Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) Tracks: Two Paths to the Same Destination
True North’s adult IOP program offers a daytime and an evening track. Both are three hours per day, MWF. The daytime track runs from 10 a.m.–1 p.m. and the evening track from 6–9 p.m. While they share the same goals and overall approach, there are notable differences.
Many IOP patients have been through treatment before—some just once, others many times. After several years of running our daytime IOP, we realized many patients were being exposed to the same lectures and videos as before, yet they still struggled. You’ve heard that saying about doing the same thing but expecting different results? It was kind of like that. Our patients were doing the work and putting in the time, which meant we only had ourselves to blame.
We went back to the drawing board.
Now, the daytime track is what we call process-driven. That means we adopt the program in real time to individual patients, the group dynamic, and the therapeutic moment. Small groups (4–7) with 1–2 clinicians per group make this kind of spontaneity possible. There’s still structure and psycho-education like you would expect, but it’s less prescriptive and doesn’t follow a set schedule. If the session veers off toward something that merits exploration, we explore it. If that means we don’t cover everything we planned, that’s okay.
If you’ve been in treatment before, then you’ve acquired considerable education and expertise about your recovery. Daytime IOP is like an internship that challenges you to use that expertise to help you get and stay sober over the long haul. We’ve learned when to get out of your way.
This approach is only possible because of the level of expertise on the staff, which averages an astonishing 15 years of experience in the field.
The evening IOP track follows a more well-defined therapeutic path.
Studies clearly show that IOP and residential programs deliver very similar results. One theory is that IOP patients remain more connected to their lives as they recover. They still go to work, spend time with family and friends, recreate, and are able to put what they’re learning in treatment to immediate use. They have constant access to the primary support systems that are crucial to their success. Many patients find this approach to be more effective than applying similar techniques in the inpatient “bubble.”
We’ve developed our own IOP curriculum of up to 36 modules, focused on recovery, addiction, mood management, relapse prevention, biological effects, and appropriate support systems. Each week of treatment has three assignments that help you apply what you’ve learned in session to real-life situations. No two assignments are the same, so by the time you complete treatment, you’ve received a comprehensive and foundational education in recovery.
Which track to choose?
Your schedule may dictate your IOP track. If so, don’t sweat the differences between the two programs—the goal is the same.
If you have a choice, we’ll make a recommendation based on your personality, current situation, and treatment history. Some students (and insurers) are more comfortable with the evening track’s more measurable and clearly defined approach. As clinicians, we tend to prefer the spontaneity and creativity of the daytime track but both tracks differ significantly from other treatment programs you may have experienced and are equally focused on successful long-term recovery.