Nav Menu

IOP and Outpatient Treatment Explained

When working with clients in the community, we, as clinicians, are frequently reassessing our clients’ mental status and overall state of well-being.

The most common levels of care for either psychiatric treatment or substance use rehabilitation treatment are:

Inpatient hospital setting

Partial Hospital Program (PHP)

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)


Inpatient Hospital Settings are discussed in depth in Inpatient Treatment Explained and Partial Hospital Programs are discussed in depth in PHP Treatment Explained, so now we will focus on Intensive Outpatient Programs and Outpatient treatment.

For an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) level of care, the purpose of services is to:

a) Monitor and maintain stability

b) Decrease moderate signs and symptoms

c) Increase functioning

d) Assist members with integrating into community life

IOP can be used to treat mental health conditions or can specialize in the treatment of co-occurring mental health and substance-related disorders. There are similarities between PHP and IOP. However, the clients in IOP require less face-to-face observation and exhibit an increase in stability and functioning. IOP allows the individual to be able to participate in their daily affairs, such as work, and then participate in treatment at an appropriate facility in the morning or at the end of the day.

Criteria for admission to this level of care includes:

a) The client is not in imminent or current risk of harm to self, others, and/or property.

b) Assessment and diagnosis and/or treatment planning requires observation and interaction a minimum of 9 hours per week for adults and 6 hours per week for children/adolescents. This includes frequent interaction with the client and observation of the client with others. The treatment plan must be frequently changed which requires that the provider have face-to-face interactions with the client several times a week.

c) The client requires engagement and support which requires extended interaction between the client and the program. For example, the client requires a coordinated transition back into the community after treatment in Inpatient or a Residential Treatment Center, and has been unable to access or utilize the member’s family or other natural resources on their own.

d) The client requires a structured environment to practice and enhance skills. This requires face-to-face interactions several times a week that cannot be provided in a less intensive setting. These skills include maintaining their current living situation and returning to work or school.

e) The client requires a structured environment to complete goals and develop a plan for post-discharge services in a less intensive setting. Assistance may be needed to develop the skills necessary to self-manage medications and to make progress toward goals in spite of an environment that does not support recovery and/or limited community support services.

Outpatient services are provided in an ambulatory setting and include:

a) Assessment

b) Diagnosis

c) Treatment

Criteria for this level of care requires that:

a) Client is not in imminent or current risk of harm to self, others, and/or property

b) Client’s current condition can be safely, efficiently, and effectively assessed and/or treated in this setting.

Megan Simmons, LCSW


To learn more about the different levels of care such as Inpatient Hospital Setting, Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and Outpatient, please visit Inpatient Treatment Explained and PHP Treatment Explained.

MeganMegan Simmons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work from Texas State University. While in college, she volunteered at Safe Place and was employed as a Hotline Advocate and House Manager. Megan worked at a medical hospital following graduation, where she discovered her passion for mental health treatment. Thereafter, Megan worked with MHMR in Comal County assisting residents in their homes with medication management, building life skills, and equipping them with knowledge and resources within their communities. Her next role was in an inpatient care setting where she specialized in working with adolescents and children conducting group therapy, individual therapy, and family therapy, as well as customizing programming for clients that needed a specialized treatment plan. Megan’s nine years of working in the mental health field has given her experience with a wide range of mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, trauma, personality disorders, psychosis, Bipolar Disorder, and substance abuse. Megan has also completed Dialectical Behavior Therapy training so she is better able to assist clients with emotion regulation, personality disorders and self-harm issues. Megan takes a holistic approach to therapy and strives to empower her clients by teaching them tools they can utilize long after completing treatment.