Spotlight On: Columbus Park’s Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

Learn more about Columbus Park’s results-oriented Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and determine if its the best fit for you.

To ensure individuals with varied schedules and commitments are able to access quality eating disorder treatment, Columbus Park offers a number of comprehensive, individualized, and flexible treatment programs. In addition to ensuring access to treatment for all, Columbus Park offers programming that ranges in intensity to meet unique treatment goals. For those deemed medically stable enough to seek a level of support that is less intensive than a residential treatment/partial hospitalization program but more intensive than outpatient treatment, Columbus Park suggests our results-oriented Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). IOP allows individuals and families to remain in the home environment and engaged with their communities throughout treatment, making this program a highly sought after treatment solution.

What is IOP?

Columbus Park’s Intensive Outpatient Program is an opportunity for individuals to jump-start their treatment. Our unique IOP program is defined by a few core features:

  • 6 to 15 hours of treatment per week
  • Treatment is spread out between 3-5 days per week
  • Treatment incorporates group therapy, supported meals, individual therapy and family work (where it is indicated)

The structure of an IOP offers more points of contact with a treatment team and peers as compared—it is considered a “step-up” from outpatient treatment programs. Alternatively, an IOP can serve as a “step-down” from a more intensive treatment setting like a residential center or partial hospitalization program. IOP enables participants to continue with important activities like school, extracurricular or work while receiving a comprehensive and well-rounded intervention.

Regardless of whether your transition to IOP is considered a step-up in treatment or a step-down, our expectations remain the same. In IOP we can expect to see a 50% reduction in symptoms within 8 weeks. IOP is an opportunity for prompt change for those who are highly motivated to see a difference!

What are the objectives of an IOP?

The objectives of IOP vary based on which disorder a person is suffering from. For anorexia, the goal is to see movement toward more varied and balanced eating, along with a clear trajectory toward weight restoration. Programming will involve a good deal of supported eating since the actual process of eating is tremendously anxiety provoking. Many participants report that the group support component of the program was a key component to their success in treatment.

For bulimia, an ideal program will focus on food exposure, skill building (for managing/coping with urges to binge or purge) and an abundance of opportunities to eat with support.

For binge eating disorder, an IOP program would surround essential skill building. An individual would develop a greater capacity to be mindful, self-aware, regulate emotions and tolerate distress. In an IOP setting, support is offered consistently to help an individual become more aware of emotional experience and the connection between emotion and eating.

How do I know if IOP is a good fit for me?

To evaluate an individual’s appropriateness for an IOP program Columbus Park utilizes standards established by the American Psychiatric Association. The standards are as follows:

  • Medically stable and cleared by an MD (frequent follow-up is required at this point in treatment)
  • An individual requires external structure to eat or gain weight
  • Motivation to recover
  • Co-morbidities (i.e. depression, anxiety) have high impact on functioning
  • Suicidality, if present, is active and more structured/points of contact needed
  • Some ability to modulate exercise
  • Limited social support
  • Weight: significantly compromised range


If you feel that yourself or a loved one meets criteria for admission into an IOP program and would benefit from its structure, feel free to reach out to our center at any time!