

What’s the Difference Between an Intensive Outpatient Program and Other Types of Treatment?

One of the major factors which separates inpatient treatment from something like an intensive outpatient program in the eyes of ASAM is where the patient sleeps at night, believe it or not. This sometimes leads to confusion because people often assume that any sort of outpatient treatment means that they are just attending a group once or twice a week and then going home. Intensive Outpatient Program or Partial Hospitalization Program are not always what people picture when they hear the term outpatient.

The main thing to remember is that the inpatient vs. outpatient differentiation means that with an inpatient program, the patient always sleeps in a 24-hour staffed medical facility. In most cases they will spend the majority of their treatment in one building or one set of buildings. In any type of outpatient program, the patient goes out of the medical facility when their treatment day is complete. They may then reside and sleep in a sober living home associated with the addiction treatment program or in some cases if they are local and it’s appropriate, they may sleep at home in their own bed.

What to remember about IOP:

  • At an IOP the patient sleeps in a sober living facility or at home.
  • An IOP includes day treatment for at least 3-4 days a week or more.
  • IOP is less intensive (fewer hours per week) than a PHP program.
  • OP or outpatient is less intensive than IOP and usually means only a 1-2 hours a week or so.
  • IOP is consider a level of care. Most people go through more than one level of care in treatment.

Ask for Help

We hope this article has been helpful If you or someone you love is living with addiction. While it’s helpful to understand things like levels of care and the difference between intensive outpatient programs and partial hospitalization, the most important thing is getting the help. Educate yourself but try not to get overwhelmed by the details and minutiae. Contact Blue Hills Recovery at (508) 680-0115 and we can be an important part of your solution. Putting together a treatment plan and executing it isn’t a one-man or one-woman job. Our team is here to help, so please allow us to be of service to you. Our experience and insight can make a difficult time that much easier to get through.

Contact us for help today

Ready to start? We’re here for you.

Send us a message