What Is The Difference Between Outpatient And Intensive Outpatient?

In this guide, you will learn about regular outpatient addiction treatment, what it involves, and who needs it. You will also get some information about intensive outpatient treatment. Read on to find out more:

Understanding the Difference between IOP and Outpatient Drug Rehab

While trying to answer the “what is the difference between outpatient and intensive outpatient?” question, it is imperative that you remember that intensive outpatient treatment is also abbreviated as IOP.

According to most behavioral health professionals and psychiatrists, substance use disorders – also known as addictions – are complex conditions that are often caused by a wide variety of behavioral, environmental, and genetic factors. It also tends to vary in terms of intensity from one patient to the next.

DSM-5 – the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Edition Five – also defines these conditions as a spectrum disorder that can either be severe, moderate, or mild. Since there are variations in the severity of addiction, therefore, you can be sure that there are also differences in the forms of treatment and rehabilitation that you can receive. The level of treatment that will be prescribed to you will largely depend on your differing needs.

That said, addiction and behavioral health treatment programs are generally classified as intensive outpatient, outpatient (regular), and inpatient drug and alcohol rehab. The main differences between these forms of treatment lie in the severity and complexity of the conditions that their patients are trying to overcome, the duration of the program, as well as the living arrangements of the clients.

Understanding the Levels of Addiction Treatment

Another way to answer the “what is the difference between outpatient and intensive outpatient?” question would be to think about the level of addiction treatment and rehabilitation services that you are going to need.

Even before you choose the type of treatment that best suits you, it is important that you undergo intensive assessment, testing, and evaluation by highly qualified addiction treatment professionals – such as intake specialists, psychiatrists, addiction counselors, and therapists.

This form of assessment will give you the right feedback that you can use while trying to decide on the best course of addiction treatment for you. You might also find it useful to make your final decision based on your true needs in recovery.

In particular, you can be sure that if you enroll in a treatment program that doesn’t match your addiction and the severity of your substance use disorder – and any co-occurring mental health disorders – it is highly likely that you might end up suffering a relapse once the treatment is over.

This could also increase your risk of suffering serious harm because your tolerance would be lower when you relapse, meaning that you might take a dose of the drugs that you used to abuse that is too high for your body to handle. In many cases, this is how drug overdoses happen – a situation that might end up being more deadly than you had anticipated.

To better understand the answers to the “what is the difference between outpatient and intensive outpatient?” question, consider the following explanations of each of these forms of addiction treatment and rehabilitation:

Outpatient Addiction Treatment

An outpatient addiction treatment program can be defined as a part-time rehabilitation program that will typically require that you undertake anywhere between 4 to 10 hours (every week) of group and individual therapy meetings.

All of these meetings will largely be focused on helping you develop the coping skills that will enable you to go out into the real world and still be able to maintain your ongoing recovery, sobriety, and abstinence even in the face of temptations and triggers that would otherwise have caused you to use drugs or drink alcohol. In the same way, most of these outpatient programs will typically last anywhere between 3 and 6 months.

While in such a program, you should – therefore – still be able to continue working, attending school, and living in your own home. However, you might be requested to check into a sober living or transitional home where you can receive additional support and encouragement from other people in recovery. This will allow you to escape all the negative influences in your home environment that might have continued enabling your substance abuse and addiction.

The counseling sessions and therapy meetings at the outpatient addiction treatment center might also be held in the early morning or at night. This way, you will be able to attend them while still continuing to meet your regular daily schedule.

Even so, outpatient addiction treatment might not always be the ideal choice for you. In fact, most addiction treatment professionals will typically ask you to choose a more intensive form of treatment if you have a high risk of your substance use disorder recurring, or of relapsing back to your old drug using or alcohol drinking ways.

This form of drug and alcohol rehab is often viewed as the perfect option for people who have a mild or short lasting substance use disorder, anyone who doesn’t have a co-occurring mental health disorder over and above their addiction, as well as those who are stepping down from an inpatient addiction treatment program.

If you are already in recovery from substance abuse and addiction, therefore, you might choose to make the transition from an inpatient rehabilitation program to a regular outpatient program, or even to an IOP – or an intensive outpatient program.

This way, you will get more opportunities to continue practicing and applying the skills that you learned while in an inpatient treatment center before you fully reintegrate into the real world. It will also allow you to keep on getting the extra guidance and support you need to strengthen your ongoing sobriety and abstinence from drugs and/or alcohol.

Intensive Outpatient Addiction Treatment

Now that you have got the outpatient component of the “what is the difference between outpatient and intensive outpatient?” question, it would be good to understand what intensive outpatient addiction treatment involves.

Also known as IOPs, intensive outpatient programs fall somewhere in between outpatient and inpatient addiction treatment. The main difference that exists between an intensive outpatient and a regular outpatient program lies in the duration of time you will spend undergoing treatment and undertaking all related activities on a weekly basis.

To this end, if you are in an IOP you may be required to spend at least 12 hours every week – or even more – in the drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. For instance, you might be asked to spend 1 hour of psychiatric evaluation and rehabilitation every week, 1 hour of individual therapy and counseling each week, and 3 hours of group therapy every day for 4 days of the week.

As you can well imagine, the intensive outpatient program is best suited for anyone who requires higher levels of ongoing care than they would otherwise have received at a non-intensive – or regular – outpatient program but who don’t have an addiction that is severe enough to need an inpatient treatment and rehabilitation program.

Intensive outpatient treatment might also work perfectly for you if you are making the transition between an inpatient drug or alcohol rehab program before going on to living a fully independent lifestyle.

That said, both outpatient and intensive outpatient programs will offer a wide variety of similar and/or related programs to help you recover fully from your substance use disorder. These include but are not always limited to:

  • 12 step meetings
  • Family therapy services
  • Individual counseling sessions
  • Therapeutic group meetings

In an excellent intensive outpatient program, however, you will typically receive a number of additional services designed to support your ongoing abstinence and sobriety after a period of substance abuse. These services include:

  • Expressive arts
  • Small group meetings lead by highly trained and experienced therapists
  • Weekly individual counseling and therapy meetings with psychiatrists
  • Yoga

Getting Help for Addiction

Now that you have a better idea about the answers to the “what is the difference between outpatient and intensive outpatient?” question, it is still important to remember that substance use disorders are serious conditions that you need to treat as soon as you realize that you have one.

This is because behavioral health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and addiction have been described as chronic conditions. To this end, you can only find a full recovery from them after undertaking a continual process that involves professional support in a controlled environment free from all intoxicating substances.

If you have a severe substance use disorder, for instance, you might even find that you need all forms and levels of care – from inpatient to outpatient treatment through an intensive outpatient program – to be able to find full recovery.

On the other hand, however, if your addiction and chemical dependence on drugs and/or alcohol can be described as anywhere between mild and moderate, the doctors might only ask that you undertake an outpatient program without making the transition from an intensive outpatient program.

The most important thing here is that you are always honest – both with yourself and with the addiction treatment professionals who conduct your initial testing, evaluation, and assessment during the intake period into a drug rehab program.

Of course, you might think that it is going to be difficult to leave your family, work/school, and social life behind so that you can check into an inpatient addiction treatment facility. However, this difficulty will be nothing compared to what would happen if you were to complete the treatment and relapse, or if you continued abusing drugs or alcohol without receiving any form of professional rehabilitation help.

This is also the case when you choose to undertake an intensive outpatient program and you are asked to check into a sober living facility to ensure your ongoing sobriety and abstinence.

Although it is hard making this type of change, you can rest assured that living with a substance use disorder and/or a co-occurring mental health disorders is doubly hard – both for yourself and for those who love you.

This is why it is always better to receive a complete and honest assessment so that you can find out the type of addiction treatment – as well as the level of care – that will work perfectly in helping you overcome your substance use disorder.