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Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): What is It & Find IOPs Near Me

4 min read · 8 sections
Effective treatment for substance use disorders (SUDs) involves a personalized treatment plan that factors in an individual’s unique set of needs, risks, strengths, support structure, and recovery goals.1 Individuals work with their primary care physician, mental healthcare provider, or an addiction treatment specialist to discuss these factors and inform a treatment plan, including the appropriate level of care. For some, the appropriate level of care may be an intensive outpatient program (IOP).
What you will learn:
What an IOP entails
The therapies utilized in an IOP
Who is best suited for an IOP
Insurance coverage of an IOP
How to find an IOP near me

What is an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)?

Types of treatment programs.

While the specifics of each intensive outpatient program (IOP) differ, every IOP provides a highly structured treatment program that addresses substance use disorder (SUD) issues and relapse prevention for individuals who do not require medical detoxification or 24-hour supervision.2 Individuals participating in IOPs are able to maintain responsibilities at home, school, or work since they can return home or to a sober living environment at the end of each day.

Though they may involve the same or very similar therapeutic approaches as other levels of care for addiction treatment—such as individual and group counseling, medication (if necessary), behavioral therapies, psychoeducation, case management, and more—IOPs offer a higher level of intensity than standard outpatient programs but a lower level than inpatient rehab. Individuals may transition to an IOP from withdrawal management or inpatient programs, or they may begin treatment in an IOP.2,4

While programs vary, IOPs generally require participants to attend treatment at least 9 hours per week, which is often delivered in 3, 3-hour sessions.3,4 Treatment can take place in a variety of settings, including in hospitals, rehab facilities, community centers, and clinics, where individuals learn to recognize and address the emotions and behaviors behind their substance use, adopt new strategies to cope and solve problems, and navigate day-to-day triggers and situations.3

What is the Difference Between an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and Inpatient Treatment?

As the name indicates, an IOP is conducted in an outpatient treatment setting, meaning individuals live at home or in a sober living environment for the duration of their treatment program. IOPs fall in the middle of the continuum of addiction care, which consists of 5 levels of treatment. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), those levels include:1

Level 0.5: Prevention and early intervention.

Level 1: Outpatient programs.

Level 2: Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) and partial hospitalization programs (PHPs).

Level 3: Residential or inpatient programs.

Level 4: Intensive inpatient programs.

Having a support system is essential to recovery.

These different levels of addiction treatment care range from highly supportive inpatient programs that offer 24-hour medical care to less supportive standard outpatient programs that may only require treatment attendance for a few hours each week or even every other week.2

When comparing inpatient treatment with IOP, there are several key differences.

In an inpatient program, individuals live and sleep at a facility. Inpatient treatment provides 24/7 care and round-the-clock monitoring and support in a structured, safe, and substance-free environment. Individuals are removed from potential environmental triggers so they can fully focus on their recovery.5 Additionally, inpatient rehabs may offer medically managed detoxification services, which may be necessary for individuals struggling with acute withdrawal.3

On the other hand, an IOP allows individuals to live and sleep at home or in a sober living residence and visit the facility to attend counseling and therapy sessions, allowing individuals to continue fulfilling responsibilities at home, school, and work while in treatment.1,4 An IOP may actually last for a longer period of time than an inpatient program since sessions are spread out to offer a more flexible schedule. However, an IOP will still likely cost less than an inpatient program since IOPs don’t provide 24/7 care or include room and board.2,4

The treatment services rendered in both inpatient programs and IOPs are nearly identical.4 And research indicates that there are no significant differences in treatment outcomes between those who complete an inpatient program and those who finish an IOP.3

There are benefits to each type of treatment, which can depend on a person’s specific needs. As previously mentioned, to find the appropriate level of care, individuals should consult their primary care physician, qualified mental health provider, or an addiction treatment specialist to collaborate on a personalized treatment plan.

What to Expect in an IOP

No two programs are exactly alike, but IOPs typically offer a combination of evidence-based therapies and interventions that may include:4

  • Personalized treatment planning.
  • Individual and group counseling.
  • Behavioral therapies.
  • Psychoeducation.
  • Case management.
  • Medication (if necessary).
  • 24-hour crisis services.
  • Family services.
  • Alcohol and drug monitoring/testing.
  • Peer services.
  • Licensed childcare services.
  • Transportation.
  • Wellness programs.
  • Vocational or educational services.
  • Co-occurring disorder mutual-help groups.

Groups are one of the core components of treatment in IOPs. Many facilities use different types of group therapy as a part of a comprehensive treatment approach.4

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

What to expect at group therapy.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is rooted in the idea that a person’s interpretations of events or thoughts and beliefs affect their responses to those events or behaviors. CBT groups provide education and skills training that can help individuals modify their thoughts and behaviors to help them reduce their relapse risk, sustain recovery, and achieve a sense of self-efficacy. Using CBT in an IOP, where individuals continue to live and work in their normal environments—and be exposed to relapse triggers—allows them to practice the skills they’ve learned in real-life situations.3

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Motivational Interviewing (MI) helps individuals resolve their ambivalence to change. The client-centered, empathic, and directive approach involves learning problem-solving strategies, promoting an internal belief in one’s ability to change, and taking responsibility for making desired life changes.3

12-Step Facilitation

12-Step facilitation focuses on familiarizing individuals in IOPs with the 12 Steps of recovery and helping them begin to work through the 12 Steps, achieve abstinence, and encourage involvement with community-based 12-Step groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), or Cocaine Anonymous (CA).3

Matrix Model

The Matrix Model, a comprehensive, highly structured program that was initially developed to treat people struggling with stimulant misuse, integrates CBT, 12-Step approaches, and MI, to help individuals achieve behavioral, emotional, cognitive, and relational goals.3

How Long Does Intensive Outpatient Treatment Last?

Program duration depends on a person’s needs. As previously mentioned, IOPs generally require at least 9 hours of treatment per week—typically delivered in 3, 3-hour sessions. By comparison, partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) generally require 6 hours or more per day, most days of the week and standard outpatient programs usually require a few hours, 1 to 3 times per week.3,6

The ASAM Criteria does not specify a minimum duration for IOPs. However, some IOPs last 90 days or more.3

IOP Treatment Schedule

Treatment schedules in IOPs vary, but most follow a structured schedule that’s offered during the day or in the evening.3,4 A typical IOP program schedules 3 hours of treatment on 3 days or evenings each week, but some programs meet 5 times per week.3

Schedules differ from facility to facility. A few examples: At American Addiction Centers’ (AAC) Desert Hope Treatment Center in Las Vegas, the IOP schedule is 9 a.m.-12 p.m. At Greenhouse Treatment Center in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, IOPs take place during the day (8 a.m.-12 p.m., Monday-Friday) or in the evening during 3-hour sessions on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Similarly, at AAC’s AdCare Rhode Island Warwick facility, IOPs are offered day (9 a.m.-12 p.m. Monday-Friday) or evening (5:30-8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday). And at the South Kingstown facility, IOPs take place during the day (9 a.m.-12 p.m., Monday-Wednesday).

Many of AAC’s facilities throughout the country offer IOP treatment, including:

Is an Intensive Outpatient Program Right for Me?

As previously mentioned, you should consult your primary care physician, mental healthcare provider, or an addiction treatment specialist to discuss treatment plan options and considerations as they pertain to your needs to determine the level of care that’s appropriate for you.

In general, IOPs can function as an entry point into the continuum of care, be a beneficial step-down form of treatment for individuals who have completed a residential or inpatient program, or a step-up program for people who need a higher intensity level of care.4

Additionally, individuals who might be good candidates for IOPs include:4,6

  • Those who have access to reliable transportation.
  • Individuals with a supportive and stable living environment.
  • People who completed an inpatient or withdrawal management program.
  • Those with a minimal risk of acute intoxication or withdrawal.
  • Individuals who have severe health conditions or have manageable conditions that won’t interfere with treatment.
  • People who have mild psychological symptoms or those with emotional, behavioral, and cognitive conditions that are treatable in an outpatient setting.
  • Those who do not require a 24-hour structured residential setting.
  • Individuals who are at an increased risk of relapse without ongoing weekly support and monitoring.

How to Find an IOP Near You

If it’s determined that an IOP is the best option for you, there are several factors that you may wish to consider when comparing programs and facilities, including:7

  • The location of the facility.
  • Whether it offers evidence-based treatments.
  • Accreditations.
  • Staff licenses and certifications.
  • Whether they involve family members in the treatment process.
  • Reviews from former patients.
  • Payment options.
  • Special-population programs.
  • Aftercare planning.

If you or a loved one are interested in finding an IOP or learning more about rehab, please call AAC’s free, confidential helpline at to speak to a caring and knowledgeable admissions navigator. We can answer your questions, explain your options, discuss the treatment process, verify your insurance, and help you get started with treatment today.

Frequently Asked Questions About Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs)

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