Intensive outpatient therapy (IOT) is a structured psychological treatment program that takes place on an outpatient basis. A person may receive IOT as part of treatment for eating disorders, addiction, or other dependencies that do not require round-the-clock supervision.

When receiving IOT, a person will regularly attend scheduled treatment sessions but will go home in between treatments. This is different from receiving inpatient therapy, where a person stays at a treatment center or hospital and remains under constant supervision.

This article describes what IOT is, including its uses, and how to find an IOT program. Read on to also learn about the differences between IOT and partial hospitalization programs.

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IOT is a structured psychological treatment program that takes place on an outpatient basis. This means that between treatments, people are able to leave the treatment facility and go home.

People who typically benefit from IOT include those with certain mental health conditions and those with substance misuse issues.

Medical professionals consider IOT “intensive” due to the number of treatment hours involved. The therapy consists of at least 6 hours of treatment per week for adolescents and 9 hours of treatment per week for adults.

IOT often consists of several treatment components, including:

  • individual counseling
  • group therapies
  • psychiatric care
  • medication management
  • education about a person’s condition and its management
  • complementary therapies, such as yoga or art therapy

IOT may be beneficial for people who:

  • do not require detoxification
  • do not pose any danger to themselves or others
  • have a supportive home life
  • want or need to continue attending work, school, or other obligations during their treatment

IOT programs can be an important step in treating mental health disorders or substance misuse. According to a meta-analysis from 2014, IOT programs are often as effective as inpatient treatment programs for most people with alcohol or drug use disorders.

Some reasons a doctor or mental health professional may recommend IOT include:

  • trying to prevent the need for a higher level of care or 24-hour supervision
  • decreasing the risk of further deterioration in mental health or subsequent substance misuse
  • helping the person transition out of inpatient therapy
  • helping the person learn to recognize and manage early stage relapse
  • helping the person develop coping strategies
  • addressing ongoing issues related to emotional, social, and psychological well-being

IOT may not be the right option for a person who is at immediate risk of harming themselves or others. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), people who may benefit from this type of program include those who are:

  • able to verbally express their thoughts and feelings
  • motivated to participate in the program
  • motivated to work toward recovery
  • comfortable in group therapy settings
  • able to learn and apply skills learned in therapy
  • not in need of detox
  • not in need of 24-hour supervision for their condition

A partial hospitalization program (PHP) is another type of structured outpatient program that is very similar to IOT. However, whereas IOT consists of between 6 and 9 hours of treatment per week, a PHP consists of at least 20 hours of treatment per week.

A person undergoing PHP treatment is under supervision for most of their time in treatment, typically spending their days in care and their nights at home.

Medical professionals initially designed PHP to treat people with mental health conditions. However, treatment centers for substance use have since incorporated PHP into their rehabilitation programs.

People typically enter into PHP following inpatient treatment or detoxification. Following PHP, a person may progress to IOT. This may happen if a person’s symptoms are manageable, but they continue to require some form of structure and support.

IOT is a structured program of psychological therapy that takes place on an outpatient basis. Such programs may be beneficial for people who require intensive psychological treatment but do not require round-the-clock supervision. This may include people with certain mental health disorders or substance misuse issues.

Typically, IOT consists of individual or group therapy, medication management, and education about the person’s condition and its management. A person undergoing IOT will receive between 6 and 9 hours of treatment per week, depending on their age.

IOT helps people understand and manage their condition while continuing to attend work, school, and other important obligations. People can use the SAMHSA treatment locator to find a local IOT program.