Intensive outpatient treatment is a mental health model that allows clients to continue living in their homes while receiving regular monitoring, counseling, and supportive services. Unlike residential treatment, patients can remain with their families, living in their own homes and continuing to work. There are several different types of intensive outpatient treatment programs available, with some addressing substance abuse issues, while others treat chronic mental illness, such as depression, eating disorders, or borderline personality disorder. An intensive outpatient treatment may be chosen in situations where a client cannot or should not be placed in a residential treatment setting but needs more support and monitoring than standard outpatient treatments can offer.
While residential treatment is often a safe, effective, and comprehensive way of caring for those struggling with serious mental illness and addiction problems, there are several negative aspects that make it difficult, impractical, or even impossible for some patients to participate in these programs. One of the most significant problems is that of cost, as maintaining an adequately staffed residential facility is an expensive undertaking. Even if the patient has insurance coverage, many insurance policies significantly limit the amount of benefits paid toward residential treatment. In addition, when an individual enters residential treatment, he is removed from his local support system as well as his employment. Once released from residential treatment, he faces a significant period of readjustment.
Outpatient treatment, on the other hand, has the advantages of permitting patients to remain in their communities and maintain their daily life routine. As outpatient treatment can be obtained through a number of sources and does not require residential staff or housing, costs are more easily controlled. Standard outpatient treatment may only require clients to receive group or individual counseling once or twice a week, which may not be enough for those who are at risk of addiction relapse or are slipping into damaging behaviors. An intensive outpatient treatment program coordinates a client's care while she continues to live and work in the community and provides her with a more rigorous program of treatment.
The nature of an intensive outpatient treatment program will vary by program provider, the condition for which a client receives treatment, as well as the client's own needs. As part of receiving intensive outpatient treatment, a client may be scheduled to attend counseling sessions several times a week; receive home visits from caseworkers, aides, or other health care professionals; and undergo regular monitoring for drug use or health setbacks. As the client progresses in his treatment, its intensive nature may be scaled back, with fewer required counseling sessions and evaluations.