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Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs) for Alcohol Addiction

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What are Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs)?

Many people begin addiction recovery in a residential rehabilitation program. These treatment programs allow people to live in a facility where they receive care and support. 

However, it’s important to understand all options, including partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) and intensive outpatient programs (IOPs).

In PHPs, people spend the day at a treatment facility and return home at night. People often dedicate a large portion of the week to receiving personalized, evidence-based care on-site at a rehab facility.

PHP participants receive many of the same therapies and treatments as they would in a residential program. 

These may include:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Mindfulness training
  • Arts therapy
  • Yoga 

Some PHPs provide medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to treat mild-to-moderate withdrawal symptoms. These medications can also help reduce drug cravings and prevent relapse.  

What’s the Difference Between PHPs and IOPs?

IOP stands for intensive outpatient program. An IOP is similar to a PHP in that people receive treatment during the day and return home at night. A PHP is likely to have more medical resources available than those found in a typical IOP.  

Also, IOPs tend to have shorter hours than PHPs. This makes IOPs ideal for transitioning back into everyday life, work, and family commitments.

Some treatment centers offer two IOP schedules for more flexibility. For example, one will occur in the morning and one will occur in the evening.

Who Benefits From IOPs?

As people progress through recovery, they often want the freedom to work and spend time with their loved ones. While IOPs provide that, they’re not always the best choice.

People should be realistic about how much freedom they can handle. Often, with more space comes more triggers and cravings.

While someone may be eager to finish treatment, it’s essential to be sure they actually plan to follow through with their recovery.

IOP won’t be beneficial if you:

  • Think returning to your home environment will trigger cravings 
  • Will be around people who encourage drug and alcohol use 
  • Don’t have transportation to meetings and therapy sessions

IOP vs. PHP: How Does Treatment Work? 

IOP patients typically attend treatment 3 to 4 days a week for 3 to 4 hours at a time. However, treatment sessions are based on the needs of each patient.

For example, if someone struggles with cravings, they may need more therapy sessions. But, as they improve, meetings will become less frequent.

IOP treatment may include:

  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Relapse prevention training
  • Other classes for extended support during this recovery stage

The IOP program that’s right for you depends on many factors. Whether or not you’ve been in treatment before and if you have a solid support system at home are two examples.

Besides psychotherapy, group meetings in IOP help people new to recovery learn from those who have been there. Group therapy also helps people feel less lonely and isolated, and it initiates long-term bonds among participants.

What are the Similarities of PHPs and IOPs?

PHPs and IOPs are similar in that people receive treatment during the day and live at home in the evening.

Treatment in IOPs and PHPs are also similar. But IOPs typically focus on relapse prevention.

Whether you choose an IOP or a PHP, you’ll receive individualized care that sets you on the path to recovery.

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Who Can PHPs Help?

PHPs provide greater access to medical staff, which allows for better monitoring of your condition.2 

A partial hospitalization program is suitable for those who:

  • Completed residential treatment but still have a high chance of relapsing 
  • Had severe episodes of addiction and/or overdose
  • Have problems managing cravings
  • Are still experiencing withdrawal symptoms and may need further detox services

What to Expect During PHP Treatment

A typical day in a PHP consists of:

  • Individual and group therapy
  • Psychoeducation
  • Skill-building practice
  • Periodic evaluations

A licensed mental health professional performs these services. If medicine is necessary, you’ll meet a staff psychiatrist for medication management.

Family therapy sessions may also be a part of PHP treatment. Building a support system is essential for recovery, so many programs will involve a person’s family in the treatment plan.

Lunch is usually served during the program. However, you’ll likely be responsible for your other meals.

Some treatment centers provide transport to and from the program. 

Scheduling and programming depend on the treatment center, but most facilities use various therapeutic techniques.

Many different treatment options are available in PHPs, including behavioral and holistic therapies. 

If you’re considering a PHP for your child, missing school is likely a concern. Most treatment centers recognize this and provide schooling in the program to avoid falling behind.

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What are the Benefits of PHPs?

A PHP is the ideal next step for anyone who’s just left rehab or residential treatment but doesn’t yet feel stable in recovery.

People still have a significant amount of support from the treatment center but can access the outside world in PHPs.

A PHP can help people comfortably transition back to their everyday lives. Additionally, too much freedom too soon can be harmful to a recovering addict.

Going straight from inpatient to outpatient treatment can place someone at a greater risk of falling into old habits.

The time commitment of PHPs provides structure, which plays an essential role in reducing the likelihood of relapse.

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Alternative Treatment Options 

There are other treatment options, which include:

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is also known as residential rehab because participants live at the facility.

This type of rehab can benefit people with severe drug and/or alcohol problems. It can also help people who are coping with co-occurring mental health conditions.

Living at a rehab facility helps people avoid temptations and bad influences that trigger their substance use. Living in a healthy environment supports recovery.

Licensed inpatient centers offer 24-hour support and highly focused care.

They use three phases of recovery in their treatment plans:

  • Detox
  • Reflection
  • Growth

Inpatient programs focus on helping people learn to adopt drug- and/or alcohol-free lifestyles following treatment. 

Many programs involve a step-down approach to help people transition from inpatient care to individual or group counseling outside of the center.

Both short-term and long-term residential rehab programs exist. People typically stay at long-term residential centers from 6 months to a year. Short-term facilities usually require stays of around 3 to 6 weeks.

Sober Living Houses

Sober living houses are also called halfway houses or recovery houses. They are group residences for people recovering from addiction.

Residents agree to stay sober while living in the house. They also agree to follow any drug-testing requests. 

There are usually fairly strict rules of conduct, including: 

  • Sign in and out requirements when not physically present in the residence
  • Requirements for chores to be regularly completed in the residence
  • Requirements for outside jobs/work efforts to be performed during the day
  • Failure to comply with these rules usually results in penalties, including expulsion from the residence

Private owners typically own these homes. However, charities and businesses may also own them.

Most homes are in residential neighborhoods. If you live in a sober house, you may have your own room or share with a roommate.

Usually, residents share communal spaces such as kitchens, living rooms, and backyards.

Sober living houses aren’t treatment centers. Staff members don’t provide any clinical or medical services. However, many residents attend outpatient treatment or participate in recovery-based groups.

Therapeutic Communities

Therapeutic communities are highly structured programs. People remain at a residence, typically for 6 to 12 months.

The whole community acts as key agents of change. They influence the person’s attitudes, understanding, and behaviors linked to their drug use. The community includes treatment staff and those in recovery.1

Updated on March 29, 2022
6 sources cited
  1. NIDA. "Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction DrugFacts." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 17 Jan. 2019
  2. Schene, A H, and B P Gersons. “Effectiveness and application of partial hospitalization.” Acta psychiatrica Scandinavica vol. 74,4 : 335-40
  3. Lieberman, Paul B et al. “Outcomes of Acute Partial Hospital Treatment: Comparison of Two Programs and a Waiting List Control.” Journal of psychiatric practice vol. 23,6 : 401-408
  4. McCarty, Dennis et al. “Substance abuse intensive outpatient programs: assessing the evidence.” Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.) vol. 65,6 : 718-26
  5. McLellan, A T et al. “"Intensive" outpatient substance abuse treatment: comparisons with "traditional" outpatient treatment.” Journal of addictive diseases vol. 16,2 : 57-84
  6. Simpson, Courtney C et al. “Predictors of Stepping Up to Higher Level of Care Among Eating Disorder Patients in a Partial Hospitalization Program.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 12 667868. 21 Jul. 2021

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