There is no “one size fits all” approach to treating substance use disorder or addiction and it is important that individuals seeking treatment find the right “fit” for their recovery goals. For many people, the best option is residential addiction treatment, where individuals are immersed in a sober environment where they can focus completely on getting better. However, others are not able to commit themselves to an inpatient or residential program for a wide variety of reasons. In this article, we take a closer look at intensive outpatient programs or IOPs, which offer a more flexible but equally effective approach to addiction treatment that is often more appropriate for certain individuals.
What Is Substance Use Disorder or Addiction?
Addiction to alcohol or drugs is classified as a mental health disorder that alters the brain in fundamental ways, ultimately resulting in substance abuse and associated negative behaviors. In simple terms, this means people with addiction are unable to control their substance abuse because their desire to use has been replaced by a compulsive need for drugs or alcohol. This compulsion is one of the main characteristics of substance use disorder or addiction.
Due to the fact that addiction has a large impact on a person’s brain, substance abuse is clearly not the result of poor morals or lack of self-control as suggested by certain schools of thought. Addiction not only negatively affects brain function but also threatens an individual’s physical and emotional health. Another classic characteristic of addiction is that a person will continue to abuse substances despite the serious consequences it is having on all aspects of their lives.
What Is Intensive Outpatient Therapy?
An intensive outpatient program or IOP provides individuals who are struggling with addiction with the support they need on a daily basis while they remain at home. In other words, intensive outpatient addiction treatment allows people to continue with their daily duties and responsibilities while they are getting the addiction treatment they need. The main objective of intensive outpatient addiction treatment is exactly the same as for a residential addiction treatment program: to prepare individuals for a life in recovery where they can confidently face sobriety and prevent relapse.
An IOP seeks to:
- Identify internal and external triggers for substance abuse
- Introduce support systems through mutual-help activities
- Address and overcome commonly-faced challenges in recovery
- Providing individuals with an understanding of body chemistry
- Addressing the damage caused to personal and professional relationships
- Creating a recovery strategy with measurable goals to maintain abstinence
How Intensive Outpatient Therapy Works
The main factor that sets outpatient treatment apart from other options is that patients are not required to reside in a treatment center. However, this does not mean that outpatient addiction treatment is in any way a diluted form of residential rehab. There is still the same level of structure and discipline involved in an IOP as for a person who is living at a facility away from home. Outpatients are in many ways more vulnerable to enabling influences and triggers for substance abuse when they remain at home which makes it important for an IOP to provide structured and consistent support.
The core services of intensive outpatient therapy include individual and group counseling, evidence-based therapies like cognitive behavioral therapies and increasingly holistic or complementary treatment approaches. Due to the more flexible nature of an IOP, active participation from friends and family is actively encouraged which ensures patients are well-supported when they have completed the treatment program.
How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Is Used in an Intensive Outpatient Rehab Center
Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is an evidence-based therapy that’s a common component of addiction treatment. As the name implies, CBT focuses on changing learned emotions and behaviors with healthier thoughts and feelings so that individuals respond in healthier ways to situations and circumstances that would otherwise lead to substance abuse. CBT provides IOP patients with a structured form of individual therapy that equips them with the ability to manage their thoughts and behavior over the long-term.
Who Is a Good Candidate for an Intensive Outpatient Rehab Center?
Intensive outpatient therapy can be a highly effective form of primary care although they are not for everyone. Despite the very clear benefits of receiving treatment while remaining at home, some individuals live in an enabling environment or in a household where others are using alcohol or drugs. In order to overcome addiction, it is vital to be distanced from these negative influences which a residential treatment program achieves. Other people who have been using and abusing alcohol or drugs for a prolonged period of time may have a more serious form of addiction requiring residential detox and rehab.
On the flip side, someone who has been struggling with substance abuse but who has not yet developed severe addiction is generally a good candidate for an IOP. Generally speaking, people who do not require the constant supervision of a residential program often thrive when they are supported while they remain at home. One of the distinct benefits of an IOP is that it works proactively with the patient to deal with real-life stressors and triggers as and when they arise. Having a person available for support around the clock is often sufficient enough to set a person with less serious addiction on a solid path of recovery.