Intensive Outpatient Treatment Vs. Inpatient Treatment is Equally As Effective for Addictions

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Outpatient treatment for the treatment of addictions is in many cases equally as effective as inpatient or residential treatment.

“This review found that studies of inpatient treatment and IOP services have yielded results that are consistent and similar; outcome measures of alcohol and drug use at follow-up show reductions in substance use and increases in abstinence, and outcomes do not differ significantly between inpatient and IOP settings.

Compared with inpatient care, IOP services (including 9 hour and 30 hour/week programs) have at least two advantages; increased duration of treatment, which varies with the severity of the patient’s illness and his/her response and the opportunity to engage and treat consumers while they remain in their home environments, which affords consumers the opportunity to practice newly learned behaviors.” 

Research Staff – “Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient Programs: Assessing the Evidence”;  Psychiatric Services  – – June 2014 Vol 65 No.6

Outpatient Treatment  is developed for people with substance use disorders or co-occurring mental and substance use disorders who do not require medical detoxification or 24 hour supervision.  Our PHP full day program, includes medical and psychiatric  services as needed.

The core services generally include

  • structured program group,
  • individual, group and family education or therapy
  • psychoeducation about substance use and
  • psychoeducation on mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, ADHD or bipolar disorder.

When we started Lasting Recovery in 2004, I had worked for 20 years as a licensed MFT providing Outpatient Therapy, 1-2 hours a week, individual, family or group sessions, for men and women who had been to Inpatient or Residential substance abuse treatment programs. As they returned home and needed to transfer what they learned and develop a recovery support environment. They needed to attend AA meetings, create a new sober network resolve the poor communication with their family before they left for 30 days of treatment as well as resume their work, school and/or family responsibilities. Most needed more education on relapse prevention, family education, and additional support.

I was drawn to the IOP, an Intensive Outpatient Program model of treatment, 9-15 hours a week, as it provides a higher level than Outpatient therapy and includes structured education about substance use and mental disorders for the client, as well as a weekly education session for their family and a year of weekly Aftercare for the clients.

What developed is a focused educational program which includes topics of understanding the genetics and brain chemistry that contributes to people becoming addicted, managing relapse in the early stage, identifying emotional and environmental triggers, learning about the phases of recovery in the first year, cross addiction with other substances, managing anxiety, and depression, developing a support system, family dynamics during use and in early recovery and the benefits of family education to sustain recovery and many other topics.

In addition, we address problems related to psychological, emotional, and physical well-being through psychological testing and holistic treatments. Research on outpatient treatment shows:

  • Overall, studies have found that 50 to 70 percent of participants reported abstinence at follow-up, and most studies found that this outcome did not differ for inpatient versus outpatient settings of care.
  • Compared with inpatient care, IOP services have at least two advantages:
    • Increased duration of treatment, which varies with the severity of the patient’s illness and his or her response
    • The opportunity to engage and treat consumers while they remain in their home environments, which affords consumers the opportunity to practice newly learned behaviors
  • IOPs are an important service for inclusion as a covered benefit for people with substance use disorders.
  • Ref: PSYCHIATRIC SERVICES ‘ ‘ June 2014 Vol. 65 No. 6

After 12 years of providing Intensive Outpatient Programs and meeting the stringent requirements for CARF Accreditation since 2010,  we now have the credibility that we needed for insurance carriers, employers, patients and other stakeholders in our profession to consider IOP a 9-15 hours a week and PHP, a 30 hour a week with medical and psychiatric care, viable and successful level of care. This recent development reaffirms my interest in and ongoing commitment to IOP and PHP as an important treatment option.

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