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When looking at treatment options there are many options. A wonderful place to start is identifying the level of care you are seeking. Beginning with the most intensive; detox level of care. This includes 24-hour monitoring at an acute or sub-acute facility. Beyond detox is residential level of care. Like detox, residential is also inpatient care. Following inpatient care, it is recommended to participate in continuing care. This article will review what PHP is, the benefits of continuity of care, and data that supports longer lengths of treatment equate better patient outcomes.

What is PHP?

PHP stands for partial hospitalization program although does not need to be held in a hospital setting. Many outpatient substance abuse centers have a PHP program for ongoing support and continuing care after inpatient treatment. A client may enter treatment at PHP level of care if medical necessity isn’t met for detox or residential services. PHP requires 6 hours of treatment per day and is held 4-5 x per week. PHP is residential in the context of treatment hours and added supports, although patients live at home or at a local sober living. PHP is not only exclusive to substance abuse and mental health providers also offer PHP. PHP is intensive, comprehensive, and structured. The focus of many groups in lower levels of care includes relapse prevention tools to cope with stressors and combat cravings. It can also offer community support and access to informal community support groups such as 12-step meetings.

What is the difference between PHP and IOP?

PHP and IOP are both outpatient treatment programs, although one is less intensive than the other. IOP stands for intensive outpatient program and includes 3 hours of treatment, whereas PHP includes 6. Patient’s will be assessed by outpatient providers to determine their level of care and work collaboratively with the patient to ensure it adheres to scheduling needs.

PHP Stats

According to the data from Steven L. Proctor and Philip L. Herschman, “patients receiving 3 months or more of treatment in long-term residential and outpatient treatment demonstrated significantly better outcomes with respect to lower rates of illicit drug use and improvements in several additional areas of behavioral functioning (e.g., employment, criminality) at the 12-month follow-up relative to patients with treatment durations of less than 3 months.” The studies over the years have presented similar data confirming longer lengths of time in treatment directly informs a better prognosis, thus reducing risks of lapsing into maladaptive behaviors.

The Bottom Line

PHP treatment is a crucial part of the recovery process and offers structured treatment to continue working on recovery efforts with more “freedom” than residential. PHP is outpatient programming, and a patient may reside at home or in a supportive living environment such as a sober living. Continuing care is not only widely recommended by treatment professionals, but also backed by research. PHP is a great starting off point after inpatient treatment or if indicated for other circumstances as a direct admittance. PHP reinforces the tools and strategies needed to reduce overall risk and improve daily functioning.


Beard, Courtney PhD; Hearon, Bridget A. PhD; Lee, Josephine BS; Kopeski, Lynne M. MSN, PMHCNS-BC; Busch, Alisa B. MD, MS; Björgvinsson, Thröstur PhD, ABPP. When Partial Hospitalization Fails: Risk Factors for Inpatient Hospitalization. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 204(6):p 431-436, June 2016. | DOI: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000515

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