How long does intensive outpatient rehab last?

The recommended minimum duration of intensive outpatient rehab for addiction is 90 days. More here on the duration of intensive treatment programs and their stages, with a section for questions at the end..

minute read

IOT stands for Intensive Outpatient Treatment. This type of addiction treatment includes cognitive-behavioral interventions, relapse prevention training, motivational enhancement, and case management. Usually operated in community-based treatment settings, intensive outpatient can help addicts effectively live a life that is drug and alcohol free. But how long do IOT programs last?

Here, we review the duration of intensive outpatient programs for addiction as well as stages of treatment. Then, we invite your questions or comments about the definition of intensive outpatient treatment at the end. In fact, we try to respond to all legitimate queries with a personal and prompt reply.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment: How long does it take?

The recommended minimum duration of intensive outpatient treatment is 90 days. IOT programs are diverse and flexible in order to fit the individual intensity, duration, spectrum of services and settings of  different clients. As time passes and patients move forward in recovery, gain more skills and become more independent, the intensity and frequency of treatment sessions is gradually lowered.

Intensive Outpatient Programs duration and average time

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines Intensive Outpatient Treatment as an initial treatment period of a minimum of 9 therapeutic hours per week. However, intensive outpatient programs can span anywhere from 12 to 16 weeks before patients are ready to “step down” to a less intensive treatment stage (outpatient care).

IOP sessions are usually held at least 3 days a week for 2-4 hours a day, some IOT programs meet 5 times (evenings) per week, while others may have up to 30 contact hours per week. These outpatient programs are often scheduled around work or school, to give you the opportunity for treatment while still living at home and going to school or to work.

A typical IOT session would usually last 90 minutes, although longer and shorter time-frames are also used. One session can be dedicated to back-to-back group work in which the clients who are members of the same recovery stage will share their concerns. In another session, clients will study psycho-educational topics, which involves a 30-minute lecture and another 15 minutes for questions. Another evening may include 30 to 50 minutes of individual counseling, a 90-minute family therapy session, or 60 minutes of skills training.

Stages of Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Stage 1: Treatment Engagement-This is a critical stage during which the program and counselor encourage clients to remain in treatment. People usually drop out of treatment after attending only a few intensive outpatient sessions. In this stage, The counselor determines the client’s psychological, physical, and social problems related to substance abuse and explains the rules of the program, the goals, duration, activities, the expectations.

Stage 2: Early Recovery-A highly structured stage, early recovery is full of educational activities, group engagement, and promoting new behaviors. This stage helps clients develop recovery skills, address the underlying reasons that compel substance abuse and make subtle life-changes and build a substance-free lifestyle.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment: A timeline of what happens

1. You enter treatment. Treatment entry and engagement are crucial processes and how an intensive outpatient program addresses them can influence whether a client stays in treatment or not. The admission process includes engaging and screening, assessing barriers to treatment, attending to crises and treatment planning.

2. You go through assessment. Assessing clients upon admission is done by gathering preliminary information, which are completed after a comprehensive biopsychlogical assessment. After the detailed information about clients’ history and future goals are gathered, IOP uses this knowledge to focus on tailoring treatment services that will address clients’ issues.

3. You try different therapies. Addressing the individual clients’ needs by matching them with adequate treatment services improves the outcomes. This part of IOT is crucial for clients to return  to productive functioning in the family, the society, and in the workplace. Most IOT programs place clients in several different types of groups during the course of treatment, these include psycho-educational, skills-development, support, and interpersonal process groups, but specialized groups can also be formed.

4. You identify what motivates you. Motivation are the the external or internal reasons that drive people to enter recovery. The fact that a person has reached out for help is a motivation for treatment. Counselors in IOT can understand what clients care about and connect their concerns with the substance abuse issue. Motivation has an important role in substance abuse treatment, so strategies that enhance and maintain clients motivation have been made a priority.

5. Your family participates. Support in IOT comes in many ways, and one source of support is the family. IOT acknowledges the role family has on the treatment outcomes and supports the importance and the influence of family members. There are specific goals and outcomes of family-based services (family education, multifamily group sessions, family therapy, support groups, retreats) and strategies that engage families in treatment.

6. You go through evaluation. Ongoing care in the form of adjusting the intensity of treatment according to patients’ needs is crucial for success. This is needed because addiction is not a condition that has a quick fix.  As the intensive outpatient treatment is successfully completed, clients should be evaluated if they are ready to be transferred to a less intensive levels of treatment and care. This is usually done by holding therapy meetings once per week, then moving to semi-monthly contact and so on, instead of several times a week.

Can Intensive Outpatient Treatment be forced?

No, not really.

Intensive outpatient is a useful way to commit to recovery without being forced to leave home or work while undergoing treatment. But, it is constructed for individuals who are highly motivated and want to stay clean and sober with the support of a professional therapist. The programs can help clients identify underlying reasons for substance abuse, focus on realistic goals, work through addiction, and not neglect other responsibilities.

Intensive Outpatient Program questions

Although IOPs may not be the best solution for every individual, it is great for those who qualify. You can start rebuilding your personal life while still living at home. Intensive outpatient treatment can give you the needed foundations to establish a long-term recovery support as you go through the program, instead of waiting to return back to your community after living away in a rehab facility.

Get Personalized Addiction Treatment Text Support

Receive 24/7 text support right away and at your convenience. There is no obligation to enter treatment and you can opt out at any time.

Want to get help, but not ready to talk? Instead, sign up for text support to receive:
  • Resources about addiction and recovery
  • Information about our treatment process
Reference Sources: NIH: Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide: How long does drug addiction treatment usually last?
NCBI: Substance Abuse: Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment
About the author
Debbie has been in the field of addiction for 20 years and represents Stepping Sober, an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) with recovery residence located in South Florida. In addition to being a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Debbie is certified in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and Trauma Therapy.
I am ready to call
i Who Answers?