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For those struggling with substance use disorder or addiction, a treatment program that works for one doesn't necessarily work for all. While some patients need the round-the-clock support of an inpatient facility, others might thrive in an outpatient program where they can take care of personal and professional responsibilities while developing the insight and skills to support their sobriety.

But what if inpatient treatment isn't feasible, and outpatient treatment doesn't provide enough structure? Choosing the right treatment program is a key step on the path to recovery, and patients who don't need medically-supervised detox may find that Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program, or IOP, provides the perfect balance of flexibility and support. 

What is an IOP?

Intensive Outpatient treatment allows patients to attend sessions and receive treatment while continuing to live and work in their own homes and communities. Specifically designed for individuals in the early stages of recovery from substance use issues, the IOP at Southern New Hampshire Health is a four-week program that empowers patients to establish a foundation for life-long sobriety in a safe and supportive group environment where they can begin to use their newly developed recovery skills.

How Can an IOP Help?

At Southern New Hampshire Health, participants receive intensive support, education, and treatment during the early stages of recovery. They learn coping and emotional regulation techniques as well as stress management skills, all based in a deeper understanding of the science behind addiction. 

“We help individuals identify triggers or risk factors associated with their alcohol or drug use,” explains Lisa Madden, Associate Vice President of Behavioral Health Administration at Southern New Hampshire Health. “We then put together a relapse prevention plan and identify ‘sober supports’ that participants can tap into to help maintain recovery.”

Who Might Benefit from an IOP? 

The IOP at Southern New Hampshire Health is available to anyone 18 years of age and older who is attempting to recover from addiction to substances including alcohol, opioids, and prescription drugs. All participants must have recently completed an inpatient program or residential substance disorder program.

“Our program is open to anyone who has identified they have a problem and are looking for a path to recovery,” says Madden. “It’s a wonderful tool for those who need support and might benefit from a more structured program.” Because the the focus of the program is abstinence, she cautions, it is not ideal for those who are interested in learning to drink or use in moderation.

How Does the Program Work?

An IOP can be the first line of treatment, a step up from a less structured outpatient program when needed, or a step down from a residential program after a certain amount of progress is made. Regardless of a participant's point of entry, the IOP at Southern New Hampshire Health tries to accommodate all appointment requests within 24 to 48 hours of initial contact. During the initial appointment, participants work with a clinician to complete an assessment and discuss any problems or concerns that led to the participant reaching out to the IOP.

Once enrolled in the program, participants meet as a group four times per week for four weeks, totaling 16 sessions. The first part of each session is a daily check-in. Meetings are only open to those struggling with addiction, creating a safe space for participants to discuss how their day is going and talk about whether or not they experienced any triggers, cravings, or urges to use. If necessary, they can also discuss any relapses that may have occurred that week. 

“During this time, we talk about how participants were or were not able to use our relapse prevention and coping techniques to avoid a relapse,” shares Madden. “Throughout the course, we teach them skills and techniques to avoid a relapse, and we check in to see if they’re able to practice self-care.”

The second part of each session is focused on education, incorporating handouts, videos, and recovery activities based on topics such as relapse prevention, the disease model of addiction, and aftercare planning. While family members are not included in group meetings, they are critical to participants' success and may be invited to individual sessions with a clinician.

Ongoing Support

After completing the 16 sessions, participants will have achieved a solid 30 days of sobriety—establishing a solid foundation for their continued recovery. They're also given the option to attend an aftercare program that meets once a week for as long as they'd like. 

"The program as a whole has proven to be very successful," Madden concludes. "We've seen a number of people achieve sobriety and maintain their recovery for several years. It's really a great program for those who are looking to treat their substance use issues in a structured, educational way."

For more information on the IOP program and care for substance use disorder, please visit

Check Out Southern New Hampshire Health’s Podcasts!

Lisa Madden, Associate Vice President of Behavioral Health Administration,
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for Addiction Podcast

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