Deciding if an Intensive Outpatient Program is Right for You

Deciding to participate in an Intensive Outpatient Program is not to be taken lightly. You can enroll in the program if you struggle with substance abuse, eating disorders, and mental health issues like depression and anxiety. We recommend this for people in need of a recovery program but who also need more care than traditional outpatient therapy.

February 20, 2023

What is an Intensive Outpatient Program?

An Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is a structured treatment designed to provide enhanced care to individuals recovering from alcohol and substance abuse-related issues. Our program has the following coordinated set of services:

  • Individual counseling
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Group counseling
  • Holistic Therapies
  • Family and peer education

An IOP moves you toward a stabilized lifestyle while addressing any current cravings that could lead to misusing substances. Most IOP’s can require up to 12 hours per week in addition to participation in activities beyond traditional therapy sessions.

Each program is customized to meet individual needs and is overseen by a team of mental health professionals, including:

  • Psychiatrists and/or Psychologists
  • Social Workers and Addiction Counselors
  • Program Directors and other staff

Treatment often begins with an assessment to determine your current level of function, overall health needs, and appropriate therapy or treatment options. You may not require medical detox or need to stay in the hospital. However, if you have co-occurring disorders, you may require periodic medical intervention.

Additionally, many Intensive Outpatient Programs such as ours here as Studio 64 Recovery, also provide a variety of recreational and social activities to help you build social skills and connect with others to build community. These activities may include Art Therapy, Music therapy, Group Therapy in addition to your individualized counseling and sober outing or activities.

What are the Benefits of an Intensive Outpatient Program?


The structured schedule you must adhere to helps you stay accountable for attending daily sessions. The program's ongoing support system of individuals can help you stay focused on your recovery journey and make healthy decisions. You will thus be more likely to reach your recovery goals.

Flexible Scheduling

Whereas some inpatient programs are incredibly structured and have rigid timetables, this service is more flexible. That may make integrating treatments and therapies into your daily life easier, thus improving your mental and physical health.

Less Expensive

You do not have to check into a facility and pay for extended stays. You will also receive many of the same inpatient resources and aid but at a reduced cost. That is a valuable resource if you are dealing with financial strain due to substance abuse.

Individual Attention

With the service, you remain relatively independent and can continue attending work or school and managing your other responsibilities. However, unlike inpatient care, this program allows for more frequent, direct guidance from specialized and experienced staff. This additional attention can help you to develop coping strategies, pinpoint triggers, and learn more healthy behaviors.

Long Term Benefits After Leaving an IOP

Control and Autonomy

When you start the treatment, you may feel overwhelmed and burdened by your lack of personal control over your lives. However, you will be offered the structure and the autonomy necessary to help you make better decisions. You thus develop new routines and habits that minimize the potential for relapse in the future.

Increased Knowledge of Self and Personal Resilience

You can build a strong understanding of yourself, enabling them to quickly recognize when you're at risk of potentially relapsing. In addition, the stability built through treatment can be tough to replicate outside of a structured and intensive program.

Improvement of Social Skills and Relationship Building

You can develop new social skills through intensive outpatient treatment and create supportive relationships with the treatment staff and their peers. That can translate into healthier relationships in their daily life.

Strong Support System

It guarantees help beyond the duration as it emphasizes follow-up. You can join support groups for alumni if you lack the resources to find continued care after the formal program.

Long-Term Coping Skills

By incorporating various activities, skills development, and education, you can build the tools to face life's multiple struggles head-on. You will have the confidence and knowledge necessary to stay on the path to recovery for years.

What to Know Before Attending an Intensive Outpatient Program?

Gauge the Level of Care You Require

IOPs are not as comprehensive as inpatient care. It's important to speak with the Program Director of the IOP you are considering to get a realistic idea of whether or not their structure will suite your needs, or whether you need something more comprehensive such as an inpatient recovery program.

Be Prepared to Do the Work

IOPs are intense as they require a lot of time and involvement. Therefore, you may face challenges transitioning from the program to your everyday life. You, therefore, will need to set realistic goals and expectations for yourself so that these transitions don't feel overwhelming.

Seek Support Outside of Treatment

IOP’s can be isolating and difficult to sustain long-term if you don't receive emotional and social support outside the program. Thus, you will need to maintain social contact and relationships with individuals outside of treatment who support your recovery and help hole you accountable.

Things to Consider When Choosing An IOP

Your Particular Treatment Needs

You have to consider your lifestyle and needs when selecting a recovery program. IOPs offer individualized care and treatment, so it is crucial to ensure that the program can accommodate your needs.

The Program's Overall Structure

The structure includes the IOP's philosophy, goals, objectives, services provided, and the length of treatment. Knowing and understanding the staff-patient ratio is essential to ensure adequate individualized treatment is provided. Likewise, the availability of therapy and any necessary case management services should be part of the program's overall structure.

The Program's Medical and Therapeutic Staff

Review the credentials of the staff, including their educational background, experience, and training. Additionally, any current certifications or specializations that individual staff members may have should also be considered.

The Program's Reputation

Gathering input from other professionals and individuals who have gone through the program can provide valuable insights about the facility. Additionally, the facility should adhere to the regulations and best practices established by the National Association of Intensive Outpatient Programs.


The cost will help you budget and inspect the viable options available so that no surprise expenses arise later. Moreover, if funding from insurance providers is required, ensure that the program costs are within their approved limits.

Difficulties You Might Face While Attending An IOP

Social Isolation

The program may separate you from your family, making participation difficult. That can cause further harm to your mental challenge leading to increased depression and anxiety.


IOP's encourage participants to prioritize the program, which means spending more time and possibly additional time for support activities. This rigorous schedule can lead to excessive tiredness and may even contribute to burnout.

Fear of Judgment

Most IOPs have group sessions where you discuss your struggles with mental health and emotions. That might expose you to the fear of being judged or misunderstood by your peers, negatively affecting your group involvement.

The risk of relapse

An intensive outpatient program can provide essential therapeutic techniques, but not everyone can achieve sobriety or manage their mental health. You may feel discouraged or defeated if a relapse occurs, which can result in even more significant mental health issues.

As an experienced Intensive Outpatient Program, Studio 64 Recovery understands the need for quality care and treatment that fits your unique needs and sets you up for success once you leave our facility. Our Outpatient Program offers personalized, evidence-based treatment tailored to each patient's needs. To best address your specific clinical goals and objectives, our highly experienced team will provide you with ongoing support and resources throughout your treatment journey. Reach out to us today to learn more about how we can help you take that first step towards recovery.

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