A partial hospitalization program (PHP) for drug and alcohol rehabilitation is designed to offer “comprehensive, intense, coordinated, therapeutically and structured clinical services,” according to the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), which is a nonprofit body that’s established the standards for human-service organizations. 

Simply put, a partial hospitalization program combines the comprehensive services of residential treatment with the same flexibility as an outpatient program. According to The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), who established the Continuum of Care as criteria for the steps in addiction treatment, PHP is listed after inpatient programs when it relates to intensity, but before intensive outpatient or routine outpatient programs. 

For those struggling with addiction to alcohol or drugs, PHP is an effective option for individuals who need an array of therapeutic options but require the flexibility to meet the demands of their daily lives. 

To learn more about the distinct features of a partial hospitalization program and how it differs from detox, residential, and intensive outpatient services, continue reading below.

Why Is It Called a PHP?

A partial hospitalization program received its name from those in recovery. These individuals would attend intensive therapy sessions from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Once the session concluded for the day, the patients could leave and return home, which is where the term “partial hospitalization” stems from.

How Does PHP Differ From Detox?

A partial hospitalization program serves a completely different purpose from medical detoxification. Detox is the most intense and first step of addiction recovery. Detox takes place in a professional treatment setting and is a medically supervised procedure where drugs or alcohol are removed from the individual’s system as the withdrawal symptoms that occur are managed. During this process, a person is medically stabilized, meaning they can continue the course of treatment without the worry of debilitating withdrawal symptoms.

How Does PHP Differ From Residential Treatment?

A partial hospitalization program is significantly different from a residential treatment program in terms of duration, scope, and structure. Residential treatment programs require clients to remain at the facility as they receive comprehensive and intensive care on a full-time basis. The duration of these programs will vary on a case-by-case basis, but they typically range from 30 to 90 days. In some cases, a person could stay up to six months or a year, depending on the severity of their addiction. 

In a partial hospitalization program, the individual will have access to comprehensive therapy programs on a part-time basis. On average, a PHP client will spend 30 hours a week in therapy, which is then structured into six-hour sessions five days a week. Partial hospitalization programs offer short-term intensive treatment that lasts between four or six weeks, depending on the type of addiction.

Another factor that deviates from other types of care is that partial hospitalization programs allow the patient to experience the full intensity of an inpatient program without living onsite. These clients are entitled to return home or to a living arrangement conducive to their sobriety, allowing them to attend to the obligations of their lives and getting the care they need.


How Does PHP Differ From IOP?

An intensive outpatient program (IOP) and partial hospitalization program share striking similarities. Both programs are structured as outpatient types of care. Clients in either program have the ability to live at home or in another arrangement they choose while getting treatment. These both allow the client the freedom to tend to family obligations and work or go to school.

Both of these programs provide clients with access to comprehensive therapy, and both are recommended for individuals who are medically stabilized through medical detox or other means. 

However, one glaring difference is that partial hospitalization requires a person to spend more hours in therapy each week than a standard intensive outpatient or routine outpatient process. A client will usually attend five three-hour sessions a week in intensive outpatient care, which is a much lighter load than a partial hospitalization program. Intensive outpatient clients have the option of attending therapy or counseling eight hours a day. Even more, an IOP program is much longer than a PHP, and it can last anywhere from one to three months. 

What Can a PHP Treat?

Partial hospitalization programs won’t be useful for a person addicted to opioidswho haven’t gone through medical detox. PHP is for an individual who’s completed fully supervised detox and other therapy programs, including inpatient care. A client must meet specific criteria to qualify for a partial hospitalization program, which includes the following:

  • Behavior, emotional, or cognitive conditions (a history of mild-to-moderate psychiatric decompensation when they cease drug use)
  • A readiness to change (they’ve failed in lower levels of care because of resistance to change but want to change)
  • Potential for relapse or continued use (the individual will likely continue using or relapse if they’re not monitored)
  • Recovery environment (their work, school, or home environment causes unique challenges for the person to remain sober without support at this level)

PHP is also suited for those with addictions that don’t require detox, which are substances with a lower rate of physical dependency but can be psychologically addictive. These include inhalants, marijuana, and most hallucinogens. A high-level partial hospitalization program should address the psychological causes behind those addictions. 

What Can I Expect From PHP Treatment?

In the short-term, partial hospitalization programs are similar to a full-time job because the minimum expectations for a PHP are six hours a day, five days a week. When the treatment is complete, you’ll return to your living space. If clinicians determine that living at home will increase the chances of relapse, it means your environment is full of triggers and negative influences. Transitional living facilities could be provided to help in your recovery process. 

As was mentioned above, PHP’s offer a comprehensive set of therapy models, and because your treatment plan will be customized around your specific needs, the program will differ from others. However, the following are the types of therapy you can expect to see during a stint in PHP:

  • Individualized therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Dual diagnosis therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Holistic therapy

PHP will offer therapy and counseling that will help you understand the root of your addiction. You’ll also be provided with coping strategies and life skills training that helps you maintain your sobriety outside the comfort of treatment. Depending on your needs, a team of psychiatric and clinicians will coordinate a plan for you.

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