PHP and IOP – Differentiating Between the Two Main Types of Outpatient Programs

Acronyms like PHP and IOP can be confusing to anyone not in the treatment industry, and as a parent, it’s valuable to know the differences between Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) and Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP). Understanding what is PHP vs what is IOP is important when making such an important decision for your child and their long-term recovery.

What Are Outpatient Programs like PHP and IOP?

There are two main types of treatment for mental health issues and substance use disorder. One option is inpatient treatment where the patient lives at the treatment center with a high level of care. Another option is full hospitalization if a teen was a danger to themselves or others. If outpatient options are not available or fail to work, then inpatient services provide a higher level of care and take precedence.

Indeed, both Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) and Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) play roles after inpatient programs as well. The “hospitalization” part of Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) is a little misleading as it does not take place at a hospital. Rather, it is simply a more intensive version of IOP and the teen does not live at the facility. PHPs and IOPs offer a transition back to normality post-rehab and they provide support for teens after they leave an inpatient program.

PHP and IOP Are More Common Than You Think

The Treatment Episode Data offers the latest information about substance use disorder and mental health programs nationwide. This resource is managed the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA). According to the latest Treatment Episode Data, 39% of people discharged from a public treatment program in 2017 were also discharged from outpatient programs, proving the point that outpatient programs are extremely common.

Before making such an influential decision, parents should understand the between PHP and IOP. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Outpatient treatment varies in the types and intensity of services offered… outpatient models, such as intensive day treatment, can be comparable to residential programs in services and effectiveness, depending on the individual patient’s characteristics and needs. In many outpatient programs, group counseling can be a major component.”A group of four happy young women embrace in a line out in a hilly landscape at sunrise.

What is PHP?

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) are the most intensive level of non-residential, non-inpatient care that is available after or before inpatient services with a high Level of Care. In the majority of cases, a PHP means a short-term, yet comprehensive and intensive, clinical treatment program.

When it comes to services, most PHP outpatient programs offer the following:

  1. Individual Therapy
  2. Group Therapy
  3. Psychoeducational Support
  4. Stress Management
  5. Skills Development Exercises
  6. Relapse Prevention Techniques
  7. Medication Assessments and Updates

Unlike IOP outpatient programs, many PHP outpatient programs offer individualized treatment plans and more one-on-one therapy. Ultimately, the goal of a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) is to progress to the point where a ‘step down’ in the Level of Care is possible. Most PHP programs require a patient to be present five days a week for about six hours per day.

What is IOP?

Although PHP and IOP programs have different names, they are similar in many ways. An Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is only a slight step down in Level of Care from a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP). Most IOP programs require a patient to be present three days a week for about three hours per day.

According to the official definition by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, an Intensive Outpatient Program “requires participants to have a minimum of 9 hours of therapeutic contact per week—at least in the initial treatment stage.”

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) tend to be more uniform and have less one-on-one counseling and individualized treatment plans. Given the lower level of care, the focus is more on the following service options:

  1. Group Counseling
  2. Psychoeducational Support
  3. Stress Management
  4. Transition Planning (Short and Long-Term)
  5. Skills Development Exercises
  6. Relapse Prevention Techniques
  7. Ongoing Medication Assessments

Although the two outpatient service options have different names, they offer very similar services and an overall high Level of Care.

Determining the Level of Care for a Loved One

Understanding what is PHP vs. what is IOP is crucial when determining which level of care you should pursue for your loved one. Remember to consult with a treatment professional as nothing prevails over experience and expertise. Therefore, trust professionals when making decisions about Level of Care for a child in need.