What to Expect from an Intensive Outpatient Program


200252822-001Many people rely on individual therapy for psychological support, but there are times when people need more support than can be provided by individual therapy alone.

Men and women requiring more comprehensive mental health services may be referred to an intensive outpatient program (IOP).

Intensive Outpatient Programs: The Basics

An IOP is a structured therapeutic environment which meets 3 to 5 times a week for 3 to 4 hours each day, and typically runs for 5 to 8 weeks. IOP may be a good treatment option for individuals in a variety of situations, including those on leave from work or school, those needing more support than once a week counseling, or those who have recently completed a hospitalization. An IOP provides an opportunity for people who are recovering from a mental illness to continue their recovery, offering group therapy for men and women with depression, anxiety, substance abuse or other mental health issues.

The Goals of an Intensive Outpatient Program

There are IOPs specifically for young adults, IOPS for adults with depression and anxiety, IOPS for people who struggle with impulse control and self-harm and intensive outpatient programs to treat substance abuse.

An intensive outpatient program can help people to build on foundational mental health skills that will help them to successfully face stressors and triggers.

The goals of each IOP will vary depending upon the issue the program is designed to treat. For example, people with substance abuse disorders will learn tools to help them maintain sobriety and identify possible triggers for relapse. Universal components of intensive outpatient programs include:

  • Teaching participants coping skills
  • Improving problem-solving skills
  • Developing enhanced self-awareness
  • Recognizing unhealthy behaviors
  • Practicing asking for and receiving support

Unlike an inpatient program, an intensive outpatient program offers participants the ability to receive treatment while still living at home and engaging in their personal lives. Men and women can attend an IOP without disrupting their work, routine or relationships.