IOP program: Answers to the top 10 questions teens and their parents may have about one
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Teens may be struggling with addiction, substance use or other mental health issues, and these struggles could have a teen or their parent(s) looking for help. But they may want the help they use to interfere with their daily life as little as possible. If this is the case, an intensive outpatient program (IOP) may be the best choice for supporting a teen’s mental health. Continue reading to learn more about IOP programs and how they can push teens toward the next step in their healing journey.

5 questions teens may have about IOP programs

  • What does IOP stand for?

IOP stands for “intensive outpatient program.” IOPs are treatment programs used to address mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, substance use disorders and eating disorders. IOP programs are intensive due the schedule of treatment. Often, you will visit your treatment facility for at least 10 hours per week. The term “outpatient” means that you go back home after your visit instead of living in the treatment center.

  • What is an IOP program?

An intensive outpatient program treats mental health-related struggles. A typical IOP includes group therapy sessions, individual counseling, life skills classes and support groups. Some programs might also include coursework that focuses on recovering from addiction, such as relapse prevention.

An IOP program may also be used to help an individual step down from inpatient care. They can transition back to their day-to-day life and still receive a high level of support.

  • How long does an intensive outpatient program last?

Intensive outpatient treatment usually lasts eight to 12 weeks. A program might run three to five days per week, with each visiting lasting between two and five hours per day.

  • What do you do during an intensive outpatient program?

During your visits to your treatment facility, you will likely attend individual therapy, group therapy and other courses. In an IOP program, you will receive a mix of therapy, social skills development, career support and peer support groups. If you are unable to attend an in-person treatment facility, there are options for virtual IOP programs.

  • Is group therapy a part of IOP programs?

Group therapy is the core of most intensive outpatient programs. Group therapy sessions may sound intimidating, especially if you have never participated in one before. However, there are several benefits of group therapy, such as:

  • Feeling less alone in recovery
  • Building social skills and healthful ways of interacting
  • Sharing tips and coping skills among peers
  • Creating a sense of community and belonging
  • Building a support system

Group therapy sessions can also be specialized and focus on a shared identity or experience. For example, an IOP program may offer specialized groups for men, women, LGBTQ+ individuals or sexual abuse survivors. Some groups can also include your family members and the family members of others.

5 questions parents may have about IOPs

  • How do I know if my teen needs IOP level of care?

An IOP may be an appropriate level of care if your teen is beginning to show early signs or symptoms of declining mental health or struggles with addiction and drug use. IOP may also be an option for your teen if they are transitioning out of a partial hospitalization or residential treatment program. Sometimes teens need more support than weekly therapy or standard outpatient treatment when integrating back into their daily routines. If this sounds like your teen, you may want to consider an IOP program.

  • What is IOP for addiction treatment or substance use?

IOP programs for addiction treatment supports the client in building a life outside of their substance use disorder. This can include exercises to help clients find meaning in their lives, connecting to peers in recovery, and addressing the emotional and psychological causes of their addiction. However, an IOP does not offer the appropriate level of care needed to safely detox someone. It is best if a client has already gone through detoxification before starting an IOP program.

  • What is IOP for mental health?

An intensive outpatient program can also help treat mental health issues. Poor mental health can impact multiple areas of your teen’s life, such as school or their friendships. The life skills courses within an IOP can help get your teen’s life back on track. Your teen might also attend peer support groups, learn coping skills, or attend group or individual therapy sessions as part of their IOP treatment. 

  • What is the difference between IOP, PHP and residential treatment programs?

A residential treatment program is a live-in treatment option where the client stays in a mental health treatment facility overnight. These programs provide a high level of care, separating people from access to drugs or alcohol or removing them from the environments causing mental distress.

IOP and PHP are similar, but not the same. PHP stands for “partial hospitalization program.” Both offer support without overnight stays at a mental health care facility. PHP is a higher level of care than an IOP, meaning that your teen will likely have to visit more frequently and for longer periods of time.

  • Are IOP programs covered by insurance?

Intensive outpatient programs are usually covered by most insurance providers, as long as the IOP is referred to a client by their doctor or psychiatrist following an inpatient care program.

Considering an IOP program to support your mental health journey? Lightfully Behavioral Health can help

It’s not easy asking for help, but every person deserves it. Lightfully’s mental health specialists can help everyone find the best treatment option for them. Our licensed, clinical experts see each client as a complex and layered human — not just a diagnosis. They can sit down with someone and review their mental health treatment options, including IOP programs, and help them pick the best program for their needs.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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