What is IOP for Substance Abuse?

October 19, 2021

IOP stands for intensive outpatient program, and while there are many types of IOPs, IOPs for substance abuse are specifically designed to help addicts and alcoholics.

IOP is an integral part of the rehabilitation of anyone who has struggled with substance abuse. Several (usually 3) days a week, patients attend an IOP at either a treatment facility or another facility.

It can be a stepping stone for an addict or alcoholic who is recently sober and re-entering their life. It is different from an inpatient program because patients are not required to live at the facility while they attend.

Typically, IOPs occur on weekdays, and patients can choose between morning or evening sessions. They usually consist of group therapy, one on one counseling, and substance abuse lectures.

These programs may also assist a patient to get into housing (such as sober living) and get a job.

An IOP typically lasts anywhere from 60 to 90 days and usually includes random drug tests.

IOP for Substance Abuse: What It Is and Why It’s Important

Getting sober can be an overwhelming task, to say the least. There are many opinions about what an addict should do in early sobriety. Not all of these opinions are from professionals, and not all of them are useful.

The aftercare plan for a person coming out of inpatient treatment is a matter of life and death. Life is going to hit hard.

Going back home, returning to a job, dealing with a significant other and kids; these are things that are difficult to handle alone. Attending IOP provides a much-needed structure for an addict who wants to stay sober.

IOPs for substance abuse aren’t just for people who have just gotten out of inpatient treatment. 

IOP can be the first stage of a person's recovery from substance abuse. Not everybody needs a medically assisted detox, and the severity of someone's addiction will determine whether or not they will go straight into an IOP.   

Group therapy is usually the central component of any IOP. These groups help participants develop communication skills and socialize without the use of drugs and alcohol.

Peer support is a big part of recovery, and group therapy provides a safe space where participants can ask questions and get feedback from one another in addition to a counselor.

IOP and Individual Counseling

Individual counseling is also a common component of intensive outpatient programs. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) are the typical approaches for one-on-one therapy.

These therapies are used so participants can identify cognitive distortions (negative ways of thinking), challenge these distortions, and gain a more positive outlook on life.

Many times, an IOP will include lectures on mental health and substance abuse issues. These lectures are taught by licensed counselors and usually include educating participants about the effects drugs and alcohol have on the brain.

Lectures may include the following topics:

Attending IOP in conjunction with sober living, attending 12 step meetings, and finding stable employment are a recipe for success for anyone starting their journey in recovery from substance abuse disorder.

Does IOP Include Detox?

Typically IOP for substance abuse does not include detox. Detox involves the elimination of drugs and alcohol from a person's system through the process of withdrawal. A person needs to detox before they can actively engage in treatment of any kind.

An IOP can recommend a facility to detox at. Going through withdrawal is uncomfortable and in some cases potentially deadly. A medically assisted detox may be needed depending on the severity of a person's substance abuse problem.

If a person doesn’t go through severe withdrawal symptoms, they can usually start IOP right away. However, not going through an inpatient program, or at the very least detox, a person can be at high risk for relapse. Always consult a professional when navigating this situation.

Outpatient IOP VS. Inpatient IOP

Inpatient treatment requires a patient to live at the facility. This usually lasts from 30 to 60 days, although some programs can last longer than that. Inpatient includes amenities like meals, housing, medical doctor visits, psychiatric doctor visits, and recreation.

If someone has a severe addiction that has been going on for a substantial amount of time, inpatient treatment is probably the best option. Someone who has a history of relapse is usually a candidate for inpatient treatment before they step down to outpatient treatment.

If you are weighing the options of whether to go to inpatient first or not there, are some things to consider. Inpatient care can be very costly, and patients have to take substantial time off work as well as be away from family and friends.

Outpatient has a lower cost, a flexible schedule, and allows participants to live at their homes while receiving treatment.

One of the drawbacks of IOPs is that it doesn’t shield participants from the outside world where temptations may be overwhelming and lead to relapse, which can be deadly.

Once again, consulting a professional is important when making a decision about whether or not someone should go to inpatient before they attend an IOP.

Life After IOP

Attending IOP is just one step in the long road of recovery from active addiction. Recovery tools such as 12 step meetings and SMART recovery meetings should be a priority for anyone who is serious about staying sober.

At these groups, a person can meet other people in recovery and grow their support network exponentially. There is no therapy quite like one addict helping another.

Seeing a therapist on a regular basis can also be extremely helpful. Addicts in the depth of their addiction live a very chaotic lifestyle.

Sober living for an extended period of time during and after IOP is highly recommended. Recovery depends on structure and discipline. These are ways to help ensure long-term sobriety after a person leaves an intensive outpatient program.

IOP at ASIC Recovery

At ASIC Recovery, our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is dedicated to helping individuals develop healthier coping skills and build a recovery supportive network in all aspects.

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