Outpatient vs. Intensive Outpatient

Dear Acenda,

My sister is being discharged from a 30-day rehabilitation program in 2 weeks, and her doctors have reached out to me to discuss treatment options for when she is released. They spoke to me about outpatient treatment, but also mentioned something about intensive outpatient treatment as well. My head has been so all over the place trying to care for her children while she gets the help she needs, so I didn't quite understand the difference they explained. I want to choose the best option for her to transition out of her inpatient program. So, what exactly is the difference between outpatient and intensive outpatient?

Confused & Concerned

Dear Confused & Concerned,

You've come to the right place! While the difference between the two may only be one word, the treatment options are actually quite different.

intensive outpatient therapy

During outpatient treatment, the patient lives at home while seeking treatment at a facility a few times a week, depending on the sessions. Outpatient treatment does not involve around-the-clock care, so this is a great option for those who want to continue with their careers and lifestyles. Although this seems like a great option, it may not provide enough care or structure to those that are in need. Sometimes, home life and social activities can trigger bad decisions.

Intensive outpatient treatment does not require patients to live at a facility full-time. The intensive outpatient treatment program is formatted to assist in the transition from inpatient rehab to outpatient therapy. This program is a great option for patients who are changing from a higher demanding treatment program to another program that includes more freedom.


Seek treatment once per week

Typically 4-10 hours per week

Allows for more home life and social activities while seeking treatment

Intensive Outpatient

Seek treatment daily

Typically 9 hours max per week

Good as a transition from higher level of care or residential program to outpatient therapy

Every patient struggles differently from another, therefore, choosing the right treatment plan is important. An individual who struggles with addiction may benefit most from an inpatient residential program. While for others, around-the-clock care is not needed. The best way to determine what kind of treatment program is best for you is to talk to a specialists and be completely honest in order to receive a proper diagnosis.

Acenda offers intensive outpatient counseling to youth, young adults, and adults. In addition, we have comprehensive assessments and psychiatric treatment options. Our program offers group-based services, individual and family therapy, psycho-social education and medication monitoring services.

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental illness or suicidal ideation, clinicians in our Counseling & Wellness Centers are available to help.

For more information or to make an appointment, please call our main number at 844-422-3632 x9501.