Substance abuse disorders have been on the rise in America for quite some time. In 2016, the NSDUH found that nearly 8% of US citizens over age 12 struggled with alcohol and/or drug dependencies. That equates to over 20 million people.

Of those 20 million who needed treatment, only 5.6% received it. One of the barriers people face when deciding whether to seek help is whether they’re affected enough to enter a residential program.

Even if you’re still able to maintain some level of “normal”, substance abuse shouldn’t ever be ignored. Intensive outpatient treatment programs (IOPs) can help the majority of people who need help, but not full-time.

Starting any type of rehabilitation can be a daunting experience, but you don’t need to be afraid. Read on to find out what to expect when enrolling in an intensive outpatient program.

1. Everything Starts with an Intake

Before any actual treatment begins, you’ll need to touch base with your care team at an intake appointment.

During this initial screening, you’ll go over your current physical, mental, and emotional health with a medical professional or mental health clinician. They’ll ask questions about the type and frequency of your substance abuse and how it affects you in your everyday life. You’ll likely have a drug test and physical exam as well.

Facing the reality of your problems in the form of a questionnaire can be an uncomfortable experience. But your care team isn’t trying to invade your privacy—they’re working hard to design a treatment program that meets your individual needs. You’ll be met with compassion and encouragement, not judgment, as you take the first step on your journey.

2. You’ll Meet Multiple Times Each Week

In residential treatment, participants live in a dedicated rehab center for a few weeks or months as they work through the program. But not everyone needs that level of supervision—many just need accountability and a helping hand.

In an IOP you’ll have sessions an average of three times per week for an average of 2-4 months. Each of these sessions will last for around three hours on-site, and you’ll be given exercises to work through while you’re at home. This gives you the flexibility to keep working and spending time with your family during recovery.

3. There Are Options for Group and Individual Sessions

Getting support from your people who are going through the same challenges you are can make a huge difference in your recovery. That’s why many IOPs follow a group therapy format.

At Transformations By The Gulf, we maintain a 3:1 client to therapist ratio in group sessions so every participant still gets the individual attention they need. To make it easier to talk about personal subjects, we hold gender-specific sessions with some opportunities for mixed-gender interaction.

But for those who would benefit most from one-on-one treatment, individual counseling sessions are also available. There may also be options for family therapy so your loved ones can join in your journey of healing.

4. You’ll Get Help from Experienced Licensed Professionals

Friends and family members are a valuable part of your support system. But when dealing with a medical condition like a substance abuse disorder, it’s best to have an experienced professional on your side.

In an intensive outpatient treatment program, you’ll work side by side with clinicians who are trained in a mix of traditional and holistic counseling methods. They’ll use powerful techniques like motivational enhancement and cognitive-behavioral therapy to help you identify and fix distorted thinking. They’ll also use expressive methods to help you work through difficult emotions and learn more about yourself.

5. You’ll Learn New Coping Strategies

No matter how strong our resolve is, all of us find it hard to resist temptation in the moment. So what will you do when you’re faced with emotions and situations where you used to turn to drugs or alcohol for comfort?

A huge part of outpatient treatment is arming yourself with an arsenal of healthy coping mechanisms to replace the bad ones. They can be simple, like doing a breathing exercise or going for a run. Or they may be more contemplative, like writing out your thoughts in a recovery journal.

But whatever coping strategies end up working for you, they’ll all have the same result. When you find yourself faced with the opportunity to binge drink on New Year’s Eve or turn to drugs when you’re feeling down, you’ll be able to say no and do something productive instead.

6. You’ll Plan for the Future

The benefits of outpatient treatment don’t end when the program does. Before you graduate, you’ll work with your counselors to come up with a plan for the future.

How will you avoid triggering environments, and how will you stay clean when they’re unavoidable? Who can you call when you need a bit of extra support? How will you occupy your time when you’re alone?

Figuring out the answers to questions like these and writing a plan of action can help your sobriety last for the rest of your life.

7. It Will Be Hard, but Worth It

Overcoming an addiction is one of the largest challenges you can take on in your life. And in an intensive outpatient program, you’ll still have the freedom to engage in bad habits while at home. The power to change is in your hands, and while it may seem impossible at times, a life free of substance dependency is more than worth it.

If you’re ever losing motivation or feeling unsure about your ability to stay strong, reading the success stories of people who were once in your shoes can help.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment Can Be Life-Changing

It’s natural to be nervous before any big life change, especially one as major as entering an intensive outpatient treatment program. But if you take these things to heart and open your mind to the possibilities, your life can transform for the better.

Are you looking for an IOP program to help overcome a drug or alcohol addiction? Transformations By The Gulf can help you take the first step.

We take a holistic approach to recovery, aiming to treat the whole person, not just the addiction. If you’d like to learn more about our program, refer someone, or enroll yourself, please contact us today.