Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP) for Substance Abuse

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Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP) is a type of specialized outpatient addiction recovery program that provides more structure and a more intensive level of care than a standard outpatient program while still accommodating the person’s home and work life.

It can be used as a follow-up to successful detox, as a primary form of care, or as part of an aftercare plan for someone who has completed an inpatient program.

Below you will find the following information about IOPs:

What Is an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)?

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An intensive outpatient addiction program (IOP) provides people with the freedom to live at home and still attend work or school while receiving addiction services.

While some people use a substance abuse IOP as a primary type of care, others may transition to an IOP after completing an inpatient program to continue to build on coping skills and decrease the risk of relapse. Still others may require monitored detoxification and will transition to an IOP after going through detox.

What’s the Difference Between Inpatient and Intensive Outpatient Programs?

The biggest difference is that inpatient or residential rehab programs require that you live at the facility, while outpatient rehab programs allow you to return home when treatment sessions are finished.

Inpatient programs can last 30, 60, or 90 days, and sometimes longer if necessary. These programs can be a significant commitment if you have other responsibilities.

Conversely, people attending an intensive outpatient rehab program can schedule treatment when it works best for them. However, IOPs typically meet at least 3 days a week, for 2-4 hours each day.

IOPs offer similar services to inpatient programs, such as individual, group, and family therapy, and can be just as effective.1 Consequently, an IOP is a beneficial alternative to residential treatment when the person needs to keep attending to home, school, or work obligations.

What Happens During Intensive Outpatient Treatment?

People sitting in outpatient group therapy

Intensive outpatient programs for substance abuse offer many of the same services that inpatient programs do without you having to take time off of work or school and spend time away from family. Programs use a group counseling approach that helps to negate the high cost of individual therapy while building on important skills.

Upon entering an intensive outpatient program, you will be assigned a treatment team. The team will work with you to create a treatment plan based on your intake evaluation and individual needs. IOP services are greatly focused on relapse prevention and developing healthy coping skills.1

Below are some common services offered in IOPs:

Group Counseling

IOPs rely heavily on intensive group therapy to enhance sober behaviors, develop communication skills, introduce structure, and provide guidance.2 Groups can focus on different aspects of recovery, such as addiction education, relapse prevention, stress management, coping skills, life skills, interpersonal process, and support.2 Learn more about Group counseling.

Family Therapy

These groups educate the family on the consequences of substance addiction on relationships and help to mend broken relationships between the user and his or her family members.2 Learn more about Family therapy.

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy isn’t typically the primary form of treatment in IOPs. But it is often used as an adjunct service. The therapist’s aim isn’t to uncover underlying issues that influence drug or alcohol abuse, but rather to rectify maladaptive behaviors.2 Learn more about Individual therapy.

Medication Management

When combined with therapy and psychosocial supports, medication can be effective in promoting abstinent behaviors by decreasing cravings, blocking the desired effects of substances, or treating mental health problems that contribute to drug or alcohol abuse. Medication can also be prescribed to treat any physical ailments caused by addiction.2 Learn more about Medication management.


Some IOPs may offer detoxification services for those who aren’t at risk for experiencing severe and dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Other programs may refer you elsewhere for detox before you are admitted to the program.2 Learn more about Detoxification.

Matrix Model

This therapeutic intervention is used to treat an addiction to stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamine. The therapist, who acts as both a coach and a teacher, creates an empowering and encouraging environment and promotes high self-esteem and self-regard. Some treatment approaches include family education groups, skills groups, relapse prevention groups, urine tests, social support groups, drug education, self-help, relapse analysis, and 12-step programs.3 Learn more about Matrix Model.

How Long Is IOP Treatment?

Intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment can vary greatly in length. They may range anywhere from 12 to 16 weeks, before people enter a maintenance phase, which could last for months.2

Ideally, people attend an IOP for 3-5 times per week with a required minimum of 9 hours of treatment per week.2

When Is IOP Treatment Suitable?

An IOP isn’t right for everyone. In general, factors that make someone a good fit for an IOP include:

  • Strong support system.
  • Stable home life.
  • Good physical and mental health.
  • Not previously engaged in an IOP.
  • Low risk of relapse when returning home.
  • Comfortable in a group setting.

If you’re thinking of participating in an intensive outpatient program, call our helpline at 1-888-319-2606 Helpline Information to find a program near you.

Cost of an Intensive Outpatient Program

You can use insurance or finance your treatment.

IOP therapy can cost anywhere from $100 to $500 per session. But the total price will vary by length and frequency of treatment and is generally discounted with longer treatment plans. An IOP with housing can cost anywhere from $3,500 to $5,000 per week.5

Generally, an IOP costs less than an inpatient recovery program because it doesn’t provide food or housing. The cost will vary based on your insurance plan and how long you participate in the program. But it is likely that insurance will provide at least partial coverage.

This is due to the Affordable Care Act, which recognizes addiction treatment as an essential health benefit.4 It requires that insurance providers cover alcohol and drug addiction treatment programs to the same extent that they cover other medical problems. This includes coverage through Medicaid and Medicare as well, as long as the treatment facility accepts your particular plan.

Further, your insurance company can’t refuse coverage to you if you have a pre-existing condition, such as a substance abuse disorder. So if you don’t have insurance, you can shop for affordable coverage on the health insurance marketplace, which offers government-organized insurance plans.

Financing an Intensive Outpatient Program for Substance Abuse

Financing your addiction treatment can seem daunting. But there are many different ways to help pay for rehab if you don’t have insurance or your insurance plan doesn’t provide full coverage.

Other financing options include:

  • Crowdfunding: Certain websites, such as GoFundMe, IndieGoGo, and Crowdrise allow you to create campaigns in which you can raise money to pay for your addiction treatment.
  • Payment plan/sliding scale: Many treatment centers understand financial hardships and allow you to create a customized payment plan based on what you can realistically afford.
  • Health care credit card: Some companies cater to those with medical needs and have lower interest rates than standard credit card companies.
  • Personal savings: You may want to consider using your personal savings as opposed to getting a loan or opening a credit card.
  • Home equity loan: The interest rates for a home equity loan are typically lower than personal loans, so if you have a home to offer as collateral, this may be a low-risk option for you.
  • Specialized loan: Some financial companies, such as My Treatment Lender and Prosper Healthcare Lending, offer affordable loan packages, which have lower interest rates than health care or standard credit cards.

Finding an Intensive Outpatient Program Near Me

You don’t have to battle addiction alone. Call our helpline at 1-888-319-2606 Helpline Information to find an intensive outpatient program near you. A treatment support specialist is available to speak to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Before you call, have your insurance information available as well as information about your drug use (length of use, frequency, amounts used), any medical or mental health problems that need treatment, and whether you are interested in an IOP therapy program in your area or would prefer to travel for treatment.

Additional Resources on Drug and Alcohol Treatment

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  1. McCarty, D., Braude, L., Lyman, D. R., Dougherty, R. H., Daniels, A. S., Ghose, S. S., & Delphin-Rittmon, M. E. (2014). Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient Programs: Assessing the Evidence. PS Psychiatric Services, 65(6), 718-726. doi:10.1176/
  2. Forman, R. F., and Nagy, P. D. (2006). Substance abuse: Clinical issues in intensive outpatient treatment. Rockville, MD: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). The Matrix Model (Stimulants).
  4. The White House. Substance Abuse and the Affordable Care Act.
  5. American Addiction Centers. (2017).

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