We understand that accepting a substance use disorder (SUD) and reaching out for help is a daunting task. Despite its widespread nature and that 23 million people have struggled with problematic drug use in 2015, addiction is still widely misunderstood. Fortunately, with the evolution of science, we’ve been able to discover that addiction is a disease recognized by the DSM-V. It must be viewed as a medical condition and given proper treatment to get it under control.
Unfortunately, no cure exists for the disease, but numerous treatment options are available to help yourself or a loved one conquer the affliction. Inpatient treatment programs, which consist of full-time therapy while living on-site at a facility, are beneficial for anyone trying to get control back of their life. Other options, such as outpatient programs, involve part-time therapy while living at alternative housing, such as at home. Partial hospitalization, otherwise known as PHP, falls under the latter and provides clients with access to therapy but still engage with their community.
If you’re unfamiliar with addiction treatment, navigating through the terms associated with it can be challenging. To start, levels of care refer to the intensity of the treatment offered by the facility. To keep it simple, a program is considered partial hospitalization when it meets specific criteria, such as being available at least five days a week. PHP usually occurs during the day. In some cases, alternative hours may be offered as well, such as evenings, weekends, or half-days.
Partial hospitalization must be free-standing, which means it is a separate entity from a traditional hospital or part of a broader system that offers “the full continuum of care.” The full continuum of care refers to many levels of care that are like a step-down system for the individual attending. In some cases, it could occur in an actual hospital, but it will always be a separate and distinct program.
Today, partial hospitalization takes place in both private facilities and hospitals. It maintains a distinct separation from residential treatment because it occurs on an outpatient level of care.
The sole purpose of PHP for substance use is to provide the client with extensive addiction therapy methods that educate the individual on addiction and provide them with the necessary tools to avoid relapse. One such example, Cognitive-behavioral therapy, is a valuable treatment used to help the client once they complete their stay.
During a PHP stay, the client will experience various therapies, including the one mentioned above, designed to help them overcome their addiction. Clinicians will work with the client to determine which treatments will work the best in their unique situation. The different approaches will address multiple facets that influence addiction, and the purpose is to find the underlying causes of addiction. Once this is achieved, they will work through these issues and supply alternative coping mechanisms to use long after the client leaves treatment.
PHP will only occur after the completion of medical detox, which focuses on removing drugs or alcohol from the client’s system and provides medical stabilization and residential inpatient. PHP for drug or alcohol addiction is designed to continue the therapeutic endeavors from these more intensive programs while offering more personal freedoms to the client as they adjust to their new lives free of substance use.
One factor that defines partial hospitalization is the length of time spent in therapy and the length of the program. Since PHP for substance use is considered outpatient, the client will spend less time in therapy sessions each week.
On average, a PHP client will attend 20 hours per week of therapy sessions broken into four hours a day, five times a week. PHP is considered a short-term but intensive program for substance users, which can last anywhere from four to six weeks.
You must keep in mind, however, that these are averages. Each client that comes into PHP will bring unique factors and have specific needs. Depending on their needs and progress in previous programs, the client could end up staying for a shorter or longer period.
The primary difference between PHP and other programs a client may encounter is the living arrangements and the number of hours spent in therapy. PHP revolves around substantial outpatient care for the client in need, meaning it targets a specific demographic of substance users.
Those poised for PHP often require lower levels of care than those in detox or residential care. At this stage, the client has detoxed and been stabilized, meaning there is no risk of complications due to cessation from drugs or alcohol. PHP allows the client to experience inpatient therapy without living on-site. The client will remain in these therapy sessions most of the week, but will not dedicate an entire month specifically for addiction treatment. It allows them to alternative housing or home once treatment is complete.
The intention is to provide flexibility and give freedom to the recovering substance user. It will allow the individual to pursue employment or ease back into their lives, such as parenting or working in the community. It will enable them to attend treatment and utilize their newly-founded skills in society. PHP is geared toward clients who still require therapeutic support but can participate in the community safely while remaining sober.
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Although defining PHP can be confusing, it’s vital to understand what you can expect when undergoing partial hospitalization treatment. The features involved are distinct and fit the format of PHP. It is addiction treatment on an outpatient basis while spending more hours in therapy each week than you can expect on an outpatient basis.
As was mentioned above, PHP is on an outpatient basis, meaning the client cannot live on-site. The addiction treatment facility will not offer alternative housing, and the client must acquire it themselves. That isn’t to say the facility won’t provide assistance in finding accommodation. In most cases, those in PHP live in sober living homes or transitional housing.
Each PHP program is unique and will be tailored around the client’s pressing needs, but some of the most common therapies you can expect to encounter include:
The therapies all possess specific characteristics that provide effectiveness in partial hospitalization for substance abuse treatment. These modalities are utilized to treat various facets of addiction that are complicated. Using a multi-therapeutic approach is more effective and will yield favorable results. Using a variety of methods allows a more individualized plan in addiction therapy.
National Institutes of Health (November 2015) 10 Percent of US Adults Have Drug Use Disorder At Some Point in Their Lives. Retrieved from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/10-percent-us-adults-have-drug-use-disorder-some-point-their-lives
SAMHSA (August 2020) Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disorders
National Institutes of Medicine (August 2020) Definition of Partial Hospitalization. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10106610/
NIDA (August 2020) Types of Treatment Programs. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/drug-addiction-treatment-in-united-states/types-treatment-programs
NCBI (September 2016) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279297/