Intensive Outpatient Programs: What to Expect


Updated on 3/3/2023

For many, hiding an addiction from friends or family because of feeling ashamed or embarrassed is unfortunately a normal yet difficult feeling, though substance addiction is beginning to receive the attention needed to remove its stigma. Entering treatment, whether inpatient or outpatient, is a sign of your strength. This blog looks at the different types of treatment available and then take a closer look at intensive outpatient programs, or IOP. 

Levels of Treatment

Substance addiction treatment occurs at different levels of care. They are in order of how much help a person needs:

  • Early intervention services: These services can occur at a doctor’s office or health clinic appointments. Questions aimed at understanding a patient’s alcohol or drug use helps the healthcare provider spot and educate their patient about substance misuse.
  • Outpatient services: Outpatient treatment varies in the type and intensity of the treatment center’s services. Those whose substance addiction isn’t as severe as those who require a higher level of service can benefit from this therapy type.
  • Intensive outpatient: Those involved in intensive outpatient therapy can attend the treatment center up to five days a week, for several hours. You can learn healthy coping skills, attend group and individual therapy sessions as well as other meetings. You can stay at home during the time you are involved in intensive outpatient treatment.
  • Partial hospitalization services: This service requires you to attend sessions at the treatment center as many as seven days a week. While you are in partial hospitalization, you can live at home.
  • Residential services: Residential treatment requires you to live at the treatment center. While you are there, you can attend group or individual therapy sessions. You can also learn about addiction, find an underlying mental health disorder and participate in holistic therapies like yoga or meditation.
  • Medically managed intensive inpatient services: Detoxification is essential for those who are trying to abstain from alcohol or a drug. Active users who wish to stop using substances are cared for by a professional medical staff while the substances leave their bodies. Detoxing by yourself is strongly discouraged because each substance requires specialized care to avoid harm to your body.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) are a treatment mode for those who do not require the intensive care given at partial hospitalization or residential programs. An IOP is appropriate for you if you have a substance addiction with the possibility of a mental health disorder, yet you do not require the close care or supervision that comes with inpatient care. When you enter an IOP, you can live at home and go to the treatment center for therapy. An IOP looks like this:

  • Several hours of therapy such as group, individual and weekly 12-step programming
  • Go to the treatment center with the expected attendance of a few days (as required by the center) per week
  • Continue to work and live with those who are supportive of your treatment and recovery

While you are in an IOP, you can discuss positive life skills to maintain your sobriety. 

What to Expect From an IOP

When you enter an IOP, you can undergo psychiatric, medical and goal assessments. After you meet with your therapist, you can create a treatment plan. The treatment plan can reflect your goals as you progress through your treatment. The skills you learn while working towards your goals are the healthy life-management tools you can use after completing your program. 

As you approach your completion day, you can begin to feel anxious about how you can handle life after treatment. Your therapist and support group can aid you in recognizing when you can use your skills. Your IOP can focus on: 

  • Coping skills: This is part of a comprehensive treatment program. You can learn how to incorporate skills like:
    • Meditation
    • Exercise
    • Sporting activities
    • Journaling
    • Art and crafts
    • Reading
    • Finding your type of spirituality
  • Ways to identify and handle early signs of relapse: You can learn how to spot your triggers and how to safely manage them. Some signs of relapse are:
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • A decrease in attendance of AA or NA meetings
    • Withdrawing from friends or family
  • Develop cognitive skills: When you learn cognitive skills, you enhance your ability to think, read, pay attention, figure out and retain information. These are skills that can make your work and personal relationships better.

After an Intensive Outpatient Program

Take the time to talk with your therapist about your worries, as it’s normal for them to appear once treatment ends. When you share your feelings, you are building a foundation for you to self-manage. You are taking care of your mental well-being. 

Throughout your time in an IOP, you learned how to replace harmful habits with healthy habits. These new, healthy skills can take time to adjust to, and you can use your support system to bolster your newfound sobriety. Regardless of where you are at in your recovery journey, you are not alone. The skills you learned while in an IOP, the connections you made and are making through meetings, and your loved ones’ support can aid you. If you feel unsure about your skills, ask for help, practice them and soon they can become a habit.

Casa Palmera offers a comprehensive IOP. We include group and individual therapy that establishes treatment goals, identifies issues, and engages you in treatment. Our IOP also has relapse prevention skills, including how to self-manage. The skills you learn at Casa Palmera can aid you in your recovery journey. Call (855) 508-0437 to learn how we can help.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.