There are various treatment modalities or levels of care to treat alcoholism or drug addiction. The most common forms of treatment include inpatient, outpatient, and intensive outpatient treatment (IOP). One question that arises often is what type of treatment is better than the other? Should one pack up and go live at an inpatient center? Spend 10-12 hours a week at outpatient? Or commit to 12+ hours per week at IOP?
The thing about getting help for an addiction is that the answer will depend on you, your wants and needs, the severity of the addiction, and the time you have to put into treatment.
Before we look at what an IOP is, let’s define inpatient and outpatient treatment modalities.
Inpatient Treatment – An inpatient treatment facility offers programs geared toward those that have severe addictions. They’re considered “full-time,” where you pack up and live at the facility for the length of treatment. There, you’re surrounded by a physician, a psychiatrist, and substance abuse experts that provide a high level of care in a safe and controlled environment. The time frame to stay at the center and receive treatment varies from a couple of weeks to six months or more.
Outpatient Treatment – An outpatient treatment center offers part-time programs where you’ll live at home and attend a certain number of sessions throughout the week. The number of hours that are usually required is between four and 10. This means that you’ll commit to between four and 10 sessions per week, usually for the time frame of about three to six months. This type of treatment allows you to live at home and tend to your family or work responsibilities while still getting treatment for addiction.
Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP) – IOP is a program that is somewhere in between inpatient and outpatient treatment. Rather than live at the center, you live at home and spend a certain amount of hours in sessions. The difference between outpatient and IOP is that you’ll spend more hours in sessions with IOP, as it’s more intensive. It’s a great option for those who have finished inpatient treatment, but still need a high level of care.
IOP is usually situated in a treatment facility or a hospital. You are able to tend to your daily activities, such as work or family, and attend treatment in the evenings or around your schedule.
For mild to moderate drug addiction, IOP has been shown to be valuable in helping people get free from addiction and go on to lead sober lives. Of course, whether or not someone should enter an IOP over inpatient treatment will vary depending on different factors.
For example, someone with a severe addiction to crystal meth or heroin may not get the level of care needed in an IOP setting. They may require around-the-clock monitoring at an inpatient facility, where professionals can monitor, administer helpful medications, and offer a safe and supportive atmosphere 24/7.
Someone with a less severe addiction may do really well enrolling in an IOP program, overcoming their addiction and leading a successful, sober life.
There are many services offered at IOP which can help you to stay clean and sober and learn valuable skills to navigate through life happy and free. The first thing that occurs is that you meet with a counselor and have an assessment done. All this means is that you have a heart-to-heart conversation in which you will be asked some questions. It is important to be honest during your assessment so that the therapist can get a full evaluation of your needs. This gives both of you what’s needed to come up with a treatment plan that fits your needs and desires.
Here are some areas of focus in many IOPs:
Anyone struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs is a candidate for IOP. It is also quite suitable for those who are struggling with a co-occurring disorder. All you have to do is make an appointment with a counselor at an IOP, and you will have an assessment to see if IOP would benefit you. Each person entering IOP is considered unique, and services will be catered specifically to you.
Each person’s needs vary, but most IOPs have patients attend maybe five times a week at the beginning of their recovery because this is the hardest time, as cravings usually come frequently. You may spend two to three hours at IOP each day to receive individual or group therapy and get educated about the disease of addiction.
As you progress in an intensive outpatient program, your sessions will be decreased and eventually, as you become secure in your recovery, you will be discharged from IOP. You may, however, still receive individual counseling and opt to attend a 12 Step support group in the community to help you stay on the right track.
When you attend IOP, there are substance abuse professionals there that know how to best assist you. Once you’ve gone through a detox process, you will be able to sit down and discuss your personal treatment plan. You will be treated with respect, educated, and be given ample time for counseling throughout your treatment. Most likely, you have some issues underlying your addiction that need to be addressed and worked through. You will be able to work through such while you are at IOP.
While at an IOP treatment center, you will meet others that are in similar shoes, so you get a chance to meet and bond with them while there. You may form a little support network with some of them and that support can carry over into your lives after you complete treatment.
Many IOPs will have staff that will educate you on the disease of addiction, which can really benefit you in the long run. If you simply try to stop drinking or drugging at home on your own, you may relapse and get frustrated. However, at an IOP facility, professionals will help you learn to identify your triggers and create a relapse prevention plan that will help you long term.
IOP offers excellent treatment while allowing you to live at home to care for your family or work responsibilities. This is a great option for those who need more than outpatient services provide and less than inpatient centers provide. You can also attend IOP for a while and then step down into an outpatient program when you’re ready.
Gifford, Steven. (2018, October 8). Psych Central. Differences Between Outpatient and Inpatient Treatment. from https://psychcentral.com/lib/differences-between-outpatient-and-inpatient-treatment-programs/
Nauert, Rick. (2018, August 2). Psych Central. Intensive Outpatient Program Shown To Ease Vets’ PTSD Symptoms. from https://www.bbrfoundation.org/content/intensive-outpatient-treatment-reduced-vets-symptoms-ptsd-within-weeks