What Is an IOP?

An IOP is an intensive outpatient program for treatment of substance use disorders. It is an alternative to residential, or inpatient, care and it allows patients to stay at home or in a sober living house. IOPs generally offer a greater range of services than just outpatient counseling but do not include the constant supervision of residential treatment. Outcomes are similar to inpatient programs. IOPs may benefit people who don’t need medical detox or round-the-clock care and who have a supportive and safe place to stay.

People struggling with substance use disorders often feel as if the only way to get treatment is to enroll in a residential program.

While these are great programs that give patients security, round-the-clock supervision, and a wide range of treatments and therapies, residential care is not the only valid option. Intensive outpatient programs combine many of the benefits of residential treatment, such as access to a variety or professionals and therapies, with the ability to stay at home.

What are Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs?

Intensive outpatient programs, or IOPs, are treatment programs that provide care and support for overcoming a substance use disorder for several hours a week at a dedicated facility. Patients are at home for most of the program but come to the treatment facility for therapy, medical care, support groups, holistic care, alternative therapies, education, and other types of care multiple times during the week.

A typical IOP may last 12 weeks and include 10 to 12 hours per week of treatment. However, most programs are flexible and allow patients to add weeks or extra sessions during the weeks of treatment, as needed. One benefit of an IOP as opposed to simple outpatient therapy is that patients generally have access to more types of care and treatment. Some examples of core services offered at an IOP include:

  • Different types of individual therapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy
  • 12-step support group meetings
  • Family education, therapy, and support
  • Holistic and medical care
  • Alternative therapies and experiential activities, such as art therapy or group hikes
  • Independent living skills
  • Goal setting
  • Learning healthy coping strategies
  • Relationship skills
  • Relapse prevention planning

IOPs vs. PHPs

The difference between intensive outpatient programs (IOP) and partial hospitalization programs (PHP) is the time spent in treatment and sometimes the location. PHPs are more often referred to in mental health treatment. A PHP is a step down from hospitalization or inpatient care but still provides more structure, more time, and more intense treatment than simple outpatient care.

A PHP may be used to treat substance use disorder, and compared to an IOP it usually involves more days and hours of treatment per week. Care may take place in a rehab facility, as an IOP does, or it may be in a hospital that can offer more medical care.

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The Benefits of IOPs

There is no single type of substance use disorder treatment that is right for everyone, but there are many benefits to choosing an IOP. For instance, someone who has a strong and supportive family structure at home may benefit from staying with family while coming in for treatment several days a week, rather than being cut off from family by a residential program. An IOP may also be less expensive and less time-consuming, allowing the patient to work or do other activities.

It may seem that more time in treatment or in a facility is always better, but this is not necessarily true. Researchers have found that IOPs have similar outcomes for patients as residential treatment programs. A review of several studies found that participants in IOPs were mostly able to reduce alcohol and drug consumption.

How Do I Find Intensive Outpatient Programs Near Me?

If you think that an IOP sounds like the right kind of treatment program for you, or if you have a loved one who may benefit from this type of care, you should be able to find several options near you. Many residential treatment facilities now offer IOPs as well, so check with all types of rehab to see what options are available. Also contact local hospitals and behavioral treatment facilities to find more outpatient programs. Another good way to find intensive outpatient programs is to talk to your doctor for recommendations.

Before you choose an IOP make sure it is the right option for you and the right facility. Visit before making a final choice, make sure the facility is licensed and that it offers a good variety of treatment options as well as individualized plans. No one treatment plan for substance use is right for all people, so make sure your needs will be met with the type of program and the treatment options and goals.

Alta Mira’s Intensive Outpatient Program

Alta Mira offers comprehensive day and evening IOP programs, as well as continuing care services at our Outpatient Services Center in Mill Valley, CA.