Substance abuse and mental health treatment are finally catching up with technology, improving access to care for those with treatment barriers such as transportation or inflexible schedules. An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is one of the most promising services being adapted for online resources. Online intensive outpatient programs are structured programs running for nine to ten hours each week. Participants are offered medication, behavioral therapies, and peer support through individual, group, and family therapies.
What Are Online Intensive Outpatient Programs?
The term “online” can be used to describe many different methods. For online intensive outpatient programs, it refers to the specific services provided in a computer or technology-based format. Examples include:
- Downloadable literature and worksheets
- Video conferences
- Smartphone applications
- Group calls
- And other virtual interventions
What may have been seen as a barrier at one time due to a lack of knowledge, access, or technology capabilities is now proving to have significant benefits to a larger number of people seeking help.
Benefits of Online Intensive Outpatient Programs
Each person will benefit from online intensive outpatient programs differently. Below is a list of expected benefits among participants:
Today, most homes have computers, and most people have smartphones. If they don’t have a personal computer or phone, they know someone who does and will help them utilize online services. This is especially beneficial for people who live in rural areas or lack transportation. Some people avoid attending treatment because they misunderstand what it means to participate in group therapy. They don’t want to share their stories in front of strangers or fear others will think of them.
Online IOP allows them to get comfortable with therapies from home, so they are more likely to be willing to attend in-person treatment later. Online IOP gives you access to psychiatrists if you need medication assistance for withdrawal management. You get access to licensed professional counselors to learn relapse prevention and sober living skills. You also receive necessary peer support.
It can be challenging to attend intensive outpatient programs during regular IOP hours. Many people have jobs and cannot take leave to attend therapy. Or they have family responsibilities that take precedence. With virtual treatment programs, scheduling becomes much more flexible. Online IOP services can take place in the evenings and on weekends.
Each participant in an intensive outpatient program has different reasons for misusing substances, mental health issues, traumas, and different levels of recovery skills. Online intensive outpatient allows your treatment team to personalize your treatment plan, which should address your needs and your family’s needs. If you need medication to ease withdrawal symptoms, you can meet online with a doctor.
Your family can meet with a marriage and family therapist online to learn how to set boundaries, have positive communication, stop enabling behaviors, and create a lifestyle for recovery. You may also be recommended for 12 Step facilitation groups and holistic therapies such as art or music therapy, yoga, meditation, nutrition, and fitness therapy.
Behavioral therapies offered in online IOP are critical to recovery success. Here, you learn how to change negative thinking that can lead to negative behaviors. The most beneficial relapse prevention skills include the following:
Self-care is much more than eating right and exercising. It consists of paying attention to your body and mind and then taking steps to heal areas in need of attention. Self-care activities may include improving sleep hygiene to improve restorative sleep, making appointments with specialists for those aches and pains that have been bothering you for years, making spiritual connections, and practicing mindfulness. Many self-care activities can be completed online, like online yoga classes, video conferences with doctors, and religious and spiritual groups.
Recognizing and Handling Triggers
Triggers are people, places, and things that, when encountered, cause you to crave substances or behaviors to which you were once addicted. In online IOP, you learn specific steps to overcome triggers and cravings. You know to implement relaxation and grounding techniques that get you through the brief yet stressful moments.
Hungry, angry, lonely, and tired (HALT) are physical and emotional triggers that can lead to relapse. When misusing substances, you don’t feel hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. The drugs or alcohol substituted for these and more, like boredom. Cravings may be a sign of an emotional or physical need.
Create a Support Plan
Having someone or a group who understands what you are going through can help you get through a trigger or craving. They’ve been there and can walk you through it successfully. Clear your mind of self-defeating thoughts or reasons to avoid calling someone for help. You are not burdening them. It makes them feel good to be able to help you. Trying to overcome addiction by yourself has not worked, ever. It is good to list sober supports and local support groups and use them. Contacting your support online is easy. There are many online AA, NA, and 12 Step facilitation groups. You can have a quick video call, text, or phone call.
Choosing an Online Intensive Outpatient Program
Before going online and signing up for an intensive outpatient program, here are some suggestions for choosing the best program. You want to find a program that answers “yes” to all the questions below.
- Does a licensed and accredited treatment facility provide the online IOP?
- Does the treatment facility have a good reputation?
- Who are the licensed clinical professionals providing services in the online IOP?
- How does the program ensure HIPAA compliance regarding confidentiality and anonymity?
- Will there be opportunities for in-person services? A blend of online and in-person is the best-case scenario.
To see online intensive outpatient programs are right for you, reach out to learn more. Find the right program to help you get back the healthy, happy, sober life you deserve.