Our Telehealth Intensive Outpatient Program is Here to Stay

The advent of COVID-19 and state-mandated lockdowns in early 2020 forced medical providers and patients nationwide to rethink how we give and receive medical care. Patients and providers needed options, and quickly. Telehealth solutions have been in development for years but used only sparingly. Yet, in a matter of weeks, they were almost instantly adopted everywhere to connect self-isolated patients and health professionals. Parkdale Center was right there too.

Continuity of care is paramount to the successful treatment of Substance Use Disorder (SUD), and a timely move to telehealth treatment options was critical. The federal government assisted SUD healthcare providers’ efforts to treat patients remotely by relaxing laws limiting treatment options and expanding insurance coverage. Parkdale Center moved quickly to provide remote support for our patients in recovery. We redesigned our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) to virtually offer the same care they would receive in person. And now, even as social restrictions are easing, our Telehealth IOP sessions have proved to be well-liked and successful. Parkdale will continue offering Telehealth IOP on an ongoing basis.

What exactly is IOP?

Whether provided in-person or virtually, our Intensive Outpatient Program typically follows our partial hospitalization program to treat acute SUD. Led by trained and licensed clinical staff, IOP is designed to continue teaching and reinforcing recovery concepts introduced during initial treatment.


Parkdale’s Telehealth IOP consists of 3-hour group sessions, 3 days per week, for 6-8 weeks. Participants take breaks after the first and second hour. The session begins by “checking in” with each participant. "Check-in" is a skill of self-reflection, taught, and practiced in each IOP. Participants learn to regularly reflect on all the categories of their lives, share openly, and get feedback from both clinicians and peers. This allows participants to develop individual recovery goals in a supportive environment.


Each session reviews materials from the IOP curriculum by reading and discussing topics such as Relapse Prevention, Coping Skills, Communication Skills, 12 Step Progress, Exploring Triggers, and much more. Participants use their strengths to work on their areas of growth. The group format allows each participant's strengths to bolster the recovery strength of the entire group.


Telehealth IOP is a means to regularly identify and reinforce daily, weekly, monthly, and long-term recovery goals from a distance. Sharing these goals in a group setting with a trained facilitator is an effective way to set realistic and meaningful objectives while being accountable to an invested and compassionate group of supporters. The ideal outcome for an IOP patient is to learn to set and reach their goals, increasing confidence, and strengthening their recovery. Patients also make and maintain strong and meaningful bonds with others in IOP that remain long after their program completion. The value of these personal bonds in maintaining sobriety cannot be overstated.


The Benefits of Telehealth IOP

Telehealth IOP has been shown to have significant benefits for patients. Telehealth can be attended from any confidential location with reliable internet access, including while on vacation, visiting a family member, or at home with family members nearby. Telehealth allows the patient to continue their recovery treatment while in their home environment, where they may be presented with daily triggers that threaten their recovery process. Telehealth IOP also eliminates travel time, allowing patients more time to focus on family, work, and other recovery-related goals. This last feature is particularly beneficial to patients in rural areas, for whom finding nearby treatment is often a challenge. It resolves potential problems with childcare and drivers’ licenses. Telehealth IOP also helps relieve some of the perceived stigmas around seeking treatment. When patients can join from the privacy of their own homes, they are more likely to participate and benefit from the program.


Our CEO and Co-Founder Rodrigo Garcia says, “Social distancing, stay at home orders, and fear of the unknown are contributing factors to the increase in stress, anxiety, and the isolation that is often associated with relapse and continued struggles with substances. We fully understand the significance of staying connected during these challenging and uncertain times and will continue to promote and develop programming and resources for those individuals struggling as well as their families.”


Looking Forward

Like all technological advances in healthcare, research, and adjustments to telehealth treatment of Substance Use Disorder are ongoing. There are facets to treating SUD that are still being adapted to Telehealth services, such as sobriety monitoring, access to medication-assisted treatment, and treatment for co-existing mental health conditions. Yet we at Parkdale Center have seen terrific results with virtual treatment, and we are confident that Telehealth IOP is here to stay.


Source: Jason Kniola, LMHC, LCAC, NCC at Parkdale Center.
Monday, 13 July 2020 14:31