An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is a comprehensive and supportive treatment structure providing therapeutic services while participants live in their home environments and continue to engage in their typical activities. IOP is a less intensive and restrictive treatment option than residential or partial hospital programs; it often serves as a “step-down” from these levels of care. IOP can also function as a “step-up” from standard outpatient therapy if a person needs more support to meet their treatment goals.
What does IOP look like on a daily basis?
Most IOPs offer between 9 and 15 hours of treatment per week, spread out over 3 to 5 days. The number of days depends on the needs of the client. IOP may run in the daytime, in the evening, or some combination of both.
For many individuals, IOP is a “jump start” to eating disorder treatment. It’s an opportunity for a heavy “dose” of intervention to promote swift change and new patterns. For those stepping down from more intensive treatment programs, IOP is an ideal structure to help with reintegrating back into daily life and increasing independence and confidence.
IOP hours typically consist of group therapy, meal support, individual therapy, and family work (when indicated). Specific interventions and objectives vary based on the individual’s needs. Below, we consider three different approaches.
- A client with anorexia nervosa needs to move towards more varied and balanced eating with a focus on weight restoration. Treatment involves supported eating so we can be there with the client in their toughest moments, providing skills, feedback, and reassurance. Participants often credit the group support component as a key factor in their success.
- A patient with bulimia nervosa concentrates on exposure to completing balanced meals (and feeling more full), increasing variety (integrating “fear foods”), and learning new coping skills to manage urges to binge/purge.
- For patients who struggle with binge eating, treatment emphasizes skill building, particularly related to self-awareness, mindfulness, distress tolerance, and emotion regulation. Consistent support allows the individual to better understand the connection between emotions and eating.
Let’s take a closer look at IOP at Columbus Park.
Our clinicians use a basic chart, developed with the guidelines established by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), to determine the appropriate level of care for clients beginning treatment with us. These standards require an individual to:
- Be medically stable and approved by their primary physician
- Require external structure to eat or gain weight
- Be motivated to recover
- Have comorbidities like depression or anxiety that impact their functioning
- Need more structure and points of contact to handle thoughts of suicide
- Have some ability to modulate exercise
- Have limited social support
- Be in a significantly compromised range for weight
Through our Columbus Park IOP, we offer a range of flexible options, including both day and evening meetings, to ensure that all participants can access quality treatment. Evidence-based treatments, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), serve as the foundation for our IOP.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, please reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss treatment options, including IOP.