Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are increasingly becoming an alternative to more costly and often less convenient residential (inpatient) addiction treatment programs. Although IOP programs offer more flexibility than residential treatment, there are ultimately no shortcuts when it comes to getting the help we need. A good IOP program will provide the environment and the means for us to get that help.
Proponents of residential (inpatient) treatment programs often argue that we need a more immersive treatment experience, which isolates us completely from our familiar world in order to focus solely on overcoming our addiction. Although it may be beneficial, or even necessary in some severe cases to enter into a residential program, there are many advantages to choosing an IOP. We’ll skip over the obvious benefits, such as “more convenient” and “less expensive” and look at three not-so-obvious benefits of attending an IOP program.
You begin to re-integrate back into the “real world” on Day 1
In a residential treatment program you are isolated from the outside world, save for a “family day” or two. Reintegration back into day-to-day life after spending a month or more in a treatment facility can be a tremendous challenge, even after a month of preparation.
In an IOP program, on the other hand, you have the opportunity to practice newly acquired life skills while you’re “doing the work,” beginning on the first day of IOP. Every day in the program is an opportunity to practice interpersonal communication at home, time management, living a healthy lifestyle, effective work habits, and other daily life skills, as opposed to just discussing them or reading about them in the rehab handbook.
Life does not necessarily need to be put on hold for you to overcome your addiction
What degree of illness or injury would you need to sustain to warrant an extended stay at the local hospital? A major injury? A terminal illness? A coma? If you broke your arm you wouldn’t expect to stay in a hospital until it was healed. You would go about your daily life, despite the inconvenience of having a cast on your arm.
Addiction can be viewed on a continuum. Maybe your addiction is like a broken arm or maybe it’s like a coma. It’s ultimately up to you and possibly an addiction assessment or counsellor to determine the severity of your issue. Just remember when choosing a treatment option that not all addictions warrant putting your entire life on hold. In fact, since addiction is often so intertwined with many aspects of our life, putting our day-to-day responsibilities on hold can actually be counterproductive to our recovery.
Your recovery is in your own hands
Recovering from an addiction is all about learning how to stand on your own two feet and manage your day-to-day life without the burden of a chemical or behavioral dependency. Although on the surface it may seem less immersive, integrating an IOP program into your life is about as immersive as it can get.
In a residential program you are told when to wake up, when to eat, where to go, who to talk to, what to do and what not to do, and when to sleep. It’s very easy to get caught up in the automatic pilot syndrome in a residential program and lose the rhythm of your everyday life. This is especially important if you’re trying to keep a job or care for a family while simultaneously dealing with an addiction. In IOP, since we are expected to report back each day about the progress of our days and weeks out in the “real world”, participants tend to demonstrate a high degree of accountability for their day-to-day behaviors and challenges.
The most important thing is for you to find a path that is individualized and personalized, and that will give you the best chance of overcoming your addiction while maintaining a healthy life balance. If you’d like to learn more about the IOP program at Talk Therapy, please call us at 858-205-2490.
About the Author
Joseph Cervantes is an advocate for the de-stigmatization of addiction in our culture. As a community organizer and journalist in the addiction treatment space he has had the opportunity to work with hundreds of individuals struggling with various addictions and mental health issues. He is also a vocal advocate for the development of new methods and strategies for treating addiction. Having completed several IOP and inpatient programs himself over the past 20 years, he offers a unique perspective into the rehab experience through both a patient and practitioner lens.