How Can a Partial Hospitalization Program Help Treat My Addiction?

Medically Reviewed

A partial hospitalization program (PHP) for drug rehabilitation is intended to offer “comprehensive, therapeutically intensive, coordinated, and structured clinical services,” states the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), the nonprofit body that establishes standards for human-service organizations.

Simply put, a PHP combines the comprehensive services of a standard residential treatment program with the flexibility of an outpatient process. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), which established its Continuum of Care as a set of criteria for the steps in addiction treatment, lists PHP after inpatient programs in terms of intensity, but before intensive outpatient and routine outpatient programs.

PHP can be an effective option for those who need an array of therapeutic options but want the flexibility of attending to the obligations of their daily lives.

Read on to find out more about the distinct features of PHP and how it differs from detox, residential, intensive and routine outpatient services.

Why Is It Called a PHP?

Partial hospitalization got its name from people who were in recovery. They would attend these intense therapy sessions from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. After those sessions ended for the day, patients would leave and return to their homes. This was how the term “partial hospitalization” would come to be coined.

How Does PHP Differ From Detox?

A PHP program serves an entirely different purpose from medical detoxification. Detox is often the first and most intensive step of addiction recovery. In a professional treatment setting, detox is a medically supervised procedure in which the addicting substance is removed from a patient as the withdrawal symptoms that arise are managed. It is during this process that a person in recovery is medically stabilized, meaning they are fit to continue treatment without the threat of debilitating withdrawal.

How Does PHP Differ From Residential Treatment?

A PHP program is markedly different from a residential treatment program in terms of scope, duration, and structure.

A residential treatment program requires a patient to stay at a facility while receiving comprehensive and intensive therapy on a full-time basis. The duration of these programs typically ranges from 30 to 90 days. In some cases, a stay can last a lot longer, sometimes six months to a year depending on the addiction.

In PHP, clients still have access to comprehensive therapy approaches but on a part-time basis. An average PHP patient will spend 30 hours a week in therapy, which is structured into six-hour sessions for five days a week. What’s more, PHP is intended to offer short-term intensive treatment that typically lasts between four to six weeks.

Another differentiating factor is that PHP allows patients to experience the full intensity of inpatient treatment without having to live onsite. PHP clients are free to return home or to some other living arrangement that is conducive to their recovery. This allows them to attend to the obligations of their daily lives while receiving the necessary treatment.

How Does PHP Differ From IOP?

A PHP and intensive outpatient program (IOP) share striking similarities. Both are structured as outpatient programs. Patients in either program have the freedom to live at home or in some other arrangement of their own while receiving treatment. They both allow clients the freedom to work and/or tend to family obligations.

Both programs also offer clients access to comprehensive therapy, and each is recommended for patients who have already been medically stabilized via detoxification or other means.

However, partial hospitalization requires clients to spend more hours in therapy per week than a standard intensive outpatient or routine outpatient process. In IOP, clients typically attend five three-hour sessions per week, a lighter load than what is offered in PHP. IOP patients do have the option of attending counseling or therapy eight hours a day. What’s more, an IOP program is longer than a PHP, as it can last anywhere from one to three months

What Can a PHP treat?

PHP isn’t for the client with an opioid addiction who has not gone through medical detoxification and been medically stabilized. PHP is for those who have completed fully supervised detox and therapy programs, which includes inpatient care. There are specific criteria that clients must meet to qualify for a partial hospitalization program. They include the following:

  1. Emotional, behavior, or cognitive conditions (i.e., a history of mild-to-moderate psychiatric decompensation when they discontinue drug use)
  2. Readiness to change (i.e., they have failed at a lower level of care due to being resistant to change but have a desire to change)
  3. Potential for relapse/continued use (i.e., they will most likely continue using or relapse if they are not closely monitored)
  4. Recovery environment (i.e., their home, school, or work environment makes it difficult for them to remain abstinent without the support of this level)

Partial hospitalization is also suited for people who have addictions that do not require detox. Those substances that have a low rate of physical dependency but are psychologically addictive, including marijuana, inhalants, and most hallucinogens. A high level of PHP care can address the psychological afflictions of those addictions.

What to Expect From PHP Treatment

Couple discusses partial hospitalization program

For the short-term, a partial hospitalization program is akin to going to a full-time job. Again, the minimum expectations for a PHP are five days a week at six hours a day.

When your treatment is completed for the day, you can return to your living space. If it is determined that living at home increases your chances of relapse, meaning that your environment is rife with triggers and negative influences, transitional living facilities can be provided to bolster your recovery process.

As mentioned previously, PHP offers a comprehensive set of therapy models. Because your treatment plan will be highly specialized to meet your needs, your program may differ from others. However, these are the types of therapy models you could expect to encounter:

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

PHP will provide you with the therapy and counseling necessary to help you get to the root of your addiction. You will also be provided with life skills training and coping strategies to help you maintain your sobriety in the real world. If you have a co-occurring disorder, a PHP program will provide treatment for that as well. If you have psychiatric needs that require medication, a team of psychiatrists and medical personnel can coordinate a management plan for you.

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