What is an IOP Program?

Dr. Ximena Sanchez-Samper

Ximena Sanchez-Samper, MD is a Board- Certified Addiction Psychiatrist who obtained her degree as a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and completed her Addictions Fellowship through the combined Massachusetts General Hospital, McLean Hospital / Brigham and Women’s Hospital Addictions Fellowship program in 2004.

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IOP Programs

When an individual finds themselves caught in the throes of a drug or alcohol use problem, they have choices on how to proceed with handling their substance use issue. The good news is one of those choices is admitting they’re having difficulty controlling their substance use and to ask for help. There is no denying that it’s difficult for someone to admit they have a substance use problem. However, that’s the first step that is necessary to pursue addiction recovery, and it should be taken proudly. After that, the second step is figuring out what type of addiction program would deliver lasting sobriety with minimal inconvenience. 

Why does this matter? According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), more than 43.7 million Americans (12 or older) needed some form of treatment for a substance use problem. This figure is concerning. The good news is help is always available from a quality treatment facility like Charles River Recovery.

Types of Addiction Treatment

In most cases, new clients entering rehab will have to go through a detox program to rid themselves of the residual effects of their substance(s) of choice. After detoxing, a decision can be made by vested parties about which available treatment option would suit the client’s treatment needs. Treatment options can be broken down into two major categories: inpatient and outpatient. 

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient or residential treatment is straightforward. Clients are asked to stay 24/7 in a residential assisted-living treatment facility. The length of the stay will usually depend on several factors, including:

  • The severity of the substance use problem
  • The person’s substance of choice
  • The length of the client’s substance use period
  • The frequency of substance use

As a point of reference, the typical addiction treatment period runs from around 15 to 60 days. If long-term treatment is necessary, that can run from around 90 to 180 days. In the most extreme cases, a long-term medical treatment program might be needed, which can run more than six months.

During their time in a residential facility like Charles River Recovery, clients will be treated well in every way. That includes getting access to top therapists and the most effective treatment modalities. 

Outpatient Treatment

The outpatient treatment option is available in three variations. Each variation focuses on a higher or lower intensity of treatment. The three options are (estimated treatment frequency included):

  • Standard outpatient (OP) – one to two days a week at one to two hours of therapy per day
  • Intensive outpatient (IOP) – three to five days a week at three to four hours of therapy per day
  • Partial hospitalization (PHP) – five to seven days a week at five to six hours of therapy per day

As a reminder, rehab administrators will look at the aforementioned factors to determine which outpatient program will best suit each client’s needs. 

What Is an IOP Program?

The IOP treatment option focuses on two things. First, it seeks to help clients find the root causes of their addiction issues. Finding the root causes is usually very helpful because it shines a light on the client’s issues that need to be addressed. 

Second, IOP treatment programs are ultimately geared toward giving clients the resources they will need to maintain sobriety in the future. The term “resources” refers to things like coping skills and support resources for difficult times. 

Types of Therapy Used

Several types of therapy are typically made available as part of IOP treatment. The list of available therapeutic options usually includes:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family counseling
  • Introduction to 12-step programs

It will be up to the rehab’s administrators and therapists to determine which therapeutic options should be employed per client. 

Available Individual Counseling Modalities

During IOP treatment, clients will spend a lot of their time in individual counseling and therapy. During this time, therapists and clients will work closely to find the root causes of the client’s addiction issues. That will be followed by a focus on helping the clients develop better coping skills. 

In an addiction treatment environment, several common addiction treatment modalities are usually made available. The list would include the following modalities.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)Cognitive behavioral therapy addresses how a client’s negative thoughts could be driving their need to use harmful substances. By helping clients learn to convert their negative thoughts into positive thoughts through recognition, the hope is their need to use substances will decrease.

Dialectal Behavioral Therapy (DBT)Dialectal behavioral therapy looks at how a client’s negative feelings could be driving their need to use harmful substances. By helping clients learn to convert their negative feelings into positive feelings through recognition, the hope here is that their need to use substances will decrease.

Family Therapy – During family therapy, the discussion focuses on the way familial relationships may be influencing the client’s addiction behavior. This modality also seeks to help family members mend fences to create future support resources for the client.

Motivational Interviewing (MI)Motivational interviewing seeks to help clients deal with their negative feelings and insecurities in the quest for positive internal motivation toward more healthy behaviors. 

Developing Better Coping Skills

When all is said and done, clients are expected to leave rehab and re-enter the real world. They will face the rigors of life while trying to maintain the level of sobriety that they established during treatment. It’s a challenge, but tens of millions of recovering addiction sufferers are able to do this every day. 

The secret to their success is usually attributable to the improvement in coping skills they were able to attain during therapy. The ability to better cope with life on life’s terms is often the key to individuals in recovery being able to deal with temptation and their triggers. 

Why Someone Would Choose IOP Over Residential Treatment

When mention is made of someone seeking help for a substance use disorder, the assumption is they will enter a residential treatment program. The reality is many states are struggling to keep residential beds available because of the sheer number of people (see above) who are struggling with these issues. Limited bed space often motivates rehab administrators to suggest that borderline clients might do fine in an OP or an IOP setting. 

It’s noteworthy that some clients start in residential treatment and progress into the IOP option. This often happens when a client has done quite well in a residential environment and no longer needs 24/7 scrutiny. Rehab administrators will use this option to reward clients, allow clients to start assimilating back to normal living, and open residential beds for newer, needier clients. 

Of course, each client has a say in what type of option they are willing to accept. In a lot of cases, clients prefer outpatient options for personal reasons. Here are some of the common reasons why some individuals choose IOP treatment over the residential treatment option:

  • Affordability – Without insurance coverage, residential treatment will cost significantly more than IOP treatment
  • Family support issues – The client needs to keep working for family support
  • Child or elderly care restrictions – Some clients serve as primary caregivers
  • Client exhibits the ability to reasonably control their behavior
  • The person wants/needs time to keep managing personal responsibilities like going to school

Expectations in an IOP Treatment Program

Any kind of treatment for substance use disorder will take time and effort on the part of the treatment professionals and clients. However, there are often rewards rewards available for such hard work. The ultimate reward would be the client getting the opportunity to return to living a normal life without relying on a harmful substance.

To help people stay focused on the treatment process, rehab administrators will typically set standards, which serve as a pathway to recovery. At a minimum, clients are expected to show up on time for all of their scheduled appointments. This is necessary to ensure the continuity of the treatment process.

Individuals are also expected to show progress during the treatment process. This is where a person’s commitment to the treatment process really shines. If a client does make good progress, it’s always possible that they will be permitted to graduate to a less restrictive treatment program. The ability to go from an IOP program to a standard OP program is a wonderful incentive for a client to work hard on their recovery. 

As you contemplate substance use disorder treatment for yourself or a loved one, we want you to know Charles River Recovery is here to help. We can offer you or your loved one several different treatment options, with IOP being one of them. With us standing in your corner, there is no need to wait. Please give us a call, and let’s get you or your loved one started on the road to recovery.