Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) – What is IOP in Mental Health?

What is IOP in mental health? IOP stands for an intensive outpatient program is a structured program that helps treat patients with substance abuse disorders and reoccurring psychological health disorders. With IOP, which is considered a step ahead of traditional outpatient therapy, you can visit the therapist’s office twice a week.

In an intensive outpatient therapy program, you will possibly have a therapy (Can be both/either individual or group therapy) which remains for 2-3 hours a day and can be elongated to 3-5 days in a week.

In the spectrum of mental health therapies, IOPs are considered the top-tier care for mental health. It includes;

Partial Hospitalization (PHP) – Partial hospitalization is often mixed with an intensive outpatient therapy program because it contains therapy for almost five hours and for 5 days a week. The therapy can be provided individually and privately both in the facility setting.

Outpatient Therapy – Many people like to attend this type of therapy where they need to visit the physician’s office once a week.

Inpatient Residential – When someone is admitted as an inpatient residential treatment at a therapist facility, generally they stay for a month, or depending on the situation, the stay can be prolonged. They will have the services of the same therapist they would get in an IOP, they just have a longer stay and continuous therapies during the stay.

Inpatient Acute Care – Inpatient acute care is referred to a hospital care or general hospital psych ward, where the services are provided for someone who is in a critical condition or having a severe health crisis.

IOP can be used in two different ways. First, when someone is at high risk of hospitalization and the usual therapy which has been provided to them is not working enough to comfort them.

The second way to use IOP is termed as stepping down from a level of care that might be a higher level for the patient such as an inpatient residential program or inpatient acute care. Through IOP, therapists help patients to transition from higher-level care and treatment to stepping down to lower-level care and returning to their normal and regular lives.

What is IOP in Mental Health? When it was introduced?

What is IOP in mental health
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IOPs got popular in the late 1980s when many middle-class and elite working professionals do not get enough time off from work to get continuous therapy against their cocaine and drug addiction. IOPs therapy programs are flexible and can take place in the evening and morning and enable professional individuals to keep their health in hand to maintain their responsibilities at work and at the house well to keep up with life easily.

The trend of getting individual and group therapies in the flexible setting grew with the growth of managed care where the idea was to keep the cost of healthcare low.

The data shared by the latest survey from the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment showed a drastic increase in the intensive outpatient programs from 2010 to 2020, where around 3000 facilities from 16000 fall eligible for inclusion. In addition, the number of patients treated for substance abuse also increased in numbers significantly from 1.2 million/year in 2010 to 1.4 million/year until 2019.

Common Types of Intensive Outpatient Therapy Programs

Through IOPs are originally launched for substance abuse and mental disorders, they can also be used to provide a range of different benefits to several health conditions that require one week of therapy. These services include;

  • Dual diagnosis
  • Mental health issues/depression
  • Eating disorder
  • Substance disorder

How to look for an IOP?

While it is easy to find an IOP near you or in your area, the first thing that you should consider is someone’s personal recommendation. You can also ask for referrals from your primary healthcare provider which can be a therapist or a general physician.

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The website of The United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMSHA), also has a behavioral healthcare service search bar where you can find an IOP near you to get the help you need. These IOPs and other types of therapy programs are worth trying. If you think you need an IOP induction, you must discuss with your doctor or primary healthcare for different programs. Once you choose the program(s), they will make an intake call to judge which type of program is a really good fit for you.

Not only that, but you can also have a list of questions in mind that you might want to ask. This may include;

  • Are they in-network members of your insurance?
  • How long do people stay in one therapy program?
  • If they have worked previously with the same health complications as yours?
  • If they have worked with people with the same identity (like if they have any specific terms for race or sexuality POV.).
  • What will be the structure of the program?
  • How old people are in each program and if they have any age limit to join certain programs.
  • How do they arrange therapy sessions and for how long to repair the mental illness and return you back to your regular normal life?
  • How will the treatment proceed?
  • What expertise do the therapists have?

 What should you expect from an IOP?

Intensive outpatient programs are referred to intensive because they have the intensity to provide the change through therapies. The typical treatment includes three or 4-hour therapy for up to five days per week.

The IOP therapy session includes a rare combination of group and individual therapies that help an individual to manage both behavioral and emotional issues they might be having already. Plus, if you are on a prescription of psychiatric medication, once you get into IOPs, you will meet a psychiatrist for assessment and management of medication and prescriptions considering the medical conditions.

Also, it is likely possible that your IOP will be inducted with some other therapies, like ketamine infusions, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, and EMDR. Other than these, the IOPs may also include yoga therapy or equine therapy.

Modalities of the Therapy

Depending on the reason for which you have chosen IOP or the reason that brought you to individual IOP, the modalities of the treatment and types may vary. However, some common that always follow include;

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT of cognitive behavioral therapy is based on the skill provision to people in order to deal with triggers and warnings. Plus, they reframe destructions within that lead them to those maladaptive behaviors. This is one of the basic and useful therapies that matches efficiently with the IOP and can be taken in a regular situation where they can use and try new skills.

12-Step Facilitation

Although this 12 steps facilitation program was first developed to help Alcoholics, the approach is now further used to aid people with eating disorders, drug misuse, and intense compulsive disorders. With this 12-step model, patients are treated under the therapeutic supervision of a therapist. This therapy can be performed similarly to an IOP treatment setting.

Motivational Approaches

Modalities including motivational enhancement therapy or motivational interviewing are planned to identify the uncertainty of changing behaviors that someone has toward treatment and therapies. The Therapy affects people understanding that the abuse has done enough damage to their health and served its purpose. It encourages one’s behavior to confront them when the desired outcomes are not aligned and value their positive approach.

Matrix Model

In the 1980s, the Matrix Model was formulated to address the simulative problems from cocaine which was widespread abuse at that moment. The matrix approach integrates several other therapies like CBT, motivational enhancement therapies, and 12-step facilitation in order to make a difference in abuse encounters. The program consists of 16 weeks where the combination of psychoeducational sessions, individual sessions, relapse prevention sessions, and social and family support groups are involved.

Therapeutic Community

A therapeutic community treatment idea was launched to cater the residential treatment for substance abuse. However, the therapeutic model has also been used in intensive outpatient therapy programs as a step-down technique from higher levels of therapy. The main purpose of the approach is a ‘community as method’ that makes a difference in social engagement to bring change with communication and interaction. This way people build self-reliance and they find better skills to get back to their original regular life.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does IOP offer Group Therapy?

Group therapy is one of the major parts of IOP. With well-organized group therapies, you can find your peer with the same therapy needs that help improve behavioral issues. Some of the benefits of group therapy involve;

  • Building support system for patients
  • Relating to others
  •  Sense of belonging
  • Coping skills and sharing tips
  • Build social skills
  • Sharing without thinking of someone being judgmental
  • Feeling alone occurs less likely

2. How IOP helps in Treating Substance Abuse?

Here are some areas where IOP can help you;

  • Educating patients to cope with the job
  • Connect to peers and repair
  • Finding the meaning of life through therapies
  • Learning new skills necessary to build a healthy relationship
  • Addressing SUD and the cause of addiction

3. What is IOP in Mental Health?

IOP is the process of treating outpatients with substance abuse and destructive mental health issues. A lot of therapies and types under IOP are there to try.

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