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What Is Intensive Outpatient Therapy?

While most people are familiar with rehab centers and mental health facilities for people with extreme or acute mental health conditions, many people are unaware of intensive outpatient programs that can be equally effective as inpatient programs and inpatient treatment for people with addiction challenges, in need of a psychiatrist, or in crisis. For a closer look at what intensive outpatient treatment is and how it could help you or someone you love, read on.

Intensive Programs


A higher level of care than traditional individual and weekly talk therapy sessions, intensive outpatient therapy through places like Charlie Health is a form of therapy that combines group therapy, individual therapy, group sessions, medication, and ongoing supports for people with all types of addiction and mental health issues.

Most intensive outpatient programs meet five days a week at a local hospital or mental health facility and include two rounds of group therapy, a group activity, and regular meetings with psychiatrists. Through outpatient programs like this, clients are able to benefit from support groups and a team of mental health professionals working together to help the client make changes, learn new skills, and adjust to medications.

Group Systems Theory


Because this intensive type of treatment involves group systems therapy and is so structured, it often works well with people who have Axis 2 DSM-V diagnoses like personality disorders. People with borderline personality disorder, for example, do well in programs with a DBT therapy focus. This high level of care also works well for people in recovery from long-term addiction.

Through group and group systems therapy, clients are able to share their experiences, pain, trauma, and hope in a group setting as well as individually. In group therapy, they can even practice new skills in a safe setting and under the guidance of a licensed marriage and family therapist. For example, if you were struggling with an interpersonal relationship, the therapist might have the group role-play a difficult situation like a tough conversation with your loved one. By getting feedback ahead of time from the group, you might have an easier time opening up to the person you care about.



One of the things many clients appreciate most about outpatient therapy and treatment services is that while they are free to go home at night and can even honor work commitments, they also leave the program with a strong support network. Research shows that a strong social support network can be extremely helpful in maintaining sobriety, helping with symptoms of mental illness, and more. In fact, as a client in such an intense program, depending on the program’s rules for exchanging information with other group members, you might even make close friendships with others working hard to make changes in their daily lives.

Some outpatient programs are step-down programs from rehab centers. Others are court-ordered. However, regardless of the type of outpatient program, you decide to attend, the reality is that you’ll be assigned an individual therapist who will be sure your specific needs are met during treatment. Knowing that you have someone specifically looking out for you in a safe environment can be helpful, especially if this is your first time in intense treatment.

At the end of the day, a comprehensive treatment plan isn’t for everyone but is often the best way to make a change and feel better quickly. If you or someone you love think intensive treatment might be a good option, start by talking to your current doctor or therapist. They can recommend a facility in your area or tell you the best choice of alternative therapies that might work for your situation and diagnosis.