The top 5 benefits that teens can get from an IOP


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Teens can struggle with a variety of mental health issues, like depression or anxiety. If you are a teen struggling with your mental health, you may be looking for what mental health treatment programs are available for teens. An intensive outpatient program may be an option for you.

An intensive outpatient program, or IOP, is a great option for teens looking for support without disrupting their lives. Continue reading to learn more about intensive outpatient programs and their benefits for teens’ mental health journey.

What is an intensive outpatient program?

An intensive outpatient program treats mental health, addiction and other mental health-related issues. IOPs are “intensive” because of the frequency of treatment sessions. In a typical intensive outpatient program, you will visit your treatment facility for at least 10 hours per week. The term “outpatient” means that you return home after each session instead of living at the treatment facility.

During your visits to your treatment center, you will likely attend individual counseling, group therapy and other programming. An intensive outpatient program might also include coursework tailored to the mental health concerns you wish to address. For example, if you are in an IOP for a substance use disorder, you may attend classes that focus on relapse prevention. Other courses may focus on social skills development and career support.

An IOP may also be used to help an individual step down from inpatient care. The intensive treatment schedule can give an individual the support they need to successfully transition back to their day-to-day life.

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. Virtual IOPs can be an effective alternative to in-person intensive care if you do not have access to a traditional treatment facility.

What mental health issues can be supported by an IOP?

Intensive outpatient programs can be used to treat substance use disorders and associated mental health disorders. This may include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Mood disorders (e.g., bipolar disorder)
  • Trauma-related disorders (e.g., PTSD)
  • Self-harm behaviors
  • Eating disorders

Intensive outpatient programs are typically recommended for people who do not need 24/7 supervision but feel that they may benefit from a high level of support, structure and routine. If you feel that you and the people around you are not in immediate danger, an intensive outpatient program may be a good treatment option for your mental health needs. If you feel that you may need additional monitoring during your recovery, a residential treatment facility may be the better choice for you.

5 benefits of an IOP for teens

Intensive outpatient programs provide a variety of benefits that can help people struggling with a mental health disorder heal in their own time and at their own pace. Some of the positives of an IOP include:

  • Gaining a support system — Group therapy sessions are the core of most intensive outpatient programs. Because most programs are a group setting, you will be surrounded by other people with similar struggles and who share similar recovery goals. This can help you feel less lonely as you embark on your healing journey. You might even connect with people who can continue to support you after the treatment program!

  • Keeping the comfort of living at home — One of the reasons that people choose an intensive outpatient care program over inpatient care is that you get to go home at the end of the day. This allows you to receive a high level of support while still being able to live your life in your routine as much as possible. Also, the familiarity of home can provide some much-needed comfort and stability after working through the difficult emotions that can come up in treatment.

  • Learning useful life skills — Intensive outpatient programs typically include coursework and programming to give you the skills to support your continued healing after the program. This can include social skills development courses, career support or programming on coping mechanisms you can use when encountered with difficult real-world situations.

  • Establishing structure — Another benefit of an IOP is that it requires you to commit to a specific schedule and routine. The consistent treatment schedule of an intensive outpatient program provides a structure that can help you create healthy and productive habits. This routine can help set you up for long-term healing and growth after the conclusion of the program.

  • Receiving helpful resources — In addition to the help you will receive from treatment sessions during an intensive outpatient program, you will also be given other tools and resources to use after the program has ended. This can include worksheets, planners or online tools.

Our Lightfully mental health specialists can help you decide if an IOP is the best fit for you

Asking for help with your mental health can feel overwhelming and scary, but you deserve the support. Lightfully’s mental health specialists can help you take the next step in your healing journey. Our licensed, clinical experts see each client as a complex and layered human — not just a diagnosis. They can sit down with you, review the pros and cons of IOPs, and help you decide if an intensive outpatient program is the best treatment option for your 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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