By Barry Eichenbaum
Many individuals are familiar with the concept of once weekly therapy sessions. Fewer people are aware that psychotherapy can be delivered in higher “doses” in an expedited amount of time. Known as intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), only a limited number of treatment centers provide these services. Of these, an even fewer number of centers provide Cognitive or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (CBT/DBT) in an IOP format.
There are several reasons why you might consider an intensive outpatient program.
Potential for faster results: CBT and DBT are predicated on the idea that active participation in the treatment process is crucial for treatment success. To that end, regular practice of “homework” to reinforce concepts learned in session is vital. The longer and more frequent sessions in an IOP, plus between-session daily homework practice, can be helpful and yield rapid improvement functioning.
Fewer distractions: While we may be motivated to do our best to get treatment, life inevitably creates distractions that can make it difficult to engage in therapy. This can especially be true for individuals with more severe symptoms. In an IOP, individuals can block off a certain amount of time (e.g., 1-2 weeks) to intensively work on their issues with limited distractions.
Less invasive than a hospital: The nature of IOPs is that they do not require overnight stays in a psychiatric hospital facility. As such, patients stay at home and sometimes even go to work or attend classes part of each day.
Real-life setting: IOPs allow people to engage in intensive treatment while having access to their natural living environments. IOP therapists can sometimes join you (physically or virtually) in your home environment, to help identify triggers and strategies to use in real life.
Whether you decide to embark on standard weekly psychotherapy or an intensive outpatient program, the keys to maximizing your treatment games are the same: Make efforts to do your homework, try to limit outside distractions as much as possible, and be sure that the therapy considers the realities of your natural environment.