IOP vs Outpatient

For many people who struggle with addiction, the idea of moving out and leaving home is scary. While confronting substance abuse is difficult enough, leaving everything you know behind can be even more painful and make recovery feel like something foreign and not achievable. Some people simply may not be able to quit their jobs to receive treatment. Others may not want to or are willing to leave their spouses or children.

For reasons like these and many more, people turn to outpatient treatment facilities. Outpatient programs provide the opportunity to get sober safely and receive the type of addiction counseling you need to thrive without having to put your life on pause.

There are some people who feel that residential treatment is their only hope of quitting drugs or alcohol. Their home environment is filled with triggers that prevent them from focusing on their recovery. Outpatient therapy uses counseling to help people confront those triggers on a daily basis. You don’t have to worry about returning from a long-term inpatient program only to be flooded with temptation.

There are two types of outpatient therapy to consider: traditional outpatient treatment and intensive outpatient treatment, often shortened and referred to as IOP. Understanding the difference between the two programs can help you feel more comfortable with the idea of treatment and select the right program for you and your lifestyle.

Traditional Outpatient Addiction Treatment

The least restrictive form of counseling, outpatient programs are favored by many with mild addictions for their flexibility. You can attend counseling sessions when you are free, so most people get help in the evenings or weekends while they go about their daily lives.

For people whose substance use hasn’t impacted their ability to hold down a job or attend school, traditional outpatient therapy can be convenient and beneficial. However, people with long-term addictions that have significantly impacted their life, relationships and health aren’t going to receive the intensive level of support and therapy they need to get better.

Who Should Go to Traditional Outpatient Programs?

There are a few types of people who make a good fit for outpatient drug and alcohol programs. These include:

  • People who have recently developed a drug or drinking problem
  • People whose addiction is mild
  • People who have begun experimenting with drugs or worry they’re bordering on addiction
  • Recovering addicts who have relapsed and want a refresh on sobriety tactics and resources
  • People who are highly motivated and committed to getting sober and have a strong family support system

What to Expect in Traditional Outpatient Treatment

Regardless of setting, most addiction programs last around 90 days according to the addiction treatment standards provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Most outpatient programs are specified by monthly duration rather than days. Group therapy is often a large component of treatment, and many programs follow a “step-down” approach that connects clients with 12-step support groups to continue their treatment after they’ve completed a recovery program.

Most outpatient rehabs are welcoming and laid-back. The fear that you will be treated like a helpless patient can be disregarded. You are a willing, fully capable person who has decided to take back control over your life. You will be greeted by a supportive staff that prioritizes your well-being.

Your motivation plays a large role in your success and recovery. People who aren’t ready to get sober might have a difficult time showing up and participating in counseling sessions or group therapy.

Those who don’t believe they have a problem or are resistant to treatment won’t benefit greatly from the services at an outpatient program. If you are looking to help a loved one realize the extent of their addiction, you might want to consider scheduling an intervention rather than encouraging them to just attend a program.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs

An intensive outpatient program, or IOP, is ideal for people with moderate addictions that do not require medically supervised detox. People with co-occurring disorders may also choose to attend an IOP program where they can receive treatment for both their addiction and any underlying psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

In IOP treatment, different therapies are used. The duration of sessions is much longer than regular outpatient therapy. A typical IOP program lasts for three hours a day, three days a week. Some highly focused IOP treatments can even meet up to 30 hours a week.

The intensity of the treatment and the duration of the therapy are ultimately up to you, but understanding the different types of treatment options and their effectiveness can help you make the right decision. Flexibility is just one aspect of choosing the right rehab. You also have to ensure that the IOP you’re interested in uses the right combination of therapy to truly help you overcome addiction.

While 12-step programs have been proven to be effective models of therapy, they aren’t the only way to stay sober. Personalized treatment is an important aspect of addiction recovery. Everyone has unique struggles and circumstances surrounding their addiction and affecting their sobriety. An IOP with a combination of therapies that work for you is the best way to achieve success.

Typical Therapies Found at an IOP

Every rehab has its own philosophy and approach to treatment. The more time you’re able to commit to a program, the more therapies you can try. Understanding the most common IOP services and treatments will make it more comfortable for you and help you make better choices when selecting a rehab.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is one of the most common forms of therapy used by psychologists and addiction counselors. CBT is designed to help you as you are now rather than focusing on your past and dredging up uncomfortable memories and painful feelings.

While past experiences such as abuse or trauma often play a large role in the development of addiction, substance use disorder is a present issue that must be addressed from various angles.

Through CBT, you work with a therapist in one-on-one sessions. During your treatment, you’ll learn how to identify negative thinking patterns and develop healthier perspectives that alter your behavior.

The fear of losing control is strong among millions of people, and the uncertainty that overshadows addiction can make recovery feel more like a threat than an opportunity. CBT can help you gain the security and confidence you need to confront a variety of challenges without the use of drugs or alcohol.

Addiction Education Groups

Some aspects of an IOP center around knowledge. Understanding how addiction happens and the various ways it affects your body and mind gets you more involved in your recovery. Rather than feeling like you have a problem someone else is equipped to fix, you gain the valuable information necessary to understand, explain and treat your addiction.

These sessions are usually held in groups and are relaxed. Substance abuse, its consequences, and relapse prevention techniques are covered; most people undergo this type of therapy at the start of their IOP.

The official term for this type of therapy is “psychoeducation.” While some therapeutic techniques are implemented throughout the group sessions, the focus is more on knowledge and awareness.

Family Therapy

The impact of addiction on someone’s marriage and family relationships can be devastating. Because an IOP is designed to address multiple aspects of your life, family counseling sessions are included in most programs.

The benefits of family therapy in substance abuse treatment include greater emotional support and increased accountability. When you understand how your addiction has impacted your loved ones, you may become more motivated to commit to your sobriety.

Family members who don’t understand addiction and think of it as merely a choice can also gain valuable insight during family therapy sessions. A substance abuse counselor can help parents, siblings and even children understand addiction and the best ways they can help you during your recovery.

Couples therapy at an IOP can help spouses reconnect and understand one another better. It’s difficult to maintain a healthy relationship when your entire life is consumed by addiction. Couples counseling will provide new insight, teach you both communication strategies and help you close this chapter of your life as you move on to recovery.

Skill Development Group Therapy

Skill development groups prepare you for life without drugs or alcohol. A cognitive behavioral approach is used to help participants build new skills or relearn old coping mechanisms that were replaced by substance use.

Addiction reduces the ability to make sound decisions and handle stress in a healthy way. In fact, studies show that chronic stress increases a person’s likelihood of substance abuse. Skill-building exercises with fellow patients will help you strengthen communication strategies, understand how different people perceive the same situation and build confidence in your ability to work independently and with others.

Support Groups

Group therapy is a big part of recovery treatment. Addiction often causes feelings of isolation, but group therapy proves that you are never alone in your struggle. Addiction support groups are considered a form of self-help treatment. The group leader encourages each participant to find something positive about the other members, build their own self-confidence and become more comfortable with expressing their feelings.

Support groups also provide a sense of emotional security. Treatment can produce a lot of anxiety whether it’s from fear of failure or a fear of judgment. Group therapy fosters a sense of camaraderie and acceptance. People are able to connect with others who understand their addiction and the difficulty it takes to overcome it.

IOP vs. PHP Therapy

While an IOP is a step up from outpatient rehab, it may not be enough for people with severe addictions. In more severe cases, a partial hospitalization program, or PHP, is the preferred method of treatment.

A PHP can be used to treat people who have recently left a residential center or who have relapsed and need greater access to therapy and resources than an IOP provides.

Most PHP sessions last for six hours a day and meet five days a week. The large portion of time dedicated to a PHP can impact a person’s ability to work, care for their family or attend to other responsibilities. Sometimes, a PHP is referred to as “day rehab.” The best way to think of a PHP is to imagine a residential treatment without the need to sleep over.

The same types of programs you find in an IOP program are often offered in PHP therapies. The primary difference is the duration of the treatment sessions.

Choosing the Right Program for You

The treatment program you choose for your recovery will impact you, your loved ones and the rest of your life. Weighing the options and considering the long-term effects of your addiction can help you decide whether you need a program that’s more flexible, like traditional therapy, or more regimented, like an IOP.

Don’t let fear hold you back from getting the help you need. It may be more comfortable to stay at work and only attend an outpatient session a few times a week, but many people benefit from the short but intense rigor of IOP treatment.