Partial Hospitalization Program vs Intensive Outpatient Treatment: What’s the Difference?

Discover the difference between a partial hospitalization program vs intensive outpatient treatment in this comprehensive article.

Substance Abuse Disorder Treatment Programs

Addiction can take an enormous toll on physical, mental, and emotional health. Seeking treatment that best suits your needs is essential to achieve long-term sobriety. So, choosing between a partial hospitalization program vs intensive outpatient treatment requires careful consideration.

In this comprehensive article, we will discuss the differences between these two treatment programs. This will help you determine which option offers the most benefit and support in recovery from addiction.

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The Importance of Getting Help for Addiction

Between a partial hospitalization program vs intensive outpatient program, both help patients achieve the following:

  • Improved Quality of Life: Addiction can lead to a cycle of negative consequences and reduced overall well-being. Treatment can break this cycle and help individuals regain control over their lives. They will experience improved self-esteem, self-care, and decision-making. This will result in a more fulfilling and meaningful life.
  • Improved Relationships: Addiction can strain relationships with loved ones. Treatment can help individuals rebuild and repair relationships. It can also help them develop healthier ways of relating and connecting to others.
  • Personal Growth: Addiction can stifle personal growth and development. It can hinder goals, responsibilities, and aspirations and may result in missed opportunities in various areas of life. Addiction treatment can help gain insight and work toward personal growth and self-improvement.
  • Long-Term Recovery: Addiction is a chronic condition that requires ongoing management and support. Treatment provides the tools, skills, and support needed for long-term recovery. It also helps individuals develop relapse prevention strategies and learn how to cope with triggers and challenges that may arise in their recovery journey.

What Is a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)?

A partial hospitalization program (PHP) provides individuals with structured, therapeutic treatment during the day while allowing them to return home or to a supportive living environment in the evening.

PHPs are most suitable for individuals who require more support than traditional outpatient programs but do not need the full twenty-four-hour care provided by inpatient programs. They offer a flexible and supportive environment. This allows individuals to receive the treatment they need while maintaining their daily lives.

What Treatments Do PHPs Typically Incorporate in Recovery Plans?

Partial hospitalization programs often take place in a hospital or mental health facility. Patients attend structured daily programming for several hours each day, usually five days a week, and return home in the evenings.

The treatment team works with each patient to develop an individualized treatment plan. This helps them achieve their goals and manage their symptoms effectively. Partial hospitalization programs provide a range of services. They include individual and group therapy, medication management, family therapy, psychoeducation, holistic therapy, and skill-building activities to support the recovery process. These programs can also help treat co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders.

PHPs Treatment Goals

The treatment goals of PHPs address the specific needs of each patient. These goals may include stabilization of symptoms, developing coping skills, improving functioning in daily life, managing medication, and preventing relapse.

When considering a partial hospitalization program vs intensive outpatient program, the length of treatment for both will depend on the individual’s goals, the severity of their symptoms, and their progress throughout the program. The treatment team will regularly assess the progress of the patient and adjust the treatment plan accordingly.

PHPs emphasize transition planning. This means the program helps patients prepare for less intensive care, like outpatient treatment. For instance, the treatment team may develop a relapse prevention plan and provide community resources. They may also offer supporting ongoing therapy.

Who Are PHPs Best For?

PHPs offer a comprehensive approach to addressing mental health and substance use disorders. These programs are best suited for individuals with a supportive living environment. This is because PHPs do not provide around-the-clock care. Thus, treatment teams usually provide this option as a step down from or an alternative to inpatient hospitalization.

Those struggling to maintain their daily lives can benefit from partial hospitalization programs. These programs can also help patients who have difficulty continuing treatments.

How Effective Are Partial Hospitalization Programs?

A partial hospitalization program vs intensive outpatient treatment will vary in their effectiveness depending on the individual. PHPs are effective due to their ability to provide intensive, multidisciplinary care. They focus on coping strategies and addressing the root causes of an individual’s substance abuse.

Research shows that PHPs can effectively reduce the severity of symptoms and improve well-being and relational health. These programs are ideal for those who need extensive treatment, but not twenty-four-hour care.1

What Is an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)?

An intensive outpatient program (IOP) offers structured and comprehensive therapy. Like PHP, it does not require individuals to stay at a treatment facility overnight. When comparing a partial hospitalization program vs intensive outpatient program, IOPs provide a more flexible approach to treatment. Intensive outpatient programs allow patients to maintain their daily responsibilities while receiving treatment.

IOP Treatment Opportunities

The treatment options offered by a partial hospitalization program vs intensive outpatient program are very similar. IOPs provide individual therapy, group therapy, medication management, and family therapy. They may also provide psychoeducation, holistic therapy, and skill-building activities.

These services help individuals develop coping mechanisms and live a more positive and healthier life. Many studies have found IOPs to effectively reduce hospitalizations and symptoms. Patients have also reported positive outcomes after treatment.2

Who Are IOPs Best For?

While many similarities are evident in a partial hospitalization program vs intensive outpatient program comparison, there are a few notable differences. An IOP is generally most suitable for those transitioning out of a PHP or inpatient setting. The program also works best for those seeking ongoing support.

IOPs provide more structured and intensive treatment compared to regular outpatient programs. They help patients manage symptoms and emotions, develop coping mechanisms for triggers, and improve daily life.

IOPs offer a flexible approach to treatment. They help individuals receive care while maintaining daily responsibilities like work or school. These programs may last longer than partial hospitalization programs due to their less rigid nature.

The Benefits of a Partial Hospitalization Program vs Intensive Outpatient Program

If you are still unsure whether to choose a partial hospitalization program vs intensive outpatient program, it’s important to assess the benefits of each.

Level of Intensity

A partial hospitalization program vs intensive outpatient program provides a higher level of care. PHPs require individuals to attend treatment sessions for up to eight hours per day, five days per week, for at least three months.3

IOPs are less intensive, involving fewer treatment hours per week, usually ranging from nine to twenty hours per week. Some PHPs and IOPs offer treatment options in the evenings or on weekends. This helps to accommodate individuals’ work or school schedules.


PHPs are usually located in a clinical or hospital setting, as cases in these programs are often more severe. This provides access to medical and psychiatric care and more intensive support and supervision. IOPs are frequently provided in outpatient clinics or community mental health centers. Thus, they may not involve as much medical or psychiatric oversight.


IOPs generally offer more flexibility compared to PHPs. With up to eight hours per day, five hours per week, PHPs are more difficult to maintain regular schedules.

Focus of Treatment

While a partial hospitalization program vs intensive outpatient program both offer evidence-based treatments, the focus of treatment may vary. PHPs are often designed for individuals with more critical symptoms or higher levels of impairment. They provide close monitoring or stabilization due to safety concerns.

IOPs are more beneficial for individuals stable enough to live at home and manage daily activities. The program supports those who still need further care than traditional outpatient treatment. It focuses on intensive therapy and skills-building to help patients become more independent.

Duration of Program

The duration of a partial hospitalization program vs intensive outpatient program may also differ. PHPs are usually shorter, lasting a few months. IOPs may last several months or more, depending on the individual’s progress and treatment goals.

Aftercare Planning

Both PHPs and IOPs involve aftercare planning to support individuals in transitioning to lower levels of care. However, the aftercare plan may involve more extensive support for a partial hospitalization program vs intensive outpatient program. This is due to the higher intensity and more critical nature of PHPs.

For instance, the treatment team may refer to a slightly lower level of care, like IOP. This is because transitioning from a PHP to a traditional outpatient program may be too drastic. IOPs aftercare planning may include referrals to ongoing outpatient therapy, support groups, and community resources.

What Treatments Are Available at a Partial Hospitalization Program vs Intensive Outpatient Program?

Whether you attend a partial hospitalization program vs intensive outpatient program, each type of care generally offers similar treatment options. Common treatments in PHPs and IOPs will be detailed below.

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy involves direct, one-on-one communication between an individual and a trained clinician. It aims to explore substance abuse or mental health issues the patient may be facing and identify sources of stress or anxiety. Therapists help develop effective strategies for coping with difficult emotions, thoughts, and triggers.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is an effective treatment for individuals struggling with substance abuse and mental health conditions. A trained therapist leads discussions about addiction and mental health concerns. Some topics include risk factors, symptom management, and coping techniques for cravings. The therapist will also provide tips on how to recognize warning signs of relapse.

Group therapy allows individuals to connect with others facing similar struggles. This creates a sense of understanding and support. It can also help increase individuals’ motivation to stay in treatment by reducing feelings of isolation.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on the connection between our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. CBT can help change negative thinking and behavior patterns to more positive ones. This type of therapy is common in both a partial hospitalization program vs intensive outpatient program.

It involves identifying unhealthy patterns and learning new skills to manage difficult emotions. CBT also increases awareness of undesirable behavior and improves communication skills. This makes it ideal for patients to work through any symptoms or negative issues related to their substance abuse.4

Medication-Assisted Therapy

Medication-assisted therapy (MAT) combines behavioral therapy and medications to treat substance use disorders. MAT involves using FDA-approved medications to reduce withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and substance use. For alcohol use disorder, the medications include acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone. For opioid use disorder the medications include methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. It also includes therapeutic methods to address underlying issues related to addiction and provide support for recovery.5

Treatment teams use MAT in both short-term and long-term treatment plans. It typically lasts at least four months or longer, depending on individual needs. The length also depends on whether it is used in a partial hospitalization program vs intensive outpatient program. Note that MAT may not be necessary for some individuals depending on where they are in their recovery journey.

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Rockland Recovery Can Help You Decide Between a Partial Hospitalization Program vs Intensive Outpatient Program

If you are deciding between a partial hospitalization program vs intensive outpatient program, reach out to Rockland Recovery today for help. Our supportive and caring team can help you determine what kind of program will benefit you the most. We will work with you to create an individualized treatment program that will best suit your needs.

We offer numerous addiction treatment programs. They include our day partial hospitalization program, evening partial hospitalization program, and day intensive outpatient program. Our experienced treatment team will assess your situation, symptoms, and budget when deciding between a partial hospitalization program vs intensive outpatient program. We also offer a family program and have separate men’s and women’s rehab centers for gender-exclusive treatment.

If You’re Ready to Begin Healing, Reach Out To Us Today

Reach out to our substance abuse treatment center at Rockland Recovery today. Our staff is always happy to help answer any questions you may have. We will be with you during every step of the recovery process to ensure you are on your way to sobriety and a happier and healthier life.

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