Recovery from substance addiction and dependence is a delicate process. In fact, most experts assert that recovery is a lifelong experience. So, throughout those long years of undoing unhealthy habits, a person may make progress but that doesn’t mean they can be completely independent from support and recovery assistance.
Substance use causes drastic changes in the brain that can be hard to repeal. That’s why it’s often common for individuals to experience relapse throughout their recovery. So, to help combat the risks and improve the chances of a lasting, uninterrupted recovery, experts have developed Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP).
What is an IOP?
First things first — what does IOP mean? In the drug recovery sphere, IOP means “Intensive Outpatient Program” and it’s one of the many different steps a person can take during their recovery process. While most individuals join IOP after completing a residential program, there are others with milder substance use histories that can join IOP right off the bat.
The purpose of IOP is simple – to provide support and assistance to individuals hoping to achieve lasting recovery. As its name suggests, it’s an outpatient process that allows participants to return home at the end of every session. Overall, IOP provides more flexibility and freedom than inpatient programs. But then again, why are they called ‘intensive?’
What Makes IOP Different and What is It for?
What exactly happens in IOP and what makes it different from other recovery programs? First off, IOP is generally recommended for those who have previously completed an inpatient/residential program. However, there are some individuals with milder cases who can jump straight to IOP especially if there’s no need for residential treatment.
Individuals enrolled in IOP are encouraged to find meaningful occupation to fill up most of their day, which means they may look for or resume work. They’re also encouraged to take on responsibilities in their households, whatever that might entail. Some clients also live in a Sober Living Home during Intensive Outpatient Programming.
That said, Intensive Outpatient Programs are scheduled in the evenings or in the mornings to make room for other obligations and commitments that participants might have throughout the day.
The reason for this is because IOP organizers want to give clients an opportunity to exercise whatever skills they’ve learned during their residential treatment. The goal of all of these programs of course, is for clients to live independently as they overcome temptation and cope with daily stress.
So why is it called ‘intensive?’ Well, IOP continues to provide structure and support that will take up most of their clients’ time especially when they’re not involved in occupational, social, and household responsibilities. This is because individuals who join IOP might still need significant structure to help them combat urges. Thus, IOP limits their exposure to temptation by taking up most if not all of their extra hours.
What Happens During IOP?
Intensive Outpatient Programs bolster whatever clients learn during residential treatment. It continues to provide individual and family counseling where necessary, but mostly focuses on the group aspect of the recovery process.
According to studies, social interaction and the feeling of belongingness can significantly improve an individual’s ability to cope with stress and urges. Seeing others who have been through the same experiences and successfully overcome their struggles makes it easier for individuals to recognize that they can do it, too.
Another unique component of the IOP is that it often incorporates vocational training. As individuals become more capable of overcoming temptation, they may find themselves longing to do something that can generate income or simply take up their free time.
That’s why in IOP, treatment centers often provide classes that help clients discover new talents, hobbies, and skills that they can potentially use in the workplace or that can serve as a practical means to make money or spend their time.
And then of course, there’s the 12-step program. Because of IOP’s focus on providing support as clients attempt to navigate the world with their newfound sobriety, they also encourage participants to enroll in 12-step programs like the AA or NA. In some cases, IOPs even provide in-house 12-step programs for their clients.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that individuals in IOP may go home to their own families, or proceed to a sober living home. Some sober living homes have their own IOP, allowing clients to seamlessly join the program and enjoy the company of a tight-knit group of fellow recoverees.
Who Needs IOP?
While IOP might seem like a flexible recovery program that fits the preferences of most individuals, it’s not recommended on the basis of ‘want’. Doctors and healthcare workers carefully assess each individual person to make sure that they’re a fit for IOP. And while there may be some exceptions and unique cases, most of those who might be eligible for IOP include those who:
- Have a safe home to return to and a supportive family dynamic within the household
- Are a part of a sober living home
- Have mild addiction and dependence
- Have completed a residential or inpatient treatment program
- Exhibit the willingness to attend meetings
Ultimately however, eligibility is assessed on a case-to-case basis. Every person has different recovery needs, so while IOP might seem flexible and ideal, it’s not for everyone. Some who join the program might benefit from more than just IOP meaning their doctors and counselors may recommend other treatment options alongside IOP.
Another Step to Lasting Recovery
Through the intensive outpatient program mental health workers provide the right opportunities, flexibility, and freedom to test and challenge the skills and techniques that clients might have learned throughout their recovery journey. Developed for those who are a little further along in the process, IOP serves as the perfect stage for continued independence.
If you’re looking for an IOP program near me, make sure you perform due diligence and learn more about your options before committing to a specific provider. A good IOP should provide individualized care at the hands of professionals who deliver compassionate services and a conducive atmosphere for continued and lasting recovery.