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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

November 17, 2023

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An IOP or intensive outpatient program is a form of outpatient rehab proven effective for treating mild substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder.

For most moderate or severe addictions, residential rehab, also known as inpatient treatment, is typically the most effective delivery method for treatment. This also applies when you need medical detox, or if you have an unsupportive or otherwise unsuitable home environment.

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Outpatient treatment lowers the financial barrier to addiction treatment as it is much more cost-effective than inpatient rehab, while still giving you access to broadly similar services. Let’s take a closer look at what is IOP and the benefits of IOP.

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What Is an Intensive Outpatient Program?

An IOP or intensive outpatient program is a form of addiction treatment that allows you to live at home or in a sober living home while attending counseling and therapy sessions for a few hours on weekdays.

Intensive outpatient treatment allows you to remain anchored to your life at home and at work. IOPs will typically involve a minimum time commitment, usually 9 hours each week, often in 3-hour stretches over 3 weekdays. While most IOPs will deliver 9 hours of treatment, the timing is variable, making this a highly flexible form of programming.

The majority of IOPs will last for 12 to 16 weeks.

A California IOP will provide you with a higher level of care and will deliver more structure than a regular outpatient treatment program.

In spite of its name, an intensive outpatient program is less intensive than a PHP (partial hospitalization program) in terms of time commitment. In all respects except the number of contact hours, IOPs, PHPs, and traditional outpatient programs are all broadly similar.

Some people engage with an IOP as their primary form of care, while others step down the continuum of care from inpatient rehab, or step up from a standard outpatient program.

After completing an IOP, you’ll potentially need to engage with some form of outpatient maintenance treatment, with a reduced time commitment and intensity.

Now, an intensive outpatient program by no means always makes the smoothest fit. Everyone in recovery has a unique set of circumstances, and no two addictions are exactly alike. Having said that, an IOP is typically advisable when certain conditions are met.

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Are your symptoms of alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder mild or very moderate?
  • Do you feel you are in sound physical and mental health?
  • Are you fully committed to sustained sobriety?
  • Do you feel comfortable working in group settings?
  • Is your support system robust and comprehensive?
  • What is your family’s attitude to your recovery? Is it supportive and is your home environment stable and free of triggers from addiction?
  • Is this your first effort to engage with addiction treatment?
  • Are you hoping to cover the costs of addiction treatment through insurance?

If you respond positively to these questions, it’s well worth considering an IOP if you’re ready to commit to recovery.

Assuming you feel an intensive outpatient program offers you sufficient support and structure, what can you expect when you engage with this form of addiction treatment?

What Can You Expect From IOP Treatment?

All the best IOPs are highly customized further to the results of your evaluation at intake.

Intensive outpatient treatment facilities place a sharp focus on relapse prevention since you will not be living at the treatment center, and you won’t benefit from the same intensity of on-demand care as you would with inpatient rehab.

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What Does IOP Therapy Consist Of?

Expect access to any or all of the following when you engage with an intensive outpatient program’s substance abuse treatment:

  • CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy)
  • DBT (dialectical behavior therapy)
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Holistic therapies
  • Vocational development
  • Family therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy During IOP

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most widely applied forms of talk therapy or psychotherapy.

CBT is proven effective for treating substance use disorder and alcohol use disorder, as well as co-occurring mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

With this evidence-based form of psychotherapy, you’ll gain a better understanding of the flawed thinking and negative beliefs that can lead to substance abuse if unchecked.

You’ll discover the people, places, and things that trigger cravings for substances, and you’ll record the automatic thoughts that pop into your head, often spurring you into using drink or drugs before you’ve had time to properly think about it.

An awareness of these triggers is combined with the application of healthy coping skills instead of substance abuse – heading to the gym instead of the bar, for instance, or taking a stroll on the beach instead of smoking marijuana. 

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy in Intensive Outpatient Treatment

DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) is a specialized variant of CBT originally developed to treat the symptoms of BPD (borderline personality disorder) but now used to treat a wider range of mental health conditions, including:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)

DBT sessions will help you improve your control over your emotions in stressful circumstances.

This form of psychotherapy draws heavily on the philosophies of Zen and Buddhism, encouraging acceptance of those things you are unable to influence. 

Holistic Therapies

Engaging with an IOP can provide you with access to a range of bolt-on holistic therapies like adventure therapy, mindfulness meditation, yoga, and ta-chi.

Relapse can be easily triggered by both emotional and environmental stressors. The more effectively you can regulate your emotions during stressful times, the less likely you will be to relapse.

Holistic therapy sits neatly alongside psychotherapy, medication-assisted treatment, a healthy diet, and regular exercise. 

Family Therapy 

For most people struggling with addiction, close relationships suffer.

Addiction sends ripples outward far beyond the end user and the family unit is usually impacted.

Family therapy within an IOP can help you to mend these unraveled relationships while learning how to communicate more effectively, and defusing conflict more efficiently with family members. 

Finding an Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program Near Me

Choosing the right addiction treatment center, like an Orange County rehab is not something you should take lightly, and it’s not something to rush into.

Start by asking family and friends for recommendations. With over 20 million diagnosed with substance use disorder in the United States, there’s every chance your personal network will have some experience with addiction treatment.

Do some simple online searches for “IOP near me” and “intensive outpatient programs near me”. This should throw you up all the best options locally. While it’s commonplace for people to seek inpatient treatment out of state, the best IOP will be easy for you to access from home.

Once you have a shortlist of suitable centers, it’s time to think about licensing and certification.

Addiction treatment centers in California are licensed by the DHCS (Department of Health Care Services). Centers providing the following services must be licensed:

  • Detox
  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Medical services
  • Educational sessions
  • Alcohol use disorder and substance use disorder treatment planning

Rehab centers delivering more than a basic minimum service can be certified by the DHCS following an on-site assessment.

Fortunately, you’ll find most of the best treatment centers in California offering intensive outpatient programs are not only licensed but also certified.

Establish that the programs on your shortlist are delivered by skilled and experienced medical professionals and support staff.

If you’re suffering from a co-occurring mental health disorder and addiction, ensure that all the centers on your shortlist make provision for this with integrated dual diagnosis treatment.

Renaissance Recovery’s IOP: California

Here at Renaissance Recovery, we offer a highly personalized California IOP to help you address your substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder.

How about if you feel IOP therapy makes the right fit but your home setup is unstable? Well, we can help you to arrange accommodation in one of our sober living homes. Here, you’ll be free to engage with intensive outpatient treatment while based in a supportive and inspiring environment surrounded by others undergoing a roughly similar experience in recovery.

If appropriate, you will engage with MAT (medication-assisted treatment). We can utilize FDA-approved medications to mitigate the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol use disorder or opioid use disorder, while at the same time minimizing the intensity of cravings.

MAT, if appropriate, is used alongside psychotherapy like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) or DBT (dialectical behavior therapy).

Addiction and mental health are closely intertwined, and you may be suffering from a mental health disorder like anxiety or depression co-occurring with addiction. If so, we’ll help you address both these issues simultaneously with our dual diagnosis treatment program.

If you feel that outpatient treatment is the most efficient route to sustained sobriety, you’re in safe hands at Renaissance Recovery’s IOP California. 

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At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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