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What is a partial hospitalization program and how does it work?

October 18, 2018


If you’ve heard of a partial hospitalization program (PHP), you may wonder if it is the best option for you or a loved one struggling with addiction and other mental-health concerns.

What is a partial hospitalization program and how does it work?

What is a partial hospitalization program?

Also known as “intensive outpatient treatment,” PHP offers more freedom than an inpatient program, because participants still live at home. It also provides structure and more intense treatment options than weekly counseling. PHP is usually offered through a hospital or clinic. 

Patients in PHP are not under constant supervision, and must demonstrate dedication to the program and the ability to stick to their treatment plan. PHP may take up to 8 hours a day, five or six days a week.

Who can benefit from a partial hospitalization program?

If you or your loved one are struggling with multiple aspects of addiction or other disorders, PHP may be a good option. For example, a person who needs help with withdrawal symptoms as well as communication skills may attend PHP to address all these needs. You or your loved one also may qualify for PHP if you have already shown improvement and are able to follow a treatment schedule and stay healthy on your own. PHP also may be necessary for individuals who have to live at home because of family responsibilities, such as childcare.

PHP is not usually suitable for someone with severe, uncontrolled addiction or serious co-occurring health concerns. It may not work for people who have just begun recovery or who need full-time support.

How to enter a partial hospitalization program

If you’re interested in PHP, you should first get an assessment from a mental health professional. This will help determine what type of program is best for you. The professional should consider both your physical and mental health. This is not a decision that you should make on your own.

If PHP is the best option, it is also important to discuss this with your health insurance or Medicare. Because it’s an intensive method, PHP can be expensive. Many companies want to make sure you work with an approved provider in a program with greater chance of success. The insurance company also may approve PHP for a specific length of time, such as 30 or 60 days.

What to expect from a partial hospitalization program

PHP is tailored to each person’s individual needs. Also, different facilities offer slightly different programs. In most cases, you can expect the following:

  • A diagnostic interview, physical, and assessment when first entering the PHP
  • Drug and alcohol screening
  • Development of a treatment and recovery plan based on your individual needs and goals
  • Medication management
  • On-site nursing services, if needed
  • Individual, group, and family therapy services
  • Recreational activities
  • Development of a continuing care or discharge plan for after PHP is completed

The types of therapies offered at PHP will depend on each person’s needs. Some programs include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy (MBCT), solution-focused therapy, and trauma-focused therapy groups. Holistic therapies at PHP may include yoga, art therapy, music therapy, and pet therapy. Patients also can benefit from mindfulness training, fitness and wellness education, and nutrition counseling.

If you think PHP could benefit you or a loved one, be sure to discuss the option with your primary-care or psychiatric provider.