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Benefits of Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Experience the benefits of intensive outpatient treatment for mental health

When someone is dealing with substance abuse or mental health issues, it is essential the right treatment plan is found. The right treatment can be the difference between relapsing and achieving long-term recovery results. On the topic of recovery, there is one form of treatment that plays an important role: therapy.

With therapy, you are supplied with the advice, tools, and support necessary to recover from your disorder and improve your general well-being. However, there are two main forms of therapy available. These are inpatient treatment and intensive outpatient sessions. Both of these have their own positives, making one more suitable than the other – and vice versa – for certain situations.

For example, inpatient treatment is recommended for those who are dealing with severe addiction or mental health disorders. The round-the-clock care it supplies, including overnight stays within a hospital, is seen as necessary for those in a vulnerable, unsafe state. However, if your condition is not severe and doesn’t warrant inpatient treatment, the more appealing therapy option is intensive outpatient treatment.

What Is Intensive Outpatient Treatment?

Intensive outpatient treatment is designed for those who are suffering with their mental and physical health. For those who enroll in this treatment, the suffering usually comes in the form of substance abuse, mental health issues, or eating disorders.

The structured nature of intensive outpatient sessions (IOS) is done to work with a patient’s day-to-day schedule rather than against it. For instance, inpatient treatment requires the patient to remove themselves from their current environment, staying in separate accommodation within their designated medical facility. With IOS, it accommodates the work schedule and family commitments of patients.

Intensive outpatient treatment sees patients attend at least three sessions each week. These sessions usually last for a few hours each, and programming typically occurs at different times of the day. This type of flexibility means that patients are able to attend sessions at the most appropriate times for their schedule. As an example, someone who works a regular nine-to-five would benefit from attending an evening session.

The versatility of IOS extends to the treatment that is provided. It incorporates a range of services, including individual therapy, group and family therapy, and medication management. With this range of treatment, it is possible for outpatient treatment to be tailored for each individual. Every patient has their own unique needs and requirements, and treatment can be customized to ensure these are all catered for effectively.

Intensive outpatient treatment can be used as aftercare following the completion of inpatient treatment. Alternatively, it can be utilized as a follow-up after successful medical detoxification or as a program that is joined once someone has received a primary mental health diagnosis.

The Benefits of Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Now that you have a better idea about intensive outpatient treatment and what it entails, it’s time to cover the main benefits gained from going down this route. Here are the points to consider when deciding on the best treatment path for your needs:

A Flexible Form of Intensive Treatment

Simply put, a lot of people do not have the freedom to commit to a residential care program. One of the main reasons is due to work. If you are financially responsible for paying household bills, it’s unlikely you can just put a stop to your monthly paycheck. You have to remain within your job and continue to earn. This is certainly the case if you have a new bill – medical expenses – that isn’t fully covered by insurance.

It’s not only those with a career. Individuals can have college or university commitments. Further education is a lot of money, and students don’t want to simply flush all of that away by dropping out to get full-time treatment for their health issues. Family commitments can also be a preventative element. When someone has children to look after or elderly parents to care for, they can’t uproot, leave everything behind, and start living in a residential care facility.

This is where intensive outpatient treatment bridges the gap.

While it remains an intensive form of treatment, as the name suggests, an IOS care plan has a larger degree of flexibility compared to inpatient programs. Yes, you still have to commit at least nine hours a week to treatment. Yes, you have to turn up at a medical facility for each session. However, the main difference is that you are able to fit this treatment into your schedule rather than your schedule being fit around treatment.

As a result, you can continue with your work, education, and/or family commitments while attending therapy and getting the help you need. The flexibility of IOS also extends to lesson times. While sessions may last for multiple hours at a time, you generally have the freedom to select the best time for your schedule. If a morning session is the most convenient, you can opt to attend earlier in the day. Conversely, when you have a regular nine-to-five, there are evening sessions available after work hours.

Everyday responsibilities often cannot be abandoned. With intensive outpatient treatment, you can maintain your obligations while receiving high levels of care.

Gain Structure

When recovering from a mental health or substance abuse disorder, structure is a key element. Someone who has a structured routine built around treatment has a better chance of developing healthy habits and achieving long-term recovery. This is what can be gained from an IOS treatment plan.

It’s true: IOS doesn’t involve the same level of commitment as inpatient care. However, you are still attending multiple sessions across the week. When matched up against a non-intensive program, where you may only have to show up once a week for treatment, structure is necessary for it to work. You have to maintain a schedule to attend your sessions across the week.

It does involve extra work and effort from your side. Yet when you commit to a specific routine and schedule, you gain a structure that can only be beneficial. It is one that allows you to develop productive, healthy habits that support your recovery.

A Versatile Approach

IOS doesn’t only use a single type of treatment method. It combines multiple approaches and techniques. By going with such a comprehensive approach, treatment providers are able to build a bespoke plan for each patient. The result: your specific needs and situations are accounted for with your treatment plan, ensuring you get the right help with the issues you’re facing.

With intensive outpatient treatment, the following methods are incorporated:

  • Individual therapy: When dealing with a substance use disorder or mental health issue, individual therapy can be an important ingredient in the recovery process. Working with a trained therapist gives you a platform to open up, share what you’re going through, and discuss your worries in a safe, accepting space. A therapist will also teach you coping strategies and techniques to better deal with your afflictions in a more productive, healthier way. As the weeks go on, the bond built between you and your therapist goes a long way toward improvement. You will feel more comfortable talking about sensitive matters and being receptive to advice that’s given, and that is only beneficial for your overall mental well-being.
  • Group therapy: Group support is another vital element for any intensive outpatient treatment. Group sessions involve interacting with peers who are in a similar situation. For example, if someone is attending IOS for depression, they will be placed in a group with others also battling this disorder. This can be invaluable. By working and building relationships with others who understand your situation, you are able to lean on people who know what you’re going through on a deeper level. Everyone in the group can share experiences and advice for others to carry with them during their recovery while opening up in a non-judgmental setting can be therapeutic in its own right.
  • Family therapy: Another form of therapy that can be used involves your family support network. This network can involve both family members and friends, and it can be a key component in recovery away from IOS treatment. Ultimately, you only commit a relatively small portion of your time to outpatient care. The rest of it is spent ‘outside’ at home, work, and/or school. As a result, it is important you have the right family support network when away from formal treatment. With family therapy, this network can be put together effectively. As this presents an opportunity for family members to have a greater appreciation for what you’re going through, as well as being an environment to open up and discuss any pressing issues, you are able to establish stronger bonds with those in your family.
  • Medication management: For those with mental health struggles or substance use disorders, medication is often used as part of their treatment plan. However, it is important for this medication to be correct for effective results to be achieved. This is where medication management enters the equation. With medication management, the medications you take can be closely monitored. Not getting the desired results? By monitoring the situation, changes can be made as IOS treatment goes along. This could involve changing to a different medicine or altering dosage levels. By watching over this aspect with due care and attention, it can be refined to produce better outcomes.

Learn New Skills

Skills and coping strategies are necessary for anyone who is battling with addiction or mental health worries. Emotions and feelings can quickly overwhelm people with such disorders, and that is why they can turn to substances or avoid certain situations. Yet when the right skills and strategies are incorporated, they have the platform to take on these emotions and feelings head-on.

There are various skills which can be gained. These include:

  • Communication skills
  • Creativity skills
  • Mindfulness programs
  • Anger management

These skills can be gained in different ways as part of your IOS treatment. Within a formal setting, a therapist will teach you about coping strategies you can use to handle difficult situations in your day-to-day life. Someone impacted by anxiety, for example, could be taught breathing exercises that limit feelings of worry and dread.

However, certain abilities are improved in a more casual way. Take communication skills. When participating in a group setting, you naturally improve your ability to communicate with others. This is further enhanced when discussing your thoughts and feelings one-on-one with your therapist.

Cultivate a Long-Term Support System

As mentioned already, intensive outpatient treatment can be beneficial in terms of enhancing the support network you have with your family. However, IOS isn’t only about building up your family support system. As you work within a group setting, this treatment is also beneficial for establishing a support network with people who are in a similar position and pushing towards the same recovery goals.

What’s great about this is that support from your peers doesn’t have to end once you have finished your IOS course. It is known that people, following their intensive outpatient treatment, continue to meet and support each other years after initially meeting. This type of long-term support system can be essential in keeping you on the right path. If you feel you’re struggling and on the verge of a relapse, getting help from someone who understands your issues and what you’re going through can make all the difference.

A Cost-Effective Treatment Route

Going back to inpatient care, one of the biggest drawbacks of this treatment type is cost. It is known that residential treatment is generally much more expensive than its outpatient counterpart. This is due to the nature of the treatment. Along with having to factor in round-the-clock care from multiple medical specialists, there is also the price of accommodation that is added to the bill. If someone requires an extended stay in a residential setting, the price quickly ramps up.

That isn’t the case with intensive outpatient treatment. Even though you are paying for a course that lasts up to 12 weeks in total, it is typically a much more cost-effective treatment option compared to residential care. As you are able to go home and do not have to pay for residential stays, this lowers the cost significantly overall.

Another positive is that health insurance can be used to cover IOS treatment. A lot of insurance plans will at least cover part of the cost, although others will go even further and pay the entire expense as part of your coverage.

Connect the Dots

When someone is in addiction recovery or dealing with mental health issues, they may not fully understand why they are in this current situation. For instance, someone could turn to substances as a way to get away from their depressive thoughts. Another example might be someone struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to trauma they have experienced in the past and not resolved.

With IOS treatment, it gives you the opportunity to connect the dots. You are able to explore the underlying issues that are contributing to your addiction or mental health struggles. By being able to get to the crux of the matter, you can better understand why you are experiencing depression or PTSD. This information can be invaluable for overcoming hurdles in your recovery.

Keep Your Privacy

Do you feel embarrassed about the thought of receiving treatment for your addiction or mental health struggles? You’re not alone. A lot of people find it difficult to come to terms with their situation and take active steps to seek treatment. They may even delude themselves into thinking they don’t actually have a problem. One of the reasons is the possible lack of privacy when going for treatment.

Some people are open to involving their family and friends in the recovery process. Others, however, are less receptive to letting others know about their situation, particularly when they are just starting out with treatment. Those feelings of embarrassment and shame can stop them from letting others in, even when they are struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues.

With IOS treatment, you are able to maintain your privacy. Medical professionals who work at outpatient treatment centers do so with discretion. While they may recommend you open up and work alongside your family and friends during recovery, that’s as far as it goes. It is up to you when you decide to bring them into the recovery process.

Due to this privacy, you are able to work towards your goals at your own pace. Then, when you have built up enough confidence and feel safe to open up, you can be more willing to discuss your issues – no embarrassment or shame involved.

Receive Helpful Resources

After you have finished your IOS treatment, the work doesn’t stop. Recovery is not something that you complete. It is an ongoing process that you need to work on continually to prevent relapses and ensure you maintain a positive outlook. This is why an IOS isn’t simply built around the program it provides. It also sets you up for the future.

This is done by providing you with helpful resources to use after you’ve completed IOS. These resources can include the likes of planners, worksheets, and online tools. Not only that, but they can also recommend additional treatments that you can utilize in the future. This might be medication, for instance, or it could be another support group within a non-intensive setting.

As you step down from intensive treatment, you should never simply stop treatment. It should be a gradual process, and IOS will be able to help you make that transition successfully and make sure the work done during intensive therapy isn’t undone.


As this blog post has highlighted, there are numerous advantages gained from receiving intensive outpatient treatment. It gives you a combination of structure and flexibility, where you are able to stick to your obligations while completing a formal treatment program. It is more cost-effective than the likes of residential care and partial hospitalization, while it also delivers a versatile treatment plan that is tailored to your needs.

Most importantly of all, intensive outpatient treatment is effective. While IOS isn’t particularly long – it is typically completed over a 10-to-12-week duration – it delivers the foundation for long-term recovery. You learn important coping skills, better understand your situation, and build healthy support networks that are a necessity for your well-being and living a better life.

Interested in Speaking with someone from our team?

Call us today to learn more about our IOS Psychiatric Day Treatment program and how we may be able to help you or a loved one dealing with mental health concerns. 

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