Addiction doesn’t happen overnight. As well, despite the behavioral and circumstantial attributes of addiction, more often than not it takes individuals by surprise to find out they’re chemically dependent when they begin experiencing withdrawal symptoms. However, despite its differences from other diseases, addiction actually develops largely as a result of lifestyle; specifically, addiction starts as experimentation with recreational substance abuse, slowly bleeding into more and more areas of the person’s life and causing increasing destruction in its wake. Unfortunately, those who are becoming addicted harbor the misconception that they can maintain control of their alcohol or drug consumption, but with the passage of time they’re more frequently absent from work or school, their relationships and financial situation begin to suffer, bills get paid later and later, and eventually an individual’s life bares minimal resemblance to how it was prior to when the substance abuse began.

By the time they hit rock bottom, those who have been living in active addiction realize that chemical dependency isn’t something they can overcome on their own. Addiction is a powerful disease with many profound and diverse effects that take root in one’s life and don’t want to let go. Fortunately, there are a number of effective addiction treatments available that not only make overcoming chemical dependency possible, but also very attainable. Although there’s not a singular path to abstinence and recovery, the general consensus is that residential and inpatient treatments are the most effective means of overcoming addiction. However, there are other forms of treatment, particularly intensive outpatient programs, that offer much the same intensity of an inpatient program, but with the flexibility and versatility of outpatient treatment. It may not be the best choice for all addicts, but intensive outpatient treatment can be an optimal treatment solution and help individuals to achieve long-term sobriety.

What exactly is an intensive outpatient program?

When a person thinks about what an alcohol and drug rehab is, they likely think about residential and inpatient treatment centers where individuals live on-site for the duration of a recovery program. However, there are several different programs that fall into one of two different categories: inpatient and outpatient. In the latter, individuals continue to live at home while commuting to the treatment facility to participate in the essential recovery curriculum. While most programs can be considered inpatient or outpatient, there are several different types of each, including intensive outpatient treatment programs.

Intensive outpatient treatment refers to an outpatient alcohol and drug addiction program that offers a curriculum that’s more intensive than a standard outpatient program. An individual who enters intensive outpatient treatment can expect to attend treatments at a facility at least a few days of week. Moreover, treatments consist mostly of counseling, psychotherapy, and group sessions. The goal of an intensive outpatient program is to offer intensive yet somewhat flexible treatments for those suffering from chemical dependency, helping individuals to overcome their addictions through social groups, counseling, and skills-building.

Components of an intensive outpatient program

As the core of virtually all types of recovery programming, individual counseling sessions and psychotherapy are a major part of the rehabilitation process for a couple key reasons. For one thing, counseling helps a person to learn how prior experiences, thought patterns, emotions, and attitudes have affected or influenced his or her addiction. Individuals also learn healthier and more productive cognitions that can help to prevent relapse in the future. Since intensive outpatient programs are relatively short-term treatments, the individual counseling received in these programs is often based on tenets of cognitive behavioral and motivational enhancement therapies. By utilizing these techniques, individuals gain an understanding of how they can prevent their negative, maladaptive behaviors with positive thought patterns and by utilizing a variety of emotional coping strategies.

Group therapy is another mainstay of most addiction treatment programs, including intensive outpatient treatment. In fact, many would consider group therapy as the crux of an intensive outpatient program since it provides each patient with a means of developing positive communication and socialization skills, allows individuals the benefit of establishing and participating in a peer-support environment, affords a level of structure and routine, allows patients who are further allow in the recovery process to lend their experience to those who are in the earlier stages of recovery, and is an effective mode for patients to learn a variety of useful skills and behaviors.

Benefits of intensive outpatient treatment for addiction

Since some individuals suffering from chemical dependency prefer outpatient treatment for one’s initial rehabilitation, intensive outpatient programs offer an inpatient-like level of treatment intensity in the form of a more flexible, outpatient program. As such, intensive outpatient treatment is often preferred by those with less severe addictions as well as by individuals who are embarking on the journey of recovery for the first time. However, intensive outpatient programs may not yield optimal results for all individuals, especially for those suffering from more severe addictions such as to painkillers or heroin. Intensive outpatient programs don’t typically offer or require a detox program prior to individuals beginning treatment; however, due to the opportunity that intensive outpatient programs offer for a means of transitioning, many individuals have found IOP programs to be ideal for individuals who have completed an inpatient program and want to transition back to the community by continuing intensive treatments while returning to live at home.

There are numerous benefits that intensive outpatient treatment programs offer those who suffer from chemical dependency. For instance, being a much more flexible alternative to residential and inpatient programs, intensive outpatient treatments might offer some individuals the opportunity to recovery from addiction when they’d be otherwise unable to commit to relocating to a facility for the duration of an inpatient program. As such, intensive outpatients afford privacy to individuals who won’t have to explain a prolonged absence from family members, friends, and colleagues. Moreover, intensive outpatient programs offer many of the same treatments as residential and inpatient programs, having a strong focus on counseling, psychoeducation, group sessions, skills building, and relapse prevention.

What to expect from an intensive outpatient program

Upon entering an intensive outpatient program for alcohol and drug addiction recovery, individuals will meet with a recovery counselor to assess their individual needs as well as to determine an optimal treatment regimen that will both address his or her needs while fitting into an existing schedule and routine. Seen as an enhancement of the outpatient format with partial-inpatient intensity, group sessions and counseling form the core of intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), putting emphasis on recovery and healing through socialization, communication, and by readjusting to structure and discipline. In a safe and drug-free environment, individuals in intensive outpatient programs not only receive treatment from the professions who lead the groups, but patients also encourage and support each other much like twelve-step support groups.

The counseling and therapy that individuals receive in intensive outpatient treatment is meant to help addicts learn healthier and more productive ways of thinking, which will prevent or minimize the chances of relapsing back to harmful and self-destructive behaviors. Moreover, an emphasis is placed on addiction psychoeducation, helping individuals to learn more about alcohol and drug abuse as well as the consequences of continued addiction. Generally, the atmosphere of intensive outpatient treatments tends to be laid-back and conversational, encouraging participation of each member of group sessions. Intensive outpatient treatments often teach recovering addicts a variety of skills that are crucial to sustaining sobriety, including stress management, handling emotions and emotional situations, process groups, assertiveness training, and even learning a variety of life skills.

Intensive outpatient programs have several individual components that fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Each component of IOP programs work together to arm individuals with the knowledge, skills, and strategies for achieving long-term sobriety. However, there are other types of programs available, ensuring that individuals can find the right addiction recovery programs for their specific needs.