Meeting Addiction Recovery Goals through SouthLight’s Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)


There are many treatment options for anyone seeking recovery from drug addiction, alcohol addiction and/or substance use. One is a group therapy approach. SouthLight’s Substance Use Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) falls on the continuum of treatment options between outpatient counseling and higher or more intensive levels of care like a hospital or inpatient treatment setting.

We contacted two of our clinicians working with adults in early recovery in a group setting. We asked Vanessa DelCarmen, MSW, LCAS, LCSW & Elizabeth Kinlaw, IOP Counselor, MSW, LCSWA to share more about IOP and how it impacts lives.

Elizabeth explained that our clients often enter this program feeling hopeless and worthless. She said,

I want them to know they matter. Their stories matter. Their lives matter.

—Elizabeth Kinlaw

What is the Intensive Outpatient Program?

Intensive Outpatient Program, known as IOP, serves adults in early addiction recovery in a group setting. In addition to group therapy, clients can also participate in individual therapy and case management. Clients attend 3 group therapy sessions a week, for 3 hours each day, for a total of 3 months.

For those clients who live in a recovery house while in the program, we help them with rental assistance through the Housing and Outpatient Treatment (HOT) program to help increase treatment engagement and sustained actions to meet their recovery goals.

Sometimes IOP is referred to as SAIOP – Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient Program. At SouthLight we believe word choices can impact others and reinforce stigma around mental health and substance use disorders. We use Substance Use Intensive Outpatient Program or Intensive Outpatient Program or IOP.

What are some of the key components of this addiction treatment approach?

 Three of the strengths of our IOP program include:

  1. Individualized Treatment: meeting clients where they are on their recovery journey
  2. Wholistic Approach: helping clients achieve their best according to their goals
  3. Teamwork: a variety of services available to clients

Can you share a story to demonstrate the impact of IOP?

These strengths are highlighted in Andy’s story (the client’s name has been omitted to protect their privacy).

Andy came to Southlight for help with substance use, sharing feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. They had recently experienced a health crisis including several strokes that made it difficult to communicate. Spending time with Andy and allowing them time to express their needs helped them to feel valued and heard.

Andy said, “This is the first time people have listened to me.” Creating a safe, comfortable environment in group therapy allowed Andy to begin to see a life without substances is possible. Through a team approach with other IOP counselors, Medication Management, and Tailored Care Management, we have met housing, medical, and mental health needs, just to name a few.

Today, Andy is thriving in group therapy and in life. They are providing feedback to other group members and are confident in continuing their recovery journey. In Andy’s words, “I am happy now.”

What is most rewarding about working with clients in recovery?

There is no place like an IOP group! Our clinicians have the awesome privilege to spend three months with clients and see them grow in their recovery journey.

SouthLight's IOP Team

Pictured from left to right: Vanessa (Team Lead), Miyoshi (Program Manager), Liza (Counselor), Elizabeth (Counselor), Leslie (Intern), Michelle (Counselor), Sultan (Counselor).  

Pictured from left to right: Grace (Former Intern), Krissy (Former Intern and TCM Case Manager, Liza ( Counselor), Vanessa ( Team Lead), Sultan ( Counselor), Natalie ( Counselor), Elizabeth ( Counselor), Leslie ( Intern), April (Former Intern).  

What will the renovated space at our South Raleigh outpatient treatment facility mean to those receiving substance use and mental health services?

We are delighted to share new and improved group rooms with our clients, as a team.

It is so exciting and gratifying to be able to finally provide clients with an atmosphere that is safe, therapeutic, and reflects the love and care we have for our them.

The renovations are so important; it’s another way for us to communicate that our clients deserve the absolute best.

If you or someone you know is grappling with substance use addiction, help is within reach. Learn how SouthLight can guide you toward a path of healing, recovery, and renewal. Learn about all of SouthLight’s substance use and mental health services.