A partial hospitalization program (PHP) is an intensive outpatient program that treats substance addiction as well as mental health disorders.1 Treatment sessions happen during the daytime without requiring you to stay overnight and typically run for five or more days per week, lasting for a few months.1,2,3 Such programs are found in hospitals and are highly organized but distinct from 24-hour daily care services; PHP instead offers intensive ambulatory treatment.1
In this article:
- What Services Does a Partial Hospitalization Program Offer?
- Comparing PHP to Other Outpatient Programs
- Who Can Benefit from a Partial Hospitalization Program?
- The Goals of a Partial Hospitalization Program
What Services Does a Partial Hospitalization Program Offer?
A typical day in a partial hospitalization program consists of individual and group therapy, psychoeducation, skill-building practice, and periodic evaluations.4 The program includes a therapeutic component, educational resources, medication management, and sometimes holistic and other complementary modalities.
Programs may involve your family or friends because a support system can assist in treatment. You are provided a therapist or main point of contact with whom you do one-on-one sessions; couples and family sessions may be done as needed.4
Due to the variety of treatments available, a partial hospitalization program involves qualified mental health and substance abuse professionals, psychiatrists, holistic providers, and educators. In some cases, staff will rotate and teach lessons based on their fields of study. For example, if there is a planned education session on mood management, a credentialed mental health professional may teach that session. A psychiatrist might lead a discussion on the importance of taking medication as prescribed. Depending on the size of the clinical setting and their program, it may carry a medical assistant and other such support staff.4
Scheduling and programming depend on the treatment facility, and most PHP programs use various therapeutic techniques. These may include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Yoga (with a trauma-sensitive or relaxation focus)
- Tai Chi
- Qi Gong
A Sample Schedule for a Partial Hospitalization Program
A day at a PHP may look like this:4
- Mornings: arrival and check-in at facility, morning orientation and goal setting, educational therapy, and academic preparation
- Midday: interpersonal processing and breaks for lunch and personal duties
- Afternoons: group therapy sessions, goal setting, plan discussions, processing information from the day, closure group session, and dismissal
Individual sessions are coordinated with your primary therapist or point of contact.
Comparing PHP to Other Outpatient Programs
A PHP is often used as a step-down program after someone has completed an inpatient addiction treatment program, though, for some patients, it is sometimes the first point of contact with the addiction treatment continuum. PHPs are more intensive than other outpatient programs, such as intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), non-intensive outpatient programs, and treatment in office settings.3,5,6 These programs offer therapy and counseling but at lower frequencies or durations than PHPs, making them slightly more flexible when it comes to scheduling.
Partial hospitalization services can be used to complement and shorten an inpatient hospital stay, transition you from inpatient to outpatient care, or, in some scenarios, avert full hospitalization.1
Comparing IOP to a Partial Hospitalization Program
As with PHP, an intensive outpatient program has educational and therapeutic resources. You are assigned a primary therapist, or point of contact, with whom you do individual sessions. These sessions are divided between psychoeducation and group therapy. Individual sessions usually are scheduled outside of the three-hour window of programming so as not to detract from any component of the IOP.
An IOP begins with five visits per week that tapers off to once weekly, and these visits can be three hours long, while PHP monitoring may be as long as 10 hours.6 Depending on the treatment center capacity and your needs, many IOPs will offer day or nighttime options.
Night IOPs tend to be more popular because you can resume your professional work schedule during the day and attend at night.6 The length of the IOP depends on the program’s length at the facility, your needs based on clinical assessment by the credentialed professional, insurance approval, and your financial resources, time, and accessibility.
Many programs may provide vouchers or discount codes to public transportation (such as the subway, light rails, and buses). Some may have volunteer transportation services on offer but this is not guaranteed.6
Continuing Care vs Partial Hospitalization Programs
Continuing care (CC) is intended for those who have completed a primary treatment program (either inpatient, PHP, or IOP). A credentialed provider will assess if you have a solid recovery foundation and need added weekly support to continue success in recovery.
This level of care is the most flexible and least time-intensive of the three outpatient approaches (PHP, IOP, and CC). CC functions as a step-down treatment from either PHP or IOP. It can be 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, six months, or as long as one year.
CC programs usually last one hour per week with weekly group sessions. You also will be assigned a primary therapist with one individual session per month (or more as needed).6 This way, you will have a primary point of contact to remain accountable to and have additional support outside of the group if needed.
Continuing care often is held at the same location or facility as other outpatient services, including the facility where you complete PHP or IOP. If so, you might already know your fellow CC group members, and you all may select the same time and day for your CC program. These long-term recovery relationships can assist your recovery.
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Who Can Benefit from a Partial Hospitalization Program?
The first step to determine which program is right for you is to receive a professional assessment. This is a formal evaluation that helps to determine which program is right for you.6
PHP may be appropriate for individuals who have:7
- Medical stability
- Stable living environments
- Reliable transportation (unless you are participating in an online program)
- Adequate at-home support (family and friends)
- No risk for self-harm or harming others
- Co-occurring mental health disorders
- Motivation to participate in treatment and programming
- Difficulty or challenged functioning at school, work, or other occupations
IOP is appropriate for you if you meet all the above criteria, and you are able to return to work, school, or other occupations without the prior difficulties or challenges.7
CC is appropriate for individuals who:7
- Have completed primary addiction treatment (inpatient, residential, PHP, or IOP)
- Need additional weekly sessions to support long-term recovery
The Goals of a Partial Hospitalization Program
Partial hospitalization programs are designed for short-term treatment. The goal of PHP is to help you transition from inpatient care to a lower level of care, such as intensive outpatient treatment. A medical professional may even evaluate you for entry into PHP to avoid full hospitalization if it would prove unnecessary.
IOP is like PHP because it too is designed for short-term treatment with the goal to help you improve enough to step down or be transferred to outpatient continuing care. Continuing care is a long-term program with the goal of reinforcing what you have learned in PHP or IOP while granting you time for recovery with peers and access to professional guidance. Long-term support has been shown to allow you time to practice what you have learned in primary treatment, while functioning as a safety net should adverse life events happen and you need help navigating them sober. The length of stay for each of these programs will vary depending on your treatment progress and needs.5,6,7
How to Find Partial Hospitalization Near Me
If you are wondering where to find a partial hospitalization program, contact a treatment support specialist at 800-838-1752 (Who Answers?). There, you will receive direct guidance for finding the appropriate treatment program for you. Online partial hospitalization program information also may be available.
- Definition of Partial Hospitalization. The National Association of Private Psychiatric Hospitals and the American Association for Partial Hospitalization. Psychiatr Hosp. (1990). Spring;21(2):89-90.
- Bateman, A., & Fonagy, P. (1999). Effectiveness of Partial Hospitalization in the Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Am J Psychiatry, 156:(10), 1563-1569.
- (n.d.) Mental health care (partial hospitalization).
- Lenz, A.S.L., Conte, G.D., Lancaster, C., Bailey, L., & Vanderpoo, E. (2014). Evaluation of a Partial Hospitalization Program for Adolescents. Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation 5(1), 3-16.
- McKay, J.R., Carise, D, Dennis, M.L., Dupont, R., Humphreys, K., Kemp, J., Reynolds, D., White, W., Annstrong, R., Chalk, M., Haberle, B, McLellan, T., O’Connor, G., Pakull, B., & Schwartzlose, J. (2009). Extending the benefits of addiction treatment: Practical strategies for continuing care and recovery. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 36 (2009), 127-130.
- Substance Abuse: Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 47. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2006.
- Medicare Coverage Database. (n.d.). Psychiatric Partial Hospitalization Programs L34196.