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Intensive Outpatient Services

Everyone who seeks addiction treatment will come with a unique set of needs, personality traits, and perspective. Addiction is a complex disease that often affects different parts of a person’s life and may have its roots and a variety of different causes. For those reasons, addiction treatment needs to be tailored to individual needs.

When you first enter addiction treatment, you’ll go through a process of intake and assessment. The process is designed to determine the right level of care for your needs. It also helps professionals put together a treatment plan to address those needs, along with your input. If you have medical, psychological, or social needs that require intensive treatment but don’t require 24/7 care, you may be placed in intensive outpatient treatment.

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Intensive outpatient treatment is the third level of care in addiction treatment. It comes after inpatient and right before standard outpatient treatment. Learn more about intensive outpatient treatment and how it might be the best treatment option for your needs.

What Is an Intensive Outpatient Program?

Intensive outpatient (IOP) treatment is a level of care in addiction treatment that involves high levels of care during the day while you are able to live at home at night. According to the continuum of care model that’s been outlined by the American Society of Addiction Treatment (ASAM), IOP is the second level of care in addiction treatment.

IOP consists of at least nine or more hours of treatment services every week. Partial hospitalization, which is a level of care that falls under IOP, involves more than 20 hours of treatment services each week.

IOP is ideal for people who have significant medical or psychological needs but don’t need 24-hour medically managed or monitored care. At this level, clinicians can offer structure and support while treating multidimensional needs. In addiction treatment, clinicians, and therapy options will address more than substance use problems.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), effective treatment should treat medical, psychological, social, financial, and legal problems.

IOP offers support as you progress from inpatient or residential services to living at home. As you face the triggers and cravings that may be caused by increased independence and responsibility, you will still have clinical support that can help you take on the new challenges in your recovery.

What Therapies Are Offered in an Intensive Outpatient Program?

A wide variety of addiction therapy options are available in IOP. The ones you go through will be based on your individual needs. There are very specific therapy options like trauma therapy, therapy targeted at eating disorders, and other options that you might go through if you have those needs. However, several common therapies can be applied to many people seeking addiction treatment. Here are some of the most common options:

  • Individual therapy. One-on-one therapy with a clinical professional is the backbone of addiction treatment. Frequent meetings with your therapist can help you determine your treatment plan, processes treatment goals and objectives, and form a relapse prevention strategy. You will meet with your therapist at least once per week for an individual session where you access your treatment progress and make changes to your plan as needed. Many rehab centers match you with one therapist that will help see you through the entire treatment process. 
  • Group therapy. Group therapy is a common part of addiction treatment, and it may be the most commonly associated with recovery because of programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. Group sessions serve an important role in addiction treatment because they help you form connections and strengthen social skills. Making meaningful interpersonal connections has been found to be an important part of addiction treatment. Plus, it helps you learn the social skills to help you build your support system through your recovery.
  • Family therapy. Involving family members in therapy can be an important part of treatment for many people. Addiction is often called a family disease because it affects not just the person who’s using but also the people around the individual. Addiction also frequently has roots in family issues and dysfunction. Involving families in addiction treatment can show you how addiction has affected other people, it can begin to heal resentments that were caused by addiction, and it can help family members learn how to avoid enabling behavior. Family therapy can also help address symptoms of codependency. 
  • Behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy refers to a broad range of treatment approaches that are designed to help facilitate lasting behavioral change. There are several behavioral therapies that are used in addiction treatment, including contingency management, community reinforcement, and motivational enhancement. The most widely recommended type is cognitive behavioral therapy, which involves learning to recognize triggers, developing effective coping mechanisms, and developing relapse prevention strategies.

How Long Is an Intensive Outpatient Program?

Like other aspects of treatment, the length of time you spend in any one level of care and treatment as a whole will depend on your personal needs. However, research has shown that 90 days is the most effective minimum duration time. Anything less than that may have diminishing results.

That doesn’t mean you’ll be spending three months in one level of care. Instead, 90 days is the ideal minimum for you to be in active treatment from detox to outpatient. You may remain in IOP for a few weeks until you progress and can move on to outpatient treatment with fewer than nine hours of treatment services each week.

Seeking Addiction Treatment

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use disorder, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Since addiction is a progressive disease, it can get worse over time, affecting multiple aspects of your life, if it’s left unchecked. Getting treatment or seeking help early can help you avoid the disease getting out of control and causing severe consequences.

However, no matter how far along you are in active addiction, help is still available. It’s never too late to start on the road to recovery. Learn more about addiction treatment and intensive outpatient options today.


American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2018, July 20). What are the ASAM Levels of Care? from

Miles, L. A. (2018, July 08). Early Wounding & Dysfunctional Family Roles. from

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, January). Behavioral Therapies. from

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, January). Principles of Effective Treatment. from

Weiss, R., Ph.D. (2015, September 30). The Opposite of Addiction is Connection. from

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