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How Does IOP Benefit Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders?

If you are looking into treatment options for mental health and substance use concerns, you might be feeling overwhelmed. You are likely experiencing the sheer number of options for the first time. In addition to different therapeutic modalities, there are different settings in which treatment can take place. Two of the main treatment program formats are residential programs and intensive outpatient programs (IOP). It might be difficult to determine the right match for you if you don’t know how they differ. These programs offer different benefits and treatment plans.

How IOP Differs From Residential Treatment

The primary difference between IOP and residential treatment is the intensity. If you are in a residential program, you are staying at a treatment facility 24 hours a day. Residential lasts a few weeks or months depending on your needs and the services being offered at a particular program. These programs have schedules that patients must follow, with individual and group therapy making up the bulk of the time. Some programs may also incorporate medication management and a variety of wellness services such as fitness and nutrition programming.

An IOP allows you to pursue intensive treatment while still going home each night. You can expect several hours of programming a day for multiple days a week. These programs are often flexible in the amount of time spent in the program. The duration can vary depending on your needs. You can expect to also participate in a variety of groups and wellness activities in addition to receiving individual therapy. IOP treatment allows for a higher level of care than attending traditional therapy. You are attending more than one hour of therapy weekly or biweekly.

Addressing Both Mental Health and Substance Use Concerns

Everyone comes to treatment with different needs. If you are currently living with a mental health concern like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder while also struggling with substance abuse, you are not alone. This is known as having co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis. The experience is quite common. You should not have to pick which one to focus on during treatment. In fact, treating both conditions at once is the best option for your recovery.

It is incredibly difficult to separate a mental health condition from a substance use disorder (SUD) in their origins and symptoms. Many of the risk factors tied to mental illness are also linked to substance abuse. For example, experiencing a traumatic event or chronic stress can put you at risk for both mental illness and addiction. 

Furthermore, having a mental illness can increase your chances of developing addiction and vice versa. Many people use substances to self-medicate and distract from problems in life, and this can lead to both emotional and physical dependence. Conversely, substance abuse changes the brain in many ways that can set the stage for mental health conditions like depression and mental illness. 

No matter which started first, addiction and mental illness are intertwined. One can exacerbate the other and make recovery more difficult. For example, if you are able to achieve sobriety but your depression is left unchecked, those challenging thoughts and emotions can trigger the urge to use substances once again. Similarly, if you are trying to recover from depression and anxiety while your substance abuse is still rampant, it will be especially difficult to practice effective coping strategies and make the changes that will benefit you. To combat this issue, it’s best to seek treatment for both conditions at once.

The Unique Way IOP Can Help Co-Occurring Disorders

IOP can help you make progress in your treatment goals for both your mental health and substance abuse. According to a study published in Psychiatric Services, both residential and IOP treatment formats are shown to have similar rates of success. IOP, however, has the benefit of allowing you to stay engaged in your community while going through treatment. As such, you do not have to put work or school on hold to pursue recovery. 

Taking time away from those obligations deters many people from treatment. It can be difficult to step entirely away from life as you know it. Treatment can already feel like a daunting endeavor without that added stress. IOP allows you to maintain your routine while also making progress toward your recovery goals.

Outpatient treatment also keeps you engaged with your support network at home. Social support is crucial to mental health in general and can be a steadying force in treatment. While residential treatment enables you to build a new support network within the program and may incorporate your family into the program, you may benefit from being able to go home each day to what is familiar and safe. You can share your progress, challenges, and goals with your family and friends each day. 

Learning to Manage Triggers

IOP also bridges treatment and the “real world.” During treatment, you will learn a variety of coping strategies to manage negative thoughts and emotions as well as urges related to addiction. Treatment is a controlled environment where you are kept safe and cannot access substances. While this provides the time and space to recover, it can present a challenge when you reemerge into a world rife with triggers. The transition can be jarring for many people.

IOP does not have as profound of a gap between treatment and the rest of your life. This allows you to be exposed to triggers and overcome them. If you experience an intense panic attack or urge to use outside of treatment, you can debrief during treatment the next day and receive feedback. You will be supported throughout the process and be able to take advantage of many learning opportunities to support your sustained recovery.

Choosing the right treatment center for yourself or your loved one is an important decision. If you are seeking treatment for a dual diagnosis of a mental health condition and substance use disorder, an intensive outpatient program can be a good fit. Sage Recovery is proud to offer IOP treatment for both adolescents and adults. Our program is designed to accommodate your specific needs. We schedule weekly therapy groups in addition to many holistic wellness activities. If this program is not a good fit, we will work with you to find the right match, either at our facility or elsewhere. Call Sage Recovery at (512) 306-1394 to get started today.