What is an Intensive Outpatient Program?

An Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) gives patients with acute mental disorders the freedom to live at home while they receive daily treatment. Depending on the program, the patient may spend between one hour and most of the day at the treatment facility. Then, clients return home each day to practice what they learned in counseling and attend to daily life.

During their time at the treatment facility, patients in intensive outpatient programs may:

  • Speak with psychiatrists to find the right medicine
  • Attend group therapy sessions with others in the same program
  • Have one-on-one sessions with counselors
  • Speak with nutritionists, if the patient has an eating disorder
  • See other doctors to address physical symptoms

The professionals at the center share their notes to ensure that they are all on the same page. This approach helps ensure the holistic care of the patient.

Sometimes patients use an IOP to transition from residential treatment to healthy life. For example, a person with an addiction may go through detox with a residential plan and then transition to an intensive outpatient program. Other patients start with an IOP because they cannot leave their home lives unattended, such as a single mom with severe depression.

Mental health professionals often recommend intensive outpatient therapy when a patient’s mental disorder puts his or her physical health in danger as well. They may also recommend an IOP if the patient’s symptoms are severe enough to need daily treatment but not threatening enough to require residential care.

Furthermore, some patients could genuinely benefit from inpatient treatment, but refuse to go. They may not want to enroll in these programs because they have to work, need to take care of children, or feel nervous about the many misconceptions surrounding in-patient care. The compromise in these cases is an intensive outpatient program.

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Therapy

Whereas inpatient or residential programs require patients to receive round-the-clock care and live in the treatment facility, IOPs allow patients to live some or most of their days at home while attending therapy at the treatment facility each day.

In an inpatient program, patients see their loved ones during designated visiting hours when the loved ones come to the treatment facility. Patients eat, sleep, and receive treatment in the same facility. This kind of care helps people who genuinely need round-the-clock supervision, such as those with suicidal ideation or who want to detox from an addictive substance.

Outpatient treatments only require patients to be at the treatment center for some of the day. In non-intensive programs, this may mean seeing a counselor once per week or getting Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) daily for a few weeks.

In IOPs, it may mean going to the treatment center during regular working hours, a few hours each evening, or a few hours in the morning. The schedule depends on the needs of the patients and the program in question.

What Can Intensive Outpatient Therapy Help Treat?

Intensive Outpatient Therapy can help treat disorders that threaten a person’s physical safety or those with severe enough symptoms to warrant daily treatment. Patients may need IOPs for any of the following disorders and more:

If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts, find help immediately. You can go to your nearest emergency room, an LifeStance Health clinic, call the hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or text RISE to 741741.

Facilities design IOPs to treat specific types of disorders, so patients attend group sessions with people who struggle with similar disorders. Some programs are as specific, such as only treating patients with anorexia nervosa. Others are broader, like those that take patients with any substance abuse disorder.

Patients may also need intensive outpatient programs for medication management. Certain psychotropic medications can cause dangerous side effects, like those needed to treat schizophrenia. As patients adjust to new medications, psychiatrists may recommend IOPs until they find the right dosage. This helps keep patients safe and helps doctors find the best combination of medicines as quickly as possible.

If you or someone you love could benefit from an intensive outpatient program in Florida, contact a LifeStance Health clinic near you. We can help find the program that fits your needs and get you on the road to healing.