Intensive Outpatient Program

An intensive outpatient program (IOP) allows you to undergo substance abuse treatment while staying active in normal life activities such as work and school. This kind of program offers maximum flexibility that doesn’t require you to take time away from loved ones. An IOP is designed to provide addiction treatment services and relapse support while you manage the responsibilities of regular life. It is not as immersive as an inpatient program but it is more structured than a typical outpatient program.

Difference Between Outpatient and Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient programs can take different forms and are often tailored to meet individual needs. Intensive outpatient programs are a step up from typical outpatient treatment, which sometimes involves just 1-2 hours of therapy per week.

Our intensive outpatient program at Riverwalk Ranch provides a higher level of care, allowing you to come in for several hours three to five times per week while still receiving support from the community outside of rehab. Individual and group therapy is provided during these sessions to address ongoing issues related to addiction and relapse prevention.

The intensive outpatient program may be suitable for individuals who have already completed inpatient rehabilitation and who live in supportive drug-free environments.

Difference Between Inpatient and Intensive Outpatient Treatment

The primary difference between inpatient treatment and an IOP is that during the course of inpatient treatment, the individual lives at the rehabilitation facility where they are receiving treatment. These are also known as residential programs. As such, inpatient programs provide services like room and board, recreational activities, and round-the-clock medical care that are not part of an intensive outpatient program.

Inpatient programs may be a better fit for those with severe and long-standing addiction who require constant support. In cases where the home environment is potentially toxic or triggering, inpatient treatment may also be recommended. Many people begin with inpatient treatment before transitioning to an intensive outpatient program that affords them more flexibility.


The primary benefit of an IOP is that it offers a high level of care while providing flexibility you may want or need to allow you to continue working and living at home.

The intensive outpatient program is designed for individuals who:

  • Do not require 24/7 supervision and care
  • Have family or work responsibilities they cannot put off, like those of primary caregivers
  • Already completed medical detox or inpatient rehabilitation and are transitioning to a lower level of care
  • Live in a secure and substance-free environment that will support the goals of the program

Benefits of an IOP

Intensive outpatient programs have many benefits that may make them attractive to a variety of individuals seeking substance abuse treatment. In addition to providing flexibility, these programs may be more cost effective than inpatient treatment and are more likely to be covered by insurance.

It also allows you to recover in an environment where you are comfortable and with the support of family, who will continue to provide an encouraging environment long after the program is complete. An IOP allows you to immediately apply techniques and skills learned in therapy to the real world, allowing you to see what works and what doesn’t and to better identify skills that need honing through the course of therapy.

We accept most insurances

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Since IOP accounts for your everyday needs, it is flexible in terms of scheduling. You can attend sessions in the day or the evening depending on your work or school schedule. Like with our inpatient programs, you will still have access to a team of specialists that include physicians, psychiatrists, therapists, and other support staff during your time at the facility.

Individual Therapy

During individual therapy, one-on-one sessions with a therapist allow you to explore thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that play into your substance abuse. This supportive environment allows you to identify triggers and develop healthier coping mechanisms in order to avoid relapse.

Therapy may also be helpful in the treatment of co-occurring psychological illness.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is invaluable in addiction treatment because it helps you develop a support system of peers who are experiencing similar struggles. It reinforces techniques learned in individual therapy as part of a larger social environment. Group therapy may also involve:

  • Self esteem and wellness training
  • Social skills training
  • Vocational rehabilitation
  • Relapse prevention

Family Therapy

Family is an important component of IOP because much of the application of the treatment program will be done at home. Family members sometimes require education and support in order to better understand treatment and their role in your recovery.

Family and couples therapy may also help individuals improve their communication with one another.

Case Management

Case managers help coordinate your care on an ongoing basis as you progress through the intensive outpatient program. They review your changing needs during the course of treatment and make adjustments as necessary. They may also provide important resources including:

  • Housing assistance
  • Legal assistance
  • Medical support
  • Financial counseling

Drug Testing

Drug testing is used to keep individuals accountable for their recovery. During the course of an IOP, random testing for drug and alcohol use may be necessary to keep you and others safe and sober.


A wide variety of therapy modalities may be used or combined to facilitate recovery during IOP. Some common research-based therapies include:

Cognitive-Behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is designed to identify and correct problematic thoughts and behaviors that lead to substance abuse. By replacing maladaptive patterns of behavior with healthier coping strategies, the individual learns to anticipate and effectively react to potential triggers in order to prevent relapse.

Contingency Management

Contingency management uses principles of rewards and incentives to reinforce positive behaviors like sobriety. Individuals may receive vouchers or other rewards for drug-free tests or for attending a certain number of therapy sessions.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) aims to evoke an internal desire for change. Rather than relying on external rewards, it uses motivational interviewing techniques to elicit self-motivational statements and goals.

Matrix Model

The Matrix Model of therapy has been shown to be effective for stimulant abusers. The therapist acts as a coach and teacher to reinforce behavior change that promotes self-esteem and self-worth.

12-Step Facilitation Therapy

12-Step facilitation therapy aims to promote involvement and engagement in self-help group therapy. It involves ideas of acceptance, surrender to a higher power, and active involvement in recovery meetings.


  • Up 3 to 5 days per week, 3 hours per day
  • Day and evening schedules
  • One-on-one therapy
  • Group therapy and peer support activities
  • Family therapy
  • Case management
  • Medication management

Can I Detox in the Program?

Detox is widely considered to be the first step of the recovery process. It involves safely eliminating a substance from the body to restore normal chemical balance. Depending on the type of drugs used and the severity of addiction, the process may require medical supervision to limit the intensity of withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. Therefore, an IOP is not generally equipped or designed to provide those services.

If you require detox, your clinician may refer you to our inpatient detox program before beginning IOP. Supervised medical detox is recommended, as it can provide a safe environment for you to clear the drugs out of your system before engaging in further treatment.


An IOP generally lasts for at least 60 days, though treatment time can range from 30 to 90 days. During this time, individuals are provided at least 9 hours of treatment per week as defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) Patient Placement Criteria. These treatment hours are typically spread over 3 to 5 days per week, but the exact number depends on client needs.

Session duration and length of time can be adjusted to allow for greater flexibility or to account for changing client needs. If an individual is progressing without relapse through the program, the number of weekly sessions may be reduced toward the end of the program. Conversely, someone requiring additional assistance may be offered additional weekly treatment hours.


Insurance may cover some part or all of an IOP program, but coverage varies according to your individual plan. Generally, insurance companies expect certain components to be included as part of an intensive outpatient program in order to offer coverage. These include therapy, group meetings, medical care, and substance abuse education.

If you’re considering enrolling in an IOP, you may want to contact your insurance company to verify the types of addiction treatment covered under your plan, including copays you may be responsible for. Our intake specialists can work with you to create a payment plan for treatment with or without insurance.


Since IOP is generally offered as part of a larger continuum of care, many people begin a standard outpatient program after completing an IOP. During outpatient treatment, therapy hours per week typically range from 3 to 6 hours but can be as little as 1 to 2 hours.

Continual care is essential to maintaining long-term sobriety. Most people attend follow-up visits for months or years after completing an addiction treatment program. It is also recommended to stay active in peer group counseling to nurture an external support group that can help you maintain recovery.

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