Deciding if an IOP Is Best for You After Treatment

Home / Sober Living Alumni Resources / Deciding if an IOP Is Best for You After Treatment

Individuals that have gone through rehab have most likely been in treatment for three to nine months. This varies from person to person, but it is understandable that most people are anxious to get back home after rehab after being away for so long. However, there can come a time when one of the staff on your team such as your therapist or counselor recommends that you go to an intensive outpatient program (IOP) before returning home. This can be disheartening, as you believe that you can handle anything life throws at you now. However, the most common mistake that many recovering addicts make is getting too cocky in their recovery. If your therapist makes a recommendation for IOP, it is probably for good reason. Learning about what an IOP is can help you make this important decision. 

What Is an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)?

IOPs differ from residential treatment programs because they are part-time, meaning you don’t live at the facility. An IOP allows its clients to live at home and come to the facility a couple of times a week for sessions. They are flexible in scheduling, often having sessions available in the daytime and in the evening. The programs can last for a couple of weeks, a couple of months, or even a year for some. However, it should be noted that IOPs are more intense than standard outpatient programs. 

Who Is Best Suited for an IOP?

IOPs are generally better for individuals with less severe addictions and who don’t need 24/7 supervision. They are also good for those that do not require detoxification or at least medical detoxification. 

What to Expect in an IOP

IOPs generally use group therapy in many of their sessions. This is to teach the clients effective communication skills, to open up and be vulnerable, to trust in others, to have experience in a structured environment, and how to talk with others without using or discussing drugs or alcohol.

You may also engage in support groups, psychiatric screenings, individual therapy, medication and case management, and vocational training, depending on the program and facility.

Each IOP has its own goals, but generally, they reflect the same things program to program. These goals often include:

  • Teaching effective communication
  • Maintaining abstinence from drugs and alcohol
  • Creating a sober support network
  • Teaching problem-solving skills
  • Supporting behavioral change
  • Coping with psychosocial issues

Treatment Modalities in IOPs

Most IOPs use a range of various therapies, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing, and the Matrix Model. Some also use 12-step programs but this depends on the program. 

The Benefits of an IOP

IOPs have the great benefit of being flexible. This is because you are not living at the facility during the program, therefore you can still see your family and friends as well as work during your time there. You don’t have to put your life on hold just to take part in the program. 

Another benefit is being able to practice everything you learned in rehab in a real setting. This will help prepare you for life after treatment. You can practice the coping strategies, communication skills, and more to help you transition them into everyday life back home, outside of treatment. 

IOPs also offer the benefit of loved ones being involved in your recovery. Family counseling is often involved in IOPs because it educates the family and the addict about addiction and how to mend the bonds that addiction often breaks. By coming together as a family in a space conducive to healing, relationships can start to heal and they can learn how to support you best in your recovery. 

Do I Need an IOP?

There are multiple factors to consider when deciding if you should partake in an IOP. Think about your needs in recovery and who IOPs are best for. IOPs are generally best for those that have a mental disorder that needs to be treated alongside the person’s addiction. Another thing to consider is if you have any responsibilities at home that may keep you away from a residential treatment center. If you are thinking you don’t need an IOP but have gotten a recommendation from your therapist to go to one, consider why they are saying this. Remember that IOPs can serve as a great buffer between rehab and daily life. In these programs, you can learn to use your coping skills properly and learn how to manage situations outside of rehab. 

This decision can be intimidating to make, but ultimately you know what is right for you. Take the time to discuss the decision with your family and therapist. Look over all the pros and cons, what to expect, and how an IOP can help your recovery. From there, you can make an informed decision.


Nearing the end of rehab is a great milestone on the journey of addiction recovery. You may be feeling ready to go back home and get back to a sober life, but an intensive outpatient program (IOP) has been recommended to you. Considering what an IOP is and if it is best for you will help you choose whether to go or not. At Northstar Transitions, we set our clients up for success after rehab by giving them a discharge plan. Inside these plans, we often recommend going to a PHP or IOP. This is based on each clients’ needs in recovery, but we make sure they understand why we make these recommendations. We can always talk through what is best for you after rehab, but always know we have your best interest in mind. If you are considering going to an IOP but are unsure, contact us today to have your questions answered. You can reach us at (303) 558-6400.