Intensive Outpatient Program

Intensive Outpatient

IOP for Mental Health

There are many different ways that someone can get mental health help in Orange County, but one of the most popular is enrolling in an intensive outpatient program, also referred to as IOP.


While it can be intimidating to ask for help, it can be even more intimidating to not know what may be involved in the treatment you may eventually receive. Intensive outpatient treatment can sound scary, but when you take a look at what the programs are like and what they involve, it can take a lot of the intimidation out of potentially enrolling in one. We’re going to look closely at what an intensive outpatient program is, what’s involved, and ultimately, help you decide if an IOP is right for your needs.

What Is An Intensive Outpatient Program?

An intensive outpatient program, or IOP, is a structured treatment plan that takes place throughout the week on an outpatient basis. The patient only spends a few hours at the treatment center each day, three or more days per week, and is largely able to manage their life independently.

There will often be several components to an individual’s IOP, but below are the three most common treatments that are included in an outpatient program. There are also ongoing evaluations by a mental health professional and regular psychiatric evaluation by a board certified psychiatrist. 


Psychotherapy is an important component of effective treatment and is required for any lasting recovery effort. The counseling will be in both individual and group settings and will serve to help bring awareness to problematic thought patterns and help reinforce positive coping skills. Areas that may be explored include anxiety and trauma.

Group Therapy & Psychoeducation Groups

These group sessions are one of the core components of outpatient treatment and are often varied in the several types utilized within a program. There are process groups, experiential roups, and groups centered around family experiences. There are also educational classes that are designed to help the patients gain more insight into their triggers while helping them build emotional regulation tools and relapse-prevention skills. The intensive  group therapy and peer support will often be a significant part of the programming for those in intensive outpatient programs in Orange County.

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Group Therapy and Mental Health Treatment

Why Is IOP So Dependent On Group Therapies?

Much of the therapeutic programming that is part of an intensive outpatient program is based around group settings or group interaction, or other social settings. This is because there are many benefits to group therapy, including:

  • Group settings foster a sense of belonging and camaraderie
  • Members have the chance to both give and receive information
  • Seeing other peers in a similar situation helps to build hopefulness in the participants
  • Realizing that they aren’t alone and that many others share similar thoughts, feelings, histories, and experiences
  • Sharing experiences helps to strengthen the healing process
  • It helps participants build social skills
  • Being a place where participants can share and imitate healthy behaviors with others in the group
  • Being a place where participants can learn that others have distorted perceptions
  • Providing a chance to express feelings or thoughts in a safe environment
  • Creating a healthier, corrective family that can help alter behavior learned from biological families

What To Expect When Participating In IOP

While the specific care measures and programs will vary from one provider to another, in most cases the general process will be relatively similar. An IOP will generally require a commitment of a minimum of 9 hours of treatment programming per week, however this number can increase or decrease from one program to another, and even from one patient to another. Additionally, if you are seeking treatment for substance or alcohol abuse just about any intensive outpatient treatment program in Orange County will also include or encourage participation in a 12-step program or alternative support group program when not in program. There may also be a virtual support community to participate in. 


The treatment program hours are frequently spread across three to five days each week, for about three hours each time. Some patients may have a treatment plan that allows for fewer more intensive days, or more days that are shorter, in accordance with their needs. An IOP will be a higher level of care than regular outpatient treatment but will be less intensive than a partial hospitalization program.

Which One is Best for You?

What Is The Difference Between IOP & PHP?

A common question is how an IOP differs from a PHP or partial hospitalization program. The differences are largely based on the intensity, the time commitment, and the level of care that is needed by the individual. A PHP is still a form of outpatient treatment, even though patients will check themselves into the facility each morning for the program. In most cases, an IOP may require 6-9 hours each week, and a PHP will require at least 30 hours each week, or 5-6 hours, 5 days per week.


PHP is highly supervised since it is a higher level of care than other treatments. Patients in a PHP generally spend their days at the program, and their nights in a supportive housing residence where there is supervision and accountability. However, individuals in this level of care can also live at home. Both a PHP and IOP program can address patients with a dual diagnosis, where there is substance or alcohol abuse as well as a mental illness occurring simultaneously. IOP is often utilized to step down from PHP and is usually the recommended transition step. 

Why Choose IOP Over A Residential Program?

Residential programs are often seen as the most serious level of rehab since it physically separates the individuals with mental health issues and substance or alcohol abuse from the world that may trigger them. They require the patient to live on-site for the duration of the treatment so that they can avoid not only the substances and temptations that fostered their addictions or maladaptive behaviors, but also the people that do, and the people that may sabotage their recovery. 


The biggest issue with a residential program, however, is that many  people can’t take enough time away from work or school, or due to family commitments and responsibilities they can’t live outside the home to complete a residential program. In these cases, outpatient programs are going to be the best solution, partial hospitalization program, in particular, since they still provide intensive treatment without requiring residency. If appropriate based on their clinical needs, IOP is another great option as well. 


The best candidates for an intensive outpatient program have a safe and stable home environment, as well as a support network of friends and family. This safe and supportive environment is crucial to the success of the treatment program. If the home environment has drugs or alcohol or if there are unhealthy boundaries or relationship dynamics, it is far more likely an individual will relapse or will not be able to find much success in a treatment program. IOPs generally aren’t the best option for individuals with severe mental health issues, or who require supervision.


Insurance Coverage for Treatment at Casa Recovery

Did you know that insurance companies cover mental health and substance abuse treatment? Depending on your coverage, your insurance may cover all or most of your program at Casa Recovery. Insurance companies also cover outpatient services to clients who live nearby and need a more flexible option.

IOP in Southern California

For The Leading Intensive Outpatient Program In Orange County

If you or someone you know is battling mental health struggles or substance use issues and needs an intensive outpatient program in Orange County, CA, it may be the right time to find professional help. For intensive outpatient program rehab in Orange County, as well as mental health services, reach out to Casa Recovery. Getting professional help is a big step, but it’s the best step to take when you need a strong, lasting plan for healing and  recovery.


Our Care Team is Ready to Answer Any Questions.

Casa Recovery offers a wide range of treatment options for those struggling with mental health and co-occuring issues. We are here for you and ready to assist in any way we can. Contact us right now to get the help you deserve from a group of people who care.