After Detox: How to Find the Right Intensive Outpatient Program

Feb 9, 2022

Any plan to stop using drugs or alcohol safely begins with detox, but the following steps are equally important. Sustaining recovery long-term requires a more comprehensive approach to finding solutions. One of the recommended resources is an intensive outpatient program or IOP. Today let’s look at what can make an IOP most effective for those who need substance use treatment. 

Using a Google search to find reliable intensive outpatient programs could lead to millions of results to sort through, even if you use “near me” or the name of your city. A more effective approach narrows the search to programs designed specifically for your needs to start recovery. Using five specific elements can help you determine if a particular program is aligned with those needs. The list includes specialization in substance use disorders, treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders, availability of individual therapy services, couples services, family support, and planning for continuing care upon discharge from the outpatient program.

5 Things to Look for in an Outpatient Program

A Google search using the phrase “intensive outpatient program near me” doesn’t limit the results as much as you might think. You could end up with tens of millions of results. Add a city name to it, and you might narrow it down to only a few million results. Without leaving this page, please take a moment to try it. How many search results did you see?

So, what’s a more effective way to identify potential intensive outpatient programs in your area? Five key elements indicate an effective outpatient program for someone with a substance use disorder. This could be someone interested in recovery from the use of alcohol, marijuana, opioids, cocaine, and any other drug. These five elements of a particular program should be apparent in a facility’s printed marketing materials, website, social media pages, and during any direct communication with personnel.

1. Specialty in Substance Use Disorders

A specialty in substance use disorders indicates an intensive outpatient program is staffed with trained and experienced professionals. Treating substance use is not something casually added to the program. It’s among the main focuses of the services provided. 

Programs with an emphasis on treating SUDs have staff that understands the causes of alcohol and drug misuse. These addiction specialists understand the impact environmental situations and traumatic experiences can have on people. They recognize the signs and symptoms of addiction. They are knowledgeable about the risks of long-term drug use. 

Program staff in these centers recognize the similarities between some substances and the differences. They have experienced first-hand the challenges people face by misusing cocaine, heroin, alcohol, benzos, opioids, and more. Their history of these treatment experiences and ability to address the unique needs of each new patient makes them an essential part in beginning a recovery plan. 

Specialty in substance use disorders is not an unchanging set of data to memorize. IOPs grow and enhance themselves by continuously learning more about how substance use changes over time. This comes from prioritizing treatment education to keep updated on new trends, innovative treatments, and more.

2. Treatment of Mental Health Conditions

The relationship between these disorders is a strong one. In some cases, the substance use may have come first and led to a mental health issue. In other cases, a mental health disorder may have preceded the development of a drug or alcohol problem. The frequency of people with a substance use disorder who also have a co-occurring mental health disorder makes finding an IOP offering dual diagnosis treatment a highly recommended choice.

Treatment professionals in this program understand that mental health issues can go undetected for years when masked by drug or alcohol use. They also recognize that untreated mental health may increase the severity of substance use over time. In either case, the focus is on providing the help needed to move forward with healthy living in a holistic way.

Untreated mental health also includes neglecting to address traumatic experiences. These experiences can lead someone to begin using drugs or alcohol to cope with feelings of fear, paranoia, powerlessness, anxiety, or depression. A facility with trauma-informed care provides a safe place for trauma survivors to address a factor that’s been perpetuating a drinking or drug problem.

3. Individual Therapy Services

Group settings can be valuable for recovery work, but a facility that doesn’t offer 

Individual services will not be able to customize their treatment. Individual counseling is set up to be specific to the person in need of recovery help from substance use and related issues tied to mental health, marriage and relationships, career, education, and more. 

Individual therapy provides a safe setting for you to share and discuss your own experiences, confidentially. These sessions work on building rapport between you and your therapist, increasing your trust in the therapist and in the recovery process itself. Anything shared remains between you and the therapist.

One advantage of individual therapy is working on specific skills learned in a session. It allows your therapist to fine-tune how you used the strategy or suggest something new. Between sessions, you’re able to put these new skills into practice and evaluate what works for you and what doesn’t. As you return to the next therapy session, you can provide an update on what you learned. 

Individual therapy goes deeper into the self than group counseling. In a one-on-one session, you can learn to recognize patterns in your thinking that lead to substance use. You may discover how your past choice to associate with fellow drinkers or drug users has increased your risk of relapsing. You may learn how a lack of setting boundaries with friends and family can lead to frustration and resentment and eventually more substance use.

4. Couples and Family Support

You may participate in an IOP as an individual, but the impact of your drug behavior touches the life of every person you know. The people closest to you typically endure the most significant impact. That’s why the outpatient program you choose must include consideration for those loved ones in your life.

Let’s start with couples therapy. In these sessions, the focus is on restoring the balance in the relationship and repairing the harm caused by drinking or drug use. Codependency can be a serious issue in relationships shaped by addiction. Learning how to set boundaries effectively can be part of a productive couples therapy process. Unlearning habits of covering for a partner who drinks is another key element during this kind of therapy workflow.

An intensive outpatient program for substance use that offers an opportunity for family support understands it’s an essential element for a patient’s recovery. The people who love you most and rely on you most should be an active part in your work to live a sober life. They can participate in family counseling sessions throughout your treatment. This choice can help you and your loved ones learn coping skills to reduce relapse risk and learn healthy communication skills.

5. Continuing Care & Discharge Planning

Any effective IOP is designed as one step in a much longer process of achieving and maintaining sobriety. No one program can guarantee you results. Addiction is far too complex for one stop on the road to handle all the work needed. An intensive outpatient program worth going to will emphasize the importance of thinking long-term from Day One.

The moment of a program discharge is pivotal. Without a plan of what comes next, a person can face their old routines, home and work environment, and lifestyle not fully equipped to sustain their new sobriety. Going it alone after the IOP ends is unnecessary with all the resources available beyond a rehabilitation program. 

The plan for continuing care is not a blueprint handed to you. It’s one you have a responsibility in helping to craft. Working with addiction specialists can design the sober life you desire most. 

Continuing care is more about your health and happiness than just your ability to avoid relapsing. Building a new life away from drug or alcohol use can come from going back to school, learning new job skills, changing careers, spending time in a sober living environment, and much more. You want a partner and advocate for your sobriety throughout your outpatient program that helps set you up for success long beyond your last day in that program.


Origins Recovery & Counseling is a new program in Dallas, Texas, made available by a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 866-671-4124.

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