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Intensive Outpatient Program

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Each person who goes through an addiction treatment program is different. There is no one treatment option that works for everyone. Clients who enter treatment go through an assessment process to determine the level of care they will need in their program. As they progress, their personalized treatment plan will be reassessed and changed as needed. Intensive outpatient treatment is one level in the larger continuum of care in addiction treatment. However, it is a vital part of the process that’s designed to help you uncover underlying issues related to your addiction.

Learn more about the intensive outpatient program and Family Recovery Specialists and how it could help you on your road to recovery.


Intensive outpatient (IOP) treatment is the highest level of care in addiction treatment in which you can live independently. It involves more than nine hours of clinical services each week, but it may include as much time in treatment as a typical workweek. If you are in an IOP, any medical or psychological complications or conditions that require a high level of care will have been stabilized in medical detox or an inpatient program. In IOP, you may spend time in behavioral therapies with your primary therapist, clinicians, and in group sessions. 

In many cases, IOP is an opportunity to spend a large portion of time getting to the root of your addiction and learning how to prevent relapse.


Intensive outpatient treatment can involve a variety of addiction therapy options, which can be separated into two main groups: evidence-based treatment and alternative therapies. At Family Recovery Specialists, we focus on creating treatment programs that are rooted in evidence-based treatment options. These therapies have been proven to be significantly effective in scientific studies. Evidence-based treatment options can also be recreated in different treatment settings. Examples include 12-step programs, behavioral therapies, and certain medicinal therapies.

Alternative therapies are usually treatment options that have had some success on an anecdotal, clinical level but haven’t been proven to be effective in scientific studies. Alternative therapies also can be treatments that require very specific settings and circumstances to implement. Examples include art therapy, equine therapy, and yoga.

These options may benefit some people, but they haven’t shown enough evidence that they are effective in a significant number of cases. While they can be helpful, they should only be used as supplements to a treatment plan rooted in evidence-based treatment.

The intensive outpatient therapies you experience at Family Recovery Services will depend on your specific needs and treatment plan, but they might include:


Addiction treatment is personalized, so individual therapy is an essential part of treatment for most people. You will sit down with your therapist for an individual session to explore the underlying causes of addiction and how they can be addressed. You also can discuss the success or lack of success in your current treatment plan and decide how to continue.


Addiction doesn’t just affect you internally; it radiates outward and affects the people around you. Making meaningful connections with other people is often the key to achieving long-term recovery. Group therapy helps you share your story with others, develop social skills, and gets you outside of your head. By shifting your focus from your problems to the issues that other people are experiencing can help you realize you are not alone, and it helps you to better empathize with others.


Addiction is often referred to as “the family disease” because of the way it affects the person with the substance use disorder and their loved ones. At Family Recovery Specialists, dealing with issues that affect the whole family is our specialty. As long as it benefits the client, we believe the family should be an integral part of the treatment process.


Behavioral therapies are some of the most popular therapy options in addiction treatment. This can include cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management, and motivational enhancement. Behavioral therapies are designed to help you gain mastery over your behavior by encouraging you to succeed in treatment, advancing your readiness to make a change, and helping you to identify high-risk situations that could threaten your sobriety.


The length of time you spend in addiction treatment is an important factor in the effectiveness of treatment. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), research shows that the optimal time to spend in treatment is at least 90 days. Anything less than that has shown to have lower likelihoods of long-term success. However, addiction treatment is tailored to your individual needs, and that includes the time you spend in treatment and in each specific level of care.

The 90-day recommendation refers to the length of time you spend from your first day of detox to your last day of outpatient treatment. It doesn’t mean you will be in a highly intensive hospital setting for that long. When it comes to the length of time you will spend in IOP, it ultimately depends on your personal treatment plan and the progress you make in treatment. Most people spend a few weeks in outpatient treatment, but the exact amount of time you need to address underlying issues and learn relapse prevention strategies will depend on you and your therapist.


The continuum of care refers to a process in which clients who are seeking addiction treatment move through different levels of care according to their needs and progress. When you complete the objectives of your treatment plan at a given level of care, you will advance to a lower level. When you learn to exercise more control over your own behaviors and gain a healthy self-efficacy in your ability to resist relapse, you will need less intensive services. Intensive outpatient service is the highest level of care in which you can live independently.

It sits in the continuum of care between inpatient service and standard outpatient, which involves fewer than nine hours of clinical services every week. IOP is often the level of care in which you will spend the most time in behavioral therapies, learning how to deal with triggers, underlying issues, and cravings. Someone in IOP will have stabilized serious medical and psychological complications and conditions in detox and in inpatient service, but they still have many hours of clinical services and support. IOP is an opportunity to dig deep and address the roots of your addiction.

The continuum of care is an important part of effective treatment. It helps to tailor addiction treatment to your specific needs, but it also helps to avoid a phenomenon called institutionalization.

If you spend all of your time in treatment in the highest level of care with 24 hours of medical and clinical monitoring, you may only learn how to avoid relapse and deal with triggers in an intensive care treatment environment. Moving to lower levels of care as you make progress may sound like treatment is getting easier, but independence comes with new challenges. As you gain more time and personal freedom, you will have to apply the things you learned in treatment to deal with stressors and triggers in the real world.


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