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Intensive Outpatient (IOP) vs. Outpatient (OP) Treatment: What’s the Difference?

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Reviewed by Amanda Jernigan, LCSW, Outpatient Director

Substance use disorder (SUD) treatment providers sometimes offer different types of programs with varying levels or intensities of care. This helps ensure treatment services are better tailored to meet a range of specific client needs. An initial intake assessment can help determine the best type of care to facilitate an individual’s recovery.  

Whether you’re seeking addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one, understanding types of care can help demystify the process. In this post, we’ll discuss the difference between intensive outpatient (IOP) and outpatient (OP) treatment services.

If you or someone you love needs help, please call our 24-hour Treatment and Referral HelpLine at 833.976.HELP (4357) or email [email protected]

Intensive Outpatient (IOP) Treatment Programs

Intensive outpatient (IOP) treatment programs do not require clients to live on-site at a treatment facility. Instead, clients live at home and visit the facility at specific times for appointments. This may include individual or group counseling sessions, appointments to receive Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), and other scheduled programming.

IOP programs provide a step down from 24/7 inpatient care. Scheduling is designed for individuals who can functionally live at home and maintain employment, but still benefit from attending a program that helps them transition from the structure of an inpatient program back to daily life within their community.

In an IOP program, an individualized treatment plan is created based on a client’s assessment. An IOP schedule typically includes multiple contacts per week in both individual and group counseling, and/or to receive MAT. IOP settings provide an effective bridge within the treatment continuum.

Outpatient (OP) Treatment Programs

Like IOP treatment programs, outpatient (OP) settings provide part-time programming where a treatment plan is created based on a client’s assessment. An OP schedule involves less frequent contacts — such as for individual or group counseling — than an IOP schedule does. Clients are often stepped down from an IOP schedule to an OP schedule as they transition back into daily life.

Outpatient programs may offer the following services:

  • Assessments and Referrals
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
  • Mental Health Services
  • Individual and Family Counseling Sessions
  • Group Counseling and Support Groups
  • Psycho-Educational Programming from Evidence-Based Treatment Models
  • Individualized Treatment Plans
  • Referrals to Support Services

The best type of care depends on the severity of substance use and triggers present at work or home. Some individuals may find 24/7 care isn’t necessary. Others may need inpatient or high-intensity residential services for optimal treatment outcomes.

Clients requiring inpatient care may begin the process with detox and withdrawal management services, then move through a full-time, inpatient (or residential) treatment program. Upon completion, an IOP program can help the client integrate their recovery with their home and work lives before they transition into an OP program.

In some cases, inpatient care is not necessary, and clients can begin their recovery process in an IOP or OP program. A qualified professional will perform a comprehensive intake assessment to help determine the level of care best suited to an individual’s needs.

Intensive Outpatient (IOP) and Outpatient (OP) Treatment at Gaudenzia

Gaudenzia uses an evidence-based, person-centered treatment model to help break the cycle of substance use and co-occurring disorders.

Our caring, compassionate counselors integrate therapeutic techniques like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Motivational Interviewing (MI) with care that is trauma-informed, culturally responsive, and gender-responsive.

Looking for an “outpatient clinic near me”? Gaudenzia provides inpatient, intensive outpatient, and outpatient substance use and co-occurring disorder treatment programs for adults and adolescents. If you or someone you love needs help, please call our 24-hour Treatment and Referral HelpLine at 833.976.HELP (4357) or email [email protected]

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