It is often said that addiction treatment should not look the same for everyone, as no two people have the same needs, preferences, or substance abuse experiences. Depending on the severity of a person’s dependence on substances, they can start at a higher or lower level of care that falls along the continuum. What’s important is that they start at the level that provides them with the attention they need to work toward their recovery.

After some patients finish residential (inpatient) treatment, they may be moved to a partial hospitalization program (PHP) to continue working on their recovery. Whether you need to find additional treatment after PHP depends on how you feel when you have completed your program.

More About a PHPs: What are they and Who are they For?

A partial hospitalization program (PHP) is a moderately structured level of care that comes after an inpatient or residential treatment program. It is designed for recovering substance users who have reached a level of medical stability that allows them to move on to a lower level of care that isn’t as restrictive as residential care but more structured than an outpatient program. This environment is helpful because it ensures that people are given the time they need to work more achieving sobriety before they rejoin society full time.

PHP patients usually have completed medical detox or a residential program (or both).

Outpatient treatment programs are better-suited for people who have been through higher levels of care and are in a place in their recovery where they can handle being on their own without supervision. This means balancing their personal obligations along with receiving the addiction treatment they need.

A partial hospitalization treatment setting can also serve other purposes during a person’s recovery from substance abuse. It can serve as a  substitute for residential care or intensive outpatient treatment, which requires patients to attend nine or more hours of therapy a week. If PHP replaces residential treatment, then the patient will be monitored during their time in the program.

People who could benefit from a PHP include those who are:

  • Learning to manage a substance use disorder and mental health disorder at the same time (dual diagnosis)
  • Exhibiting cognitive or emotional changes when they are not using substances
  • Prone to experiencing relapse if they are not being monitored

PHPs also help people whose living situations do not promote abstinence from substance use or full-time sobriety or those who feel they can benefit from additional support.

How Long Does A PHP Last?


PHP programs, also known as partial-day programs, are usually offered during a set number of hours during the daytime. Unlike residential, PHP patients are not monitored around the clock. They also do not receive 24-hour medical care. Despite the differences, PHP programs still meet each patient’s unique needs with some flexibility. PHP also requires patients to meet weekly commitments, including attending intensive therapy sessions.

PHP patients could attend treatment for up to five hours a day for three to five days a week. At this rate, PHP participation can last between 15 and 25 hours a week. After they finish their day program, they can return to a sober living facility or other transitional housing for the night and return to a facility the next day for more therapy and counseling. 

How long a PHP lasts depends on the facility where it is offered, what treatment is needed for a patient’s condition and situation, and how long a patient’s insurance will pay for their participation in the program. 

If you are considering enrolling in a PHP, checking with your insurance company first to see what it will cover is a good place to start. Partial day programs are less expensive because they do not require patients to stay for long periods as a residential program does. They can last several months, but they are generally more affordable.

What Happens at PHP?

PHP patients meet for sessions where they discuss topics that enhance their recovery from substance use and addiction. These meetings address many topics, including relapse prevention strategies, anger management, health and wellness, addiction education, life skills, and more. 

PHP programs allow participants to directly access addiction care specialists and professionals who understand the needs and challenges of recovering from addiction. These professionals offer insight, guidance, and support so that patients know that recovery is within reach.

Patients can receive individual or group therapy and medication monitoring if they feel they need support with taking their medications as prescribed. Behavioral therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, are also employed to help patients understand the causes and reasons behind their addictions and take steps to correct the issues.

What’s Next After Partial Hospitalization Ends?

As addiction treatment progresses, everyone will have to decide for themselves how much treatment they want or need. Addiction professionals can make recommendations that can guide recovering individuals, but it is ultimately up to the person to determine if they want to continue and for how long.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommends individuals stay in a treatment program for at least 90 days to improve their chances of seeing lasting results.

People who finish a partial hospitalization program may feel they have what they need to live on their own full-time without further supervision. In many cases, patients move on from PHP to an outpatient program. This program, which was mentioned earlier, allows PHP patients to continue to work on their sobriety in a guided setting. An outpatient program can be held at a facility that specializes in recovery from substance abuse or a hospital or clinic. Therapy is also ongoing for as long as the patient needs it.

Addiction is a chronic disease that often changes how the brain functions. This means that managing life after addiction or a substance use disorder is a daily effort. Outpatient programs keep individuals on the path to their recovery goals and additional support they need as they learn healthy coping tools and strategies to manage their triggers and avoid relapse, which is common and even expected in recovery. NIDA reports that relapse rates fall between 40 to 60 percent, which is similar to relapse rates for other chronic illnesses.

Outpatient programs continue with the therapy that PHP patients would be used to, including individual and group therapy. Participants can also live in transitional housing during their time in outpatient therapy if they decide not to live at home.

Support groups, 12-step programs, family therapy, cravings, and triggers management can all be part of an outpatient program. It is up to each person to find the best outpatient program for them if they find that they need additional support and treatment after leaving a PHP program.

Deciding Which Outpatient Treatment Program to Attend

While outpatient could appear to fall under one umbrella, there actually are two types of outpatient programs, and which one you choose to go with will largely depend on what you need and are looking for in your program. You can join an intensive outpatient program (IOP), which offers nine or more hours a week, or an outpatient program (OP), which offers fewer than nine hours.

You can talk it over with a trusted adviser as you determine how many hours of outpatient therapy you will need. As you think about your outpatient program, you can consider answers to questions such as:

  • Your recovery journey so far and how much progress you have made
  • Your history or family history of substance use
  • Your current mental, emotional, and physical health 
  • Your living environment and if it promotes sobriety and wellness
  • Your cravings and triggers 
  • Pre-existing mental health disorders you have
  • Progress made with not using addictive substances
  • Relapse history

As you take an assessment of your needs and recovery, you may find your answer as to what steps you should take next. You will also want to consider your current responsibilities and schedule, and if you can commit to taking on the number of hours you will need to attend IOP or OP.

You also will be responsible for keeping your environment free of anything that could jeopardize your recovery and all the progress you have made. This could mean you will have to change your routine or avoid certain people and places. Some people in recovery move to another location for the fresh start they need.

In addition to joining an outpatient program, you can also participate in an aftercare program that also offers resources and continued support. This program can help people find sober living housing, employment, and more. They also can connect people with tools that can help them learn effective ways to manage their emotions, including anger, and personal finance skills.

It is important to remember that you are not alone after a partial hospitalization program. However long you choose to stay in one is something you will have to decide, and if you leave, you will also have to determine where you will continue your recovery journey next.

The thing to remember is that if you need additional treatment, reach out and ask. Someone can help you.

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