Higher Levels of Care – Is IOP Right For Me or My Loved One?

There are many levels of treatment in mental health settings and at times it can be confusing which setting is best. Here are the traditional 6 levels of treatment.

Levels of mental health care

  • Outpatient Treatment (this includes specialized treatments like Spravato)
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP). Soma Therapy’s IOP programs are 3 days per week, 3 hours per day.
  • Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) (also known as “Day Programs” that are typically M-F for 6-10 hours per day)
  • Emergency Room Evaluation (i.e. St. Joe and Comcare in the greater Wichita community)
  • Inpatient Treatment
  • Residential Treatment (longer-term treatment at a facility from 30 days to 6 months)

At Soma Therapy, we offer the first two levels of treatment: Outpatient treatment and Intensive Outpatient Programs.

How do I know if I need IOP?

The general rule of thumb and simplified version is: if you need more care than once-weekly therapy but don’t need 24/7 mental health monitoring in an inpatient program, IOP could be a good fit for you.

However, let’s go into more detail so you can determine if IOP is your best course of action.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment includes individual, family/couples, and group therapy, and/or psychiatric medication appointments. The frequency you meet with an outpatient provider varies but often ranges from every other week to twice weekly for therapy. For psychiatric medication management, the frequency may be less, such as twice a month to every three to six months. Outpatient therapy is a starting point for many people, as it offers a personalized and time-limited environment to explore one’s sense of self. It may be brief in terms of duration to address a specific concern or may take place over a longer period. Individual outpatient therapy is the right fit for those who struggle with mild to moderate mental health symptoms and who want to improve their relationships, and self-esteem, or navigate a life transition. Group therapy may incorporate skills, process, support, or psycho-educational in terms of form and content and typically brings together a group of participants who share a treatment issue or goal.

When outpatient treatment is not enough to make meaningful progress toward treatment goals or clients feel stuck, a higher level of care on the mental health treatment continuum is recommended. Especially if clients indicate higher risk factors like self-harm behaviors, relationship harm behaviors, feelings of suicidality or life being out of control, and other more acute mental health symptoms and struggles.

That’s where Soma Therapy’s IOP prorgams can help.

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)

IOP is an ideal setting for people who need support beyond what is offered in outpatient therapy. The IOP level of care typically involves multi-disciplinary and group-based treatment with a heavy focus on coping skills and strategies. In Soma Therapy’s IOP programs, clients attend between 3-5 days per week depending on need and based on recommendations from treatment providers. IOP programs are typically 3 hours per day. In addition to being more intensive, the multi-disciplinary, one-stop-shopping approach to care is a benefit of this higher level of treatment. In addition to group therapists, clients enrolled in an IOP program will typically have a team of care providers, including individual and family/couples therapists, psychiatrists or psychiatric nurse practitioners, nurses, and other specialty staff working collaboratively as a team toward mutually agreed-upon treatment goals.

IOP is a desirable treatment option for many people because they can continue to attend school or work while receiving comprehensive treatment. IOP is more intensive than traditional outpatient visits and should be considered when talk therapy is no longer meeting your needs. The IOP level of care gives patients more opportunities to practice new skills outside treatment when faced with their typical stressors. IOP is often the next step down for patients who have completed a PHP program and are ready to re-engage in their typical daily routines at home, work or school while having structure and reducing what can be called the revolving door of inpatient treatment and hospitalization (i.e. continuing to need and go back to inpatient treatment only a few months after discharge). Treatment team members in IOP coordinate care with the individual’s outpatient providers unless the person has a preference against this.

Benefits of Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)

  • Increased support in the short term to provide necessary containment in crisis, while providing a “starter motor” for the life-long process of coping with stress
  • The ability to continue working or attending school while in more intensive treatment
  • More support for the system (ie. family therapy, parent support and education)
  • Intense support while remaining exposed to “real life” stresses (ie. school, peers, family)
  • A structured program with a set curriculum crafted and executed by a multi-disciplinary team of professionals
  • A focus on skills-building and learning new coping mechanisms at a pace that allows faster exposure to, learning about, and practicing these skills in real-time with peers and family while having the support of a therapy team

Is IOP right for me?

  • IOP level of care is often recommended when:
  • You are experiencing suicidal ideation or behaviors
  • You are engaged in self-harm
  • Level of support at outpatient level of care is insufficient or ineffective
  • You are not able to maintain stable housing or employment
  • Your depression or anxiety is severely impairing your functioning at school, work, or with your family or friends

Conditions and Qualifications for IOP

IOPs can help treat a variety of mental health conditions. For example, Some Therapy’s IOP addresses:

  • Anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder
  • Behavioral issues
  • Burnout
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Complex PTSD
  • Depression
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Eating Disorders (Binge Eating Disorder, Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and OSFED)
  • Emotional distress or impairments in emotion regulation that impact daily life, relationships, career
  • Grief and Loss (including traumatic loss of a relationship through a breakup, divorce, etc.)
  • Inability to Function or Cope with Life
  • Mood disorders
  • Mental Health Crisis
  • Personality disorders
  • PTSD
  • Relationship harm (i.e. volatile relationship patterns)
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts and ideation
  • Technology and online addiction
  • Trauma
  • Furthermore, our IOP team is well-equipped to treat co-occurring conditions if you have multiple diagnoses. Frequent, intensive therapy like IOP allows you and your providers ample time and resources to address all of your mental health concerns.

Mental Health or Eating Disorder IOP Requirements

The requirements for IOP are straightforward. You must have a mental health diagnosis from a licensed clinician to be considered for admission or be assessed as meeting the criteria for IOP by our admissions intake team during an IOP intake assessment. That means a psychiatrist, physician, therapist, or nurse practitioner needs to determine if the level of care is clinically necessary and that they recommend IOP as the appropriate care for your situation. Typically a good rule of thumb is: if you need more care than once-weekly therapy but don’t need 24/7 mental health monitoring in an inpatient program, IOP could be a good fit for you.

At Soma Therapy, the first step in our IOP process is a detailed evaluation with a clinician. We use this to ensure IOP is right for you and to craft a personalized treatment plan. Call or text today to schedule an appointment at 316-201-6047 or fill out our contact form.

IOP Insurance Requirements

Often, insurance companies have their own requirements for covering the costs of admission to IOP programs (and to continue attending IOP). These guidelines can vary depending on what insurance you have, but they generally include things like:

  • Significant impairment in daily functioning due to psychiatric symptoms that aren’t being managed through a lower level of care (i.e. mental health symptoms and behaviors not improving with once-a-week therapy, groups, and/or medication management in outpatient settings).
  • Ongoing IOP treatment is necessary to reduce symptoms and improve functioning (and being discharged or not doing IOP would likely lead to a more intensive level of care).
  • As a prevention or alternative option to inpatient treatment (when appropriate) or a step-down level of care after inpatient or residential treatment.
  • The capacity and willingness to engage in IOP treatment. (This includes regular attendance in the group sessions and showing signs of progress in IOP).
  • Indication that mental health symptoms will improve in a reasonable time period. And will allow a transition back to other outpatient care or community-based services.
  • Living conditions offer enough stability to support ongoing IOP treatment.
  • Depending on which insurance plan you have (typically with Medicaid), Soma Therapy may be required to obtain prior authorization based on clinical documentation. If the insurance company determines that IOP is medically necessary, then they will approve an initial number of authorized visits.

We also offer out-of-pocket payment options for clients who are uninsured, underinsured or wish to pay out of pocket for IOP services.

Insurances we accept include BCBS and single-case agreements for Aetna, UHC, Tricare, and MCO’s/KS Medicaid.

Referring a Client to IOP

If you have a client you believe needs IOP care, please reach out to us. We work collaboratively with community providers to create a long-term treatment plan for client’s needs. When clients work in Soma Therapy’s IOP, we work with providers to continue treatment with their clients (during) and after going through IOP programs with Soma Therapy. We are “provider-friendly”, meaning we work collaboratively with community providers. We can’t do this on our own. It truly takes a village. Please fill out this form to refer a client to IOP.

Our IOP care recommendations during the initial intake assessment are informed by years of evidence-based research and clinical experience. We incorporate recommendations from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) considering factors such as:

  • Medical and mental health instability
  • Frequency of behavioral or mental health symptoms
  • For Eating Disorder IOP, the client’s ability to decrease or stop eating disorder and weight control behaviors without meal support or monitoring, and nutritional intake, percentage of natural body weight or degree of weight change
  • Co-occurring conditions that may require a higher level of care
  • Level of motivation to attend IOP consistently, including insight, cooperation with treatment, and willingness to engage in behavior change
  • Indicators suggesting the need for inpatient psychiatric treatment and stabilization, such as significant suicide risk
  • Lack of response or deterioration in the client’s condition while receiving outpatient treatment
  • The client’s support environment (resources) and the extent and accessibility of support systems
  • Logistical factors such as geographical and insurance considerations, transportation barriers, and school, work, and childcare needs

Whether you’re considering IOP for you, a loved one, or a client let’s take the next steps together. Reach out to schedule an intake assessment to see if you (your loved one/client) qualifies and get a personalized IOP treatment plan or recommendations for the best fitting options of care.