Types of Outpatient Treatment Programs

What is intensive outpatient treatment? Read on to learn the benefits and how you can get the support you need with Black Horse Health.

How Black Horse Health and Our Intensive Outpatient Treatment Can Support You

At Black Horse Health, we understand the overwhelming effects that substance use or mental health disorders can have on your life. Without support, individuals and their families may feel overwhelmed, lost, and oftentimes isolated.

Our team of skilled and compassionate specialists have over 100 years of combined experience, and we are committed to helping you or your loved one begin the path toward sustainable recovery with personalized treatment plans that work with your unique needs, goals, and experiences.

One such treatment opportunity is intensive outpatient treatment.

Treatment That Works For You

With evidence-based treatment services like cognitive-behavioral therapy, group therapy, life skills training, and dual diagnosis treatment, we will create a treatment plan that best meets your unique set of symptoms.

Learn more about our intensive outpatient programs, other treatment opportunities, and how our Black Horse Health team of specialists can help you heal in this comprehensive article. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team for more information or to begin your path to wellness today.

intensive outpatient treatment

What Is Intensive Outpatient Treatment?

Intensive outpatient treatment, or an intensive outpatient program (IOP), is a structured therapy program. This treatment allows individuals to get support and help for addiction or mental health symptoms while still living at home and taking part in daily life.1
With an IOP, individuals attend sessions several times a week. These sessions let individuals dive deep into therapy but still have time for work and family commitments. The structure and schedule of intensive outpatient treatment can vary.
However, there are some common elements to most intensive outpatient treatment programs, such as:

Frequency of Sessions

Most of these programs have individuals attend treatment sessions anywhere from three to five days a week. The frequency of sessions depends on the program and the severity of the symptoms.

Duration of Sessions

Intensive outpatient sessions generally range from two to five hours per day. The duration of these sessions depends on the individual’s progress in treatment.

Types of Sessions

Intensive outpatient treatment also provides a combination of different types of therapy sessions. These sessions may include:
  • One-on-one counseling sessions with a therapist to address personal issues and challenges
  • Group sessions that facilitate sharing experiences and coping strategies among individuals
  • Family sessions to address relationship issues and improve communication
  • Educational workshops to provide information on mental health, coping skills, and medication
  • Skill-building classes that can include mindfulness classes or vocational training

Extra Features

Some programs include a medication management component. This is where a psychiatrist tracks medication effectiveness and makes adjustments as needed. Also, regular drug tests or medical checks may be part of the program, depending on the condition being treated.


Intensive outpatient programs also may offer both daytime and evening hours to accommodate work and family commitments. Many may even offer weekend availability.
Before entering an IOP, it’s essential to undergo a thorough evaluation. This assessment helps to determine whether the IOP level of care is appropriate for your needs.

Types of Conditions Treated in Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Intensive outpatient programs help address various mental health and substance use conditions. While these programs can treat many different issues, some conditions are more suitable for an IOP.
These can include:

Substance Use Disorder and Addiction

An IOP is often utilized for treating drug and alcohol addictions. These programs provide medical and psychological support through therapy and peer support.2 These programs also help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings.


Intensive outpatient treatment can also help treat severe or chronic forms of depression. These programs offer more intensive therapy sessions and may even include medication management.

Anxiety Disorders

An IOP often addresses conditions like generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other therapeutic approaches can help individuals manage symptoms and learn coping skills for outside of treatment.

Eating Disorders

Intensive outpatient treatment is often used to treat conditions like anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder.
These programs may include:
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Medical monitoring
  • Individual and group therapy

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

An IOP also provides focused treatment for trauma-related issues. These programs often use trauma-informed care practices like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).3

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Individuals with OCD may benefit from the frequent and specialized therapies offered in an IOP. These programs often include exposure and response prevention (ERP) techniques.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Many people have both mental health and substance use disorders, known as dual diagnosis. Intensive outpatient treatment is often equipped to treat these complex cases with integrated care.

It’s crucial to consult with healthcare providers for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

Intensive Outpatient vs. Residential Programs

Intensive outpatient treatment and residential programs offer different levels of support and structure. These programs differ in the following ways:

Level of Supervision

Residential programs offer 24/7 supervision and support. They often take place in a hospital or facility, which provides a controlled environment.
This is especially beneficial for those at high risk of:4
  • Severe withdrawal symptoms
  • Self-harm
  • Other medical complications
  • Severe psychosis
On the other hand, an IOP provides intensive therapy but does not offer around-the-clock supervision. This option makes it less suitable for those who need constant medical attention, but is helpful for those who have responsibilities that cannot be put on hold.

Flexibility and Daily Life

Residential programs prefer a complete break from daily responsibilities. The environment is structured, with scheduled therapy sessions, meals, and activities.
An IOP allows for more flexibility. Individuals can continue with work or family responsibilities. However, the program still requires a significant time commitment.

Social Support

In residential programs, participants interact with other residents and medical staff. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. While this provides a supportive, focused environment, it isolates individuals from their existing support systems.

Intensive outpatient treatment allows individuals to maintain their current support system. However, they must also navigate real-world risks and stressors without constant supervision.

Types of Therapy Offered

Residential programs often offer a broader range of therapeutic services than an IOP. This can include anything from individual and group therapy to alternative therapies like art or music therapy.
While comprehensive, IOP therapies are generally more focused and specialized. These programs may not include as wide a range of treatments. This is due to the time constraints of these daily sessions.

Length of Program

Residential programs often have a set duration. This can range from 28 days to several months.
Intensive outpatient treatment can be more flexible in duration. The individual’s progress and needs often determine the length of treatment. Some people step down from inpatient to outpatient care as they improve, which may make the length of their IOP shorter.


Residential programs are often more expensive due to the amenities provided, including meals, accommodation, and constant care from medical staff.
On the other hand, an IOP is often less expensive because they don’t include the cost of accommodation and around-the-clock care.

Types of Outpatient Programs

There are different types of intensive outpatient treatment programs to fit various needs. Traditional outpatient treatment involves one or two weekly therapy sessions. This type of care is often for people with mild symptoms or in a later stage of recovery.
A partial hospitalization program (PHP) is even more intensive. To understand more about the various types of outpatient programs, here are some important differences:

Traditional Outpatient Programs

Traditional outpatient programs provide low to moderate in intensity, and sessions are usually once or twice a week. The type of therapy included in traditional outpatient care is often only individual counseling, with some group or medication management.
This treatment is best for:
  • Individuals with milder symptoms
  • Those in a later stage of recovery
  • Those who have completed a more intensive level of care and are looking for ongoing support

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP)

The intensity of a PHP is the highest among outpatient programs. These programs are often 5-7 days a week and occur for most of the day. Individuals generally remain at the program all day and only go home at night. A PHP includes more comprehensive therapy.
This can include not only individual and group therapy, but:
  • Medication management
  • Alternative treatments like art therapy or yoga
  • Education and skill-building groups
A PHP may be best for individuals who need a somewhat higher level of care but are stable enough to sleep at home. These programs are often used for conditions that require frequent medical monitoring but not 24/7 supervision.5

What Approaches Are Used in Intensive Outpatient Programs?

Intensive outpatient treatment uses a combination of different therapy techniques to provide the best chance of recovery for individuals. Some of the most common methods used in an IOP will be detailed below.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This method helps you understand how your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are connected. CBT helps teach individuals to change negative thoughts and behaviors to healthier, more adaptive ones.
For substance use disorders, this type of therapy can help identify risks and coping strategies. For mental health, it’s effective in treating conditions like anxiety and depression.6

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT helps treat emotional regulation issues and borderline personality disorder. This therapy teaches skills like:
  • Mindfulness
  • Distress tolerance
  • Emotional regulation
  • Developing interpersonal relationships
It’s beneficial for individuals who have intense emotional swings and have difficulty managing their feelings. It can also help regulate self-harm behavior.7

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

This is a client-centered approach. It focuses on increasing the internal motivation of individuals.8
Motivational interviewing is often used for substance use disorder treatment to encourage behavior change. Therapists help individuals identify their reasons for change and plan small, achievable steps toward recovery.

Holistic Therapies

Some intensive outpatient treatment programs also incorporate holistic therapies like:
These methods aim to treat the whole person, not just the symptoms.

Relapse Prevention

In addiction treatment, relapse prevention strategies are key. During an IOP, individuals are encouraged to develop skills to prevent relapse and help with long-term recovery and care.
Relapse prevention skills may include:
  1.  Recognizing risk factors for relapse
  2.  Planning and creating coping strategies
  3.  Knowing what to do if a relapse does occur

Intensive outpatient treatment uses a mix of evidence-based and holistic therapies tailored to each individual’s needs. The goal is to provide comprehensive care that addresses addiction and mental health complexities.

The Role of Strong Support Systems in Treatment

A strong support system is very important for those in intensive outpatient treatment. Strong support can help individuals stay on track and boost their emotional well-being.
A strong support network could include loved ones:
  • Giving rides to therapy sessions
  • Helping individuals practice new coping skills
  • Providing caring and empathy
  • Helping to manage medications
  • Listening to concerns

Not only does a support system provide emotional support, it can also help people stick to their treatment plans. The love and support from friends and family can become a powerful tool that makes treatment in an IOP program even more effective.9

Can Intensive Outpatient Treatment Help with Co-Occurring Disorders?

Outpatient programs can often help with co-occurring disorders. Programs like intensive outpatient treatment are designed to help provide support for multiple issues.
This all-around approach makes it possible to treat both mental health and substance use disorders together. This gives individuals the best chance at long-term recovery.

How Does Holistic Treatment Help With Dual Diagnosis?

Blended treatment ensures that both disorders and sets of symptoms are treated simultaneously This is important, as untreated mental health issues can often contribute to substance use disorder, and vice versa.
Medication management is also included to help stabilize mental health symptoms while tackling addiction issues. Also, regular and frequent sessions allow for close tracking of progress and medication effectiveness.

Why Is Dual Diagnosis Care Important?

If individuals struggle with more than one disorder or condition, finding care for both is imperative for overall healing. If you or a loved one experience dual diagnosis, make sure you look for a treatment center that treats both conditions.
Our team at Black Horse Health can help treat co-occurring disorders simultaneously, rather than just treating the overarching symptoms. This will help ensure long-term recovery and sustainable wellness.
intensive outpatient treatment

Find Help and Healing with Black Horse Health

Black Horse Health’s intensive outpatient treatment provides a bridge between full-time treatment and going it alone. It gives you the intense therapy and tools you need to live a healthier, more fulfilling life.
Our Houston treatment program at Black Horse Health combines traditional therapy techniques with alternative approaches, such as mindfulness and music therapy. Our outpatient setup helps you practice your new skills in real-world settings with the support of our compassionate staff.

What Else Do We Offer?

We can provide multiple avenues of care depending on your needs and symptoms. Black Horse Health can also help with:
We will work with you to create an individualized treatment plan.

Reach Out to Us Today

If you’re looking for a flexible and effective treatment, our intensive outpatient treatment could be an excellent fit. Contact us today to start your comprehensive and holistic journey toward healing and recovery.