Intensive Outpatient Drug Rehab Programs

When drug rehab treatment is provided in an intensive outpatient program (IOP), it is delivered at the program site, which can be a hospital clinic, a health clinic, a community mental health facility, a local health department’s office, a counselor’s office, or at a residential program facility that offers outpatient services. But IOP does not include overnight stays.

IOP programs provide fewer hours per week of treatment than partial hospitalization programs (PHPs). IOP programs typically offer 9-20 hours of treatment per week, conducted across 3 to 5 days. Some sessions meet in the evenings and weekends so that participants can accommodate work or school obligations.

The recommended minimum duration for IOP treatment is 90 days, but programs can run for several months to a year in some cases. Shorter IOP programs may be completed in about two weeks, but longer duration programs have been correlated to better treatment outcomes.

IOPs and the Levels of Care Continuum

Drug rehab programs are often designated as having four main levels of care, representing a progressive rise in intensity–Level 1: Regular outpatient treatment (OP); Level 2: Intensive outpatient treatment (IOP); Level 3: Partial hospitalization/day treatment (PHP); and Level 4: Residential or inpatient treatment.

IOP programs are less medically intensive than PHP or inpatient treatment, but they offer a higher intensity and more time spent in treatment than regular outpatient services, which typically meet 1-2 times per week for no more than 2-3 hours per session.

IOP programs are flexible in their intensity, their duration of treatment, and the settings in which they are delivered. They can be utilized as an initial entry point to drug rehab treatment, as a step-up level of care from regular outpatient care, or as a step-down level of care from PHP, residential, or hospitalization care. 

As a step-up level of care from regular outpatient treatment, IOP serves to intensify treatment for individuals who have been less successful than desired in attaining abstinence or learning and using relapse prevention skills. As a step-down level of care, IOP is used as a transitional mechanism to allow hospitalized or residential program graduates an opportunity to ease back into sober living by spending additional time maintaining abstinence in a supportive environment while also addressing other problems and issues related to the cause of their addiction.

IOP vs Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient programs are great, but maybe you’re looking for something that lets you stay connected to your family. An IOP (intensive outpatient program) could be the answer! IOPs offer a supportive environment with group therapies and support groups several days a week.

You’ll learn coping skills to manage your recovery journey, address any mental health conditions, and even explore options like medication management – all while still living at home. Think of it as a bridge between inpatient treatment and outpatient programs. IOPs can include 12-step program work and even family therapy to help your loved ones support your journey to staying sober. Talk to your doctor about IOPs if you’re looking for a supportive and flexible treatment option in the US healthcare system.


Who Can Benefit from Intensive Outpatient Addiction Treatment?

IOP programs are beneficial for individuals who have mild to moderate addiction, have a low risk for withdrawal symptoms, and have strong support systems via family and friends. They are preferable for program participants who can’t or don’t want to quit their jobs in order to attend treatment; for those who can’t or don’t want to be absent from their families for a period of weeks or months, or for those who can’t or don’t want to incur the extra expense of a higher level of treatment. But for IOP to be a viable option that brings success, participants must be willing to attend sessions regularly and complete the entire program.

Services Available in IOP Drug Rehabs

IOPs differ in the types of services offered. The selection of services is determined by the individual program. Some programs offer outpatient detoxification services, typically using medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Studies have shown that outpatient detoxification using MAT treatment is both safe and effective when delivered and managed using evidence-based protocols.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

The main type of services offered at IOP programs is counseling, most often using evidence-based therapies, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps clients gain an understanding of the relationship between their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and how to address each of these factors in ways that eliminate or reduce maladaptive behaviors and replace them with healthier, more positive behaviors.

Motivational interviewing

Motivational interviewing (MI) is also a commonly used evidence-based therapy. With MI, client and therapist share a collaborative, explorative type of communication that leads to the discovery and enhancement of the client’s motivations for addressing their drug misuse, as well as their personal beliefs about their capacity to change.

Dialectical behavioral therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), a special type of CBT, is frequently used to address the behavioral aspects of addiction problems. With DBT, clients learn how to achieve emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and mindfulness, so that they can reduce their substance use, while also decreasing self-harm, passive-aggressiveness, anger, or inappropriate interpersonal interactions. Individual, group, and family therapy are regarded as evidence-based therapies as well, and all are commonly used in IOP and other drug rehab treatment programs.

Experiential therapy

In addition to evidence-based therapies, many IOP programs offer experiential therapies that can engage emotions that clients may find it difficult to verbally articulate. Experiential therapies include art therapy, music therapy, creative writing, and psychodrama or role-playing therapy. Holistic and mind/body therapies, such as meditation and mindfulness, have become more commonly used. Yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, nutritional counseling, and spiritual techniques are sometimes offered, especially at luxury focused or holistically-oriented IOP programs.

Education & wellness services

Along with counseling, IOP programs may offer life skills training, case management services, family education and counseling sessions, and 12-Step peer recovery programming. Many offer aftercare services that allow clients who have completed their program to remain connected via follow-up meetings, group events, and/or 12-Step community meetings.

Success Rates of IOP Programs

IOPs have an important role to play in the continuum of care for alcohol and drug rehab. Studies have shown that treatment delivered in IOP programs reduces substance misuse, improves abstinence potential, and reduces the severity of substance-use-related symptoms.

Costs of Intensive Outpatient Addiction Treatment Programs

According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS), intensive outpatient programs cost about $15-20,000 for a 3-month program. Fortunately, most private insurances cover some, or most, of these costs, reducing the out-of-pocket cost of drug rehab for the client by as much as 80%. However, insurance benefits can vary significantly. 

In addition to private insurance, government insurances, including Medicare and Medicaid, also pay much of the cost of drug rehab for patients who are diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder, although co-pays may be required. Federal, state, or local grants are also available, and can be obtained from various organizations to help pay for drug rehab. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) provides block grants to all states that help nonprofit organizations subsidize uninsured or underinsured clients’ addiction treatment services. Some IOP programs offer sliding scale payment schedules based on clients’ income, so it’s important to do your research to find the best financial assistance programs for your needs.

More Treatment Options

  • Online Addiction Treatment

    Online Addiction Treatment: Pros and Cons of Teletherapy Addiction counseling and recovery education are critical to maintaining long-term sobriety, but …

    Read More

  • Transitional Housing

    Transitional Housing: How to Find the Right Recovery Residence Finding aftercare, or additional support and services following completion of a …

    Read More

  • Intensive Outpatient

    Intensive Outpatient Drug Rehab Programs When drug rehab treatment is provided in an intensive outpatient program (IOP), it is delivered …

    Read More

Who Answers?