Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)

If you or a loved one is dealing with a detrimental dependency in your life – such as an eating disorder, depression, or something along those lines – that doesn’t require immediate detoxification, you might consider looking into an Intensive Outpatient Program.

What Is an Intensive Outpatient Program?

Intensive Outpatient Programs – also known as IOPs – are programs that exist to specifically treat addictions, eating disorders, depression, and dependencies that don’t end up requiring that the patient goes through detoxification. It also only works for patients who don’t need constant supervision.

IOPs are specifically around to allow patients dealing with these issues to still go about and experience their everyday lives. If you’re looking for a program where patients are removed from their normal life, that is called a residential treatment program, which is not the point of this article.

Sometimes, IOPs are also used alongside other inpatient programs because IOPs are meant to help patients transition back into their communities without hiccups. This combination of helpful assistance programs will assist the patient in returning to their life with support systems in place that is meant to help with potential relapse cases and teach patients how to use their improved coping strategies.

What Does an IOP Consist Of?

If you’re looking into this program for you or a loved one, you’re doubtlessly curious about what you’re signing up for. You’re not going to want a program with terrible reviews or who does things willy-nilly – you’ll want to check for one, like North Star Treatment, that knows how to keep you or your loved one as healthy as possible.

No matter which service you choose, IOPs tend to follow the same ideals and patterns across the board to know that you’re getting the proper treatment.

Here is what to expect:

  • IOPs generally consist of treatment sessions three to five times a week, for around nine hours each time (depending on your schedule, this can be changed to suit your needs).
  • Your total treatment time will last for about three months, but again, it can go for longer or shorter depending on your needs.
  • Check-ins with staff to help you stay on track

The reason IOPs are structured in this manner is to try and make sure that the patient, no matter what their ailment is, will be able to build the necessary skills to remain free of their disorder/depression/etc.

However, this is not to say that, should you relapse – which is something that happens to many – you will be kicked out of the program or anything. Instead, most staff at these locations will try to work with you to find a better schedule to meet your needs.

What Do You Do at an IOP?

Most IOPs are held multiple times a week for a set number of hours, and this schedule can be adjusted to work best for you. Most programs will use specific methods to help you get healthy, but other possibilities might also be beneficial.

These methods are:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
    • Exercises to re-center the mind and keep it focused on the goal
    • Coping and problem-solving skills
    • Expressive therapies such as art, singing, or craftwork
  • Counseling (individual, family, or group)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a specific type of therapy that is meant to try and help people learn how to live in the moment rather than focus on events of the past or mistakes that one has made.

CBT is not meant to feel invasive. Instead, it works to help people develop healthier ways to deal with and handle their stress, fluctuating emotions, and relationship-building with others in their life. In addition, it tries to remove the focus that an individual might have on an experience that is keeping them from healing in the present.

Although CBT was initially created to try and treat borderline personality disorder, in the years following its creation, it’s gone on to help people who have self-destructive behaviors (such as eating and substance abuse disorders). CBT has also proved to be somewhat valuable for people who have PTSD.


The adage about making your problems more manageable by talking about them is true. Therefore, most IOPs will include counseling so that the patients and the patients’ loved ones can come up with healthy ways to continue working toward a healthier life.

Talking can also help deal with underlying triggers that might be setting off self-destructive behavior.

IOPs Vs. Residential Programs

As was briefly mentioned, residential treatment programs require that any clients/patients who are using their services reside on-site.

Residential treatments will bring patients into their protective environment, filled with doctors, nurses, and staff that will act as and provide the patient with constant support. When people discuss “rehabilitation for substance abuse,” this is likely the type of facility pictured.

If you have to go through detoxification or any other process that might risk your health, you’ll likely end up in a residential program so that someone can monitor your health and wellness while you’re getting clean.

Choosing the Right IOP

When choosing the right IOP, there isn’t a set list of qualities that identify which one will be the best for you or your loved ones. So you might need to check out a few different ones before settling on the one you’ll work with.

The most important things you need to consider are:

  • Will whatever place you’re looking into work with your specific needs?
  • Will you be considered an individual rather than a dollar amount?
  • Did you get a good feeling from them when you spoke with them/checked out the place?
  • Do they have good reviews?

Although this is a very specific situation, it is always good to do research and find out – online or via word-of-mouth – where a facility such as an IOP rank and how it treats its patients.

Don’t choose an IOP blindly. Make sure to do your research.

North Star Treatment Services

If you’re looking into these services for yourself or a loved one, consider working with us at North Star Treatment.

Here at North Star, we strive to treat all our patients with respect and kindness, and we only want what is best for you going forward. So we hope that you’ll be able to get the help you need from us to go on and live your life the way it’s meant to be lived.