A partial hospitalization program (PHP) is a type of addiction treatment where you come to treatment during the day and return at home overnight. This can be preferable for people in certain circumstances.
The main benefit of a PHP is to provide the highest level of support and monitoring without requiring a 24-hour commitment. It is a compromise between the in-depth features of full inpatient treatment and the much lower level of support provided in an outpatient setting. In some cases, it may also allow you to avoid full hospitalization by offering you a faster intervention with more flexibility.
We can’t tell you whether PHP is right for you; that decision depends on your level of addiction, previous successes and failures, and even your medical needs. However, we can help you explore this topic so your decision is informed.
What Is a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)?
The exact definition of a PHP varies depending on the provider and the purpose of the program. For example, programs designed strictly for eating disorder patients are naturally much different than programs designed for people recovering from heroin addiction. Still, the main premise is always the same: provide the highest level of support possible while also preventing the need for full hospitalization.
In terms of addiction, the main purpose of a PHP program is to provide withdrawal management, medical oversight, and daily counseling. Being present at the facility throughout the day helps you stick to your recovery plan, which may reduce the risk of relapse in the first few critical weeks of sobriety. It also ensures that you never have to wait more than 12 hours to connect with a very strong support network, should you begin to struggle with cravings or emotions.
PHP Treatment Modules
PHP is highly structured. Treatment takes place at a specific facility or location every single day of the week. Programs typically include a broad range of methodologies and modules, each designed to address a different aspect of the whole patient. We’ll mention a few of these modules and how they can help in the next few sections.
Rarely does addiction ever occur in a vacuum. Stress, depression, anxiety, personality disorders, and past trauma can all cause or even exacerbate addiction by forcing people to feel the need to self-medicate. In PHP, psychiatric care ensures these concerns are respected, addressed, and treated.
Withdrawal isn’t always easy, especially from physically addictive drugs like benzodiazepines, alcohol, or opiates. Some patients may require medical monitoring for their own safety (e.g., to prevent or address seizures, dehydration, or electrolyte imbalance). Others may need maintenance therapies, but haven’t yet developed enough coping skills for a fully outpatient experience. Partial hospitalization programs ensure constant oversight and fast responses to the patient’s changing needs.
Most PHPs have counselors on staff, available, and accessible to patients in the program at any point throughout the day. This is ideal because it allows for a faster skilled response the moment the patient begins to struggle. Counselors use a variety of techniques and strategies to help patients regulate their emotions, develop new skills, and generally cope on-the-spot.
Group and Solo Therapy
Group and solo therapy sessions are in effect another form of counseling, but services are much more targeted and specific. In a group therapy session, for example, everyone may work on aspects of their addiction together. This can promote a sense of camaraderie and understanding, not to mention helping people develop friends who are also committed to recovery. Just knowing someone else understands you and has been where you are is often impactful.
Solo therapy is more targeted to the individual patients’ needs. Therapists might address the addiction directly, or they may help the patient address other contributing factors, such as mental or physical health. The goal is always to provide patients with alternative coping skills to using their drug of choice.
For patients who need medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder, partial hospitalization may help titrate dose and adherence faster. If side effects occur, or the dose isn’t correct, the fact that you interact with your care team daily will ensure you aren’t left struggling for days at a time. Your care team can address the problem and find ways to adjust your dose, or even just help you cope, the very next day.
The risk of relapse and diversion is also much, much lower when patients receive drugs like methadone or subutex directly from a medical professional within the scope of a PHP. If you aren’t sure whether you can trust yourself with take-homes (carries), this may be a wise choice.
Being able to have positive experiences matters, too! PHPs aren’t all about hard work and difficult experiences. In fact, most programs make safe, sober recreation opportunities available to help people in recovery let loose, blow off a little bit of steam, and just have fun. You may enjoy arts and crafts, playing music, visiting a farm to work with horses, or even getting out into the community with support.
Partial hospitalization can be a great “midpoint” between inpatient treatment and after-care. This is especially critical in addiction, where the shock of reintegrating into the community raises the risk for a relapse. Having patients return to the program each day inspires them to keep going, stick to the treatment plan, and address any relapses as they happen, when they happen.
When Is PHP Suitable?
Partial hospitalization is most suitable for people who need an increased level of support, but are stable enough to be alone overnight. However, there are other factors which may determine whether this option is suitable for you.
- Patients who are considering PHP should have a strong support network at home and a safe community to return to. If you are homeless, suffering from domestic violence, or have a risk for harm at home, inpatient treatment may be better. You will still need support after your day program ends.
- Generally, PHPs require that you have a low risk for extreme withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures, hallucinations, or delirium, within a 12-hour period. Patients who may be at risk for a medical emergency are often stabilized in hospital first.
- Safety is imperative. Patients who are suicidal or otherwise unable to cope should not attend partial hospitalization programs until stabilized.
- If you simply cannot spare the time to enter full hospitalization, PHPs may be a good “last resort.” This is often the case for parents, people who work to support a family, and people who care for a loved one.
- You must have adequate transportation in order to benefit from partial hospitalization, too. After all, if you can’t get to the program daily, you won’t be able to attend – and that means you won’t benefit.
Finally, partial hospitalization is best suited to those who have at least some measure of control over their addiction. If your addiction is so severe that you cannot trust yourself to avoid a relapse overnight, or if your symptoms are significant, you might not be ready for a PHP.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you don’t have any options at all. No matter how deep you are in active addiction, or how long it’s been since you were last sober, the right recovery facility can help. Reach out today and start your path to a brighter future.