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Perhaps you’re considering outpatient treatment for yourself or a loved one, but you’re unsure about what it entails or if it’s going to be helpful.  There’s a lot of information out there about substance abuse treatment, depending on where you look or what you Google, so it might be a bit confusing or overwhelming as you’re reading through it all.  I’ve outlined the most important aspects of outpatient treatment for what you’ll need to know.

Intensive Outpatient (IOP)

 Intensive outpatient is designed for individuals just completing a residential or Partial Hospitalization (PHP) treatment stay.  Attendance time varies on programs, but is typically 3-4 sessions per week, for around 3 hours per session.  The sessions consist of individual therapy (working with a counselor) and group therapy, which focus on varying topics such as:

  • Relapse prevention
  • Self-care/Mental Health awareness
  • Coping skills
  • Communication
  • Managing/building relationships
  • Dealing with urges and cravings
  • Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT)
  • Having fun in recovery

The length of time at IOP depends on the facility (and your insurance company), but is also dictated by the recommendation of the clinician and various clinical staff.  You can expect to be in IOP for anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks.  Some treatment programs will tailor your IOP schedule to fit your work schedule or childcare needs.  If this is something that you require in order to attend, make sure to advocate for yourself when talking to an outpatient provider.

General Outpatient (GOP)

General outpatient, or sometimes just called outpatient, is the lowest level of care in substance abuse treatment.  GOP can be individual sessions with a counselor or group therapy (or both).  General outpatient can happen anywhere from once or twice a week to biweekly or even monthly.  Individuals on their journey to recovery often use general outpatient as a support to help them maintain their recovery and the tools that they’ve learned along the way.

Benefits of Outpatient Treatment

 Whether you’re in IOP or GOP, the benefits of outpatient treatment are substantial.  Oftentimes, when discharged from a higher level of care, it can be really challenging and overwhelming to return to life without the use of substances.  We’re faced with everything that we left behind before we entered treatment, whether that be legal implications, family or relationship problems, debt, loss of employment, etc.  The support of an outpatient program can help with navigating these problems and provides the support that is difficult to find elsewhere.  By continuing to practice tools and doing the clinical work with clinicians, those entering recovery can have a place to talk about their challenges and receive support.  Often times, outpatient programs can also be available to help people get connected to other community resources that are beneficial to someone’s recovery, such as 12-step fellowships or other avenues of recovery meetings, as well as Care Management services.  If someone desires to seek or maintain his or her MAT (Medication Assisted Recovery) regimen, the outpatient provider will often provide this ongoing care or will assist in accessing a resource that will help.  An outpatient treatment program can also be a support to the family system, by providing family counseling sessions or offering family resources such as local therapists, as well as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon.

Whether you or your loved one are seeking treatment, in treatment, or just getting out of treatment, an outpatient program is a crucial part of an aftercare plan.  Attending and completing an outpatient program after substance abuse treatment increases the likelihood of ongoing recovery.