Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) vs. Outpatient Program (OP): Understanding Levels of Care


Recovering from drug and alcohol addiction is a lifelong process that often starts by participating in an addiction treatment program. Every person with a substance use disorder has different needs during treatment and must receive tailored treatment that can give them the specific support they need to be successful in recovery.

Because people have a wide range of needs and preferences during treatment, addiction treatment programs are available in many settings and levels of care. Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) and outpatient programs (OPs) are two levels of addiction treatment that provide the care people need to recover from addiction.

This article will explore what happens in both intensive outpatient programs and outpatient programs so that you can understand what to expect from these levels of care. Reach out to the team at Flourishing Foundations now to learn about our integrative addiction treatment programs or to find support at any stage of your recovery journey.

Understanding Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs): The Basics

An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is an intensive outpatient level of treatment for substance use disorders. This level of care provides medically-supported detox services, treatment, and aftercare planning for people living with moderate or deeply rooted addiction.

An IOP is an outpatient level of care but provides substantial support and treatment. Participants typically attend treatment sessions during the day on several days per week. Each IOP participant follows their own specialized treatment plan and may spend between 9 and 20 hours per week engaged in treatment activities. An IOP generally lasts between 30 and 60 days but can be adjusted to meet people’s needs as they move through the recovery process.

What to Expect from an IOP

An intensive outpatient program is designed to give people a high level of support and structure while allowing them to balance their responsibilities in the community. People in an IOP can often continue to work or attend school in some capacity and can remain connected to their social support at home and in the community.

Addiction treatment in an IOP happens in stages. Here is what you can expect when participating in an IOP.


Before starting an IOP, your treatment team will evaluate your needs. This assessment will include:

  • Lab testing
  • Physical exam
  • Family history of substance abuse or treatment
  • Medical and mental health history
  • Information about your current substance use

This information will help shape your course of treatment and allow your team to provide the best possible treatment during your time in rehab.


For many, an IOP begins with a medically-supported detox program. People who require detoxification will receive medications to manage cravings and other withdrawal symptoms. They will also receive regular emotional support, supervision, and access to mental health and physical therapies to support whole-body healing.


Addiction is a complex condition that requires holistic, compassionate treatment and support. An IOP treatment plan will likely include:

  • Individual counseling
  • Behavioral therapies
  • Daily check-ins with your treatment team
  • Medical support, including medications to manage withdrawal symptoms
  • Group therapy
  • Family education and therapy
  • Relapse-prevention education
  • Nutrition support, exercise, massage, mindfulness, and other holistic therapies

Your treatment team will regularly re-evaluate your needs and adjust your treatment plan. After you complete your treatment plan, you will develop and follow an aftercare plan that includes mental health and medical care, recovery support, sober living, other types of treatment, and other activities that support sobriety.

Understanding Outpatient Programs: The Basics

Outpatient programs (OPs) are a type of rehab that provides consistent treatment and support for people living with addiction but allows participants to continue living at home. Outpatient programs provide a good balance of treatment and flexibility for people who need substantial addiction treatment but do not require inpatient care.

There are many levels of outpatient addiction treatment, and care can occur in a wide range of settings. People may attend an OP in a mental health clinic, medical center, office, or residential treatment center that provides outpatient treatment.

People may begin their recovery journey in an outpatient program or move to an OP after completing an inpatient or residential treatment program.

What to Expect From an Outpatient Program

Because people’s needs vary, outpatient addiction treatment programs provide tailored care that adapts to people’s changing needs throughout recovery.

An outpatient program treatment plan may include:

  • Individual and group therapy
  • Behavioral therapies
  • Education about substance use disorders and recovery
  • Relapse prevention education
  • Coping skills practice
  • Life skills training

People may attend treatment sessions once a week or more, depending on their needs. Outpatient programs often occur during the day and evening, allowing people to accommodate their school or work schedule and other responsibilities while receiving high-quality addiction treatment.

Find Treatment Now

If you or someone in your life lives with substance abuse or addiction, you are not alone. The Flourishing Foundations Recovery team can help you understand the differences between an IOP and OP and help you decide which level of care is right for you.

Contact our specialists now to learn more about our programs or to schedule an intake assessment.