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What is a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)?

What is a partial hospitalization program and how can it help you or your loved one achieve sustainable recovery? Find out here.


In today’s world, there are many different options for mental health treatment. Navigating the landscape of mental health treatment can feel like deciphering an alphabet soup of acronyms.

In recent years, partial hospitalization programs (PHP) have gained attention for their flexibility and effectiveness.

what is a partial hospitalization program

What to Expect From This Article

In this article, we’ll explore what a partial hospitalization program is and how it differs from other forms of treatment.
We’ll examine the primary goals and objectives of these programs. We’ll also consider who would benefit from a PHP, and who may be more suitable for a different treatment option.
If you or someone you know could benefit from mental health treatment, this article can help determine if a partial hospitalization program is the right fit.

What is a Partial Hospitalization Program?

Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) are often referred to as day programs. These programs offer intensive, structured clinical treatment designed for people with psychiatric or substance use disorders.

Partial hospitalization programs are a more intensive treatment option than outpatient care. However, they are less restrictive than inpatient hospitalization. Partial hospitalization programs provide a vital step in the continuum of care, bridging the gap between inpatient and outpatient services.1
Patients typically participate in PHP treatment for several hours a day, often five days a week. The exact duration depends on the program’s design and the individual’s needs. This allows for intensive therapy and lets the individual return home in the evenings.

Primary Goals and Objectives of a PHP

The primary goals and objectives of partial hospitalization programs can vary based on different factors. Examples include the patient’s needs, the program’s focus, and the specific methods used.
Some primary goals and objectives of a PHP include the following:

Stabilization of Symptoms

The ultimate goal of these programs is to reduce acute psychiatric symptoms to a manageable level. Thus, ensuring that the patient is not a danger to themselves or others.
For many patients, the immediate goal is to decrease the severity and frequency of problematic symptoms, thus, allowing them to function without interference from unwanted symptoms.

Prevent Hospitalization

Partial hospitalization programs offer intensive outpatient services to help avoid or reduce the need for hospitalization. By providing a high level of care in a structured setting, some patients can prevent the escalation of symptoms that might require inpatient care.

Medication Management

The objective of medication management is to monitor and adjust medications as needed, ensuring optimal therapeutic levels and managing side effects. PHP allows for closer monitoring of medication efficacy and side effects. This makes it easier to fine-tune treatment.

Skills Development

Partial hospitalization programs equip patients with coping mechanisms, life skills, and emotional regulation tools. The intensive nature of a PHP provides ample opportunities to learn and practice new skills in a supportive environment.

Relapse Prevention

Relapse prevention aims to provide individuals with the tools, strategies, and education necessary to prevent future psychiatric crises or substance use relapses. This objective focuses on long-term wellness and self-management.


Psychoeducation involves educating patients about their diagnoses, treatment options, and management strategies. Understanding one’s condition can empower patients to participate in their treatment and recovery actively.

What is a Partial Hospitalization Program?: How is a PHP Different From Other Treatment Options?

A partial hospitalization program is a middle ground between traditional outpatient therapy and inpatient hospitalization. So, while they share some similarities, they are also very different. We’ll examine these differences in detail below.

Partial Hospitalization Programs vs. Traditional Outpatient Therapy

A PHP differs from traditional outpatient therapy in the following ways:

Duration and Intensity

Partial hospitalization programs often operate 5-7 days a week for several hours daily. However, traditional outpatient treatment typically involves weekly or bi-weekly sessions. These sessions usually last for about an hour.


Partial hospitalization programs provide a highly structured environment like inpatient care while still allowing the individual to return home in the evening. This structure includes scheduled activities like group therapy and individual therapy. It can also include medical monitoring and other approaches.
On the other hand, traditional outpatient therapy is much less structured. In outpatient therapy, the patient typically attends individual therapy sessions or perhaps group therapy. This flexibility allows individuals to maintain a wider range of responsibilities within their day-to-day life.

Treatment Team

In a partial hospitalization program, the treatment team is multidisciplinary. This means it includes psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, social workers, nurses, and other specialists.
On the other hand, traditional outpatient therapy often involves a more limited team. In this case, the treatment team may just be a therapist or psychiatrist.

Treatment Goals

Partial hospitalization programs may also differ from traditional outpatient therapy in terms of treatment goals. A PHP will often focus on immediate symptom stabilization, intensive treatment, and transition to outpatient care.
Traditional outpatient therapy, however, focuses on ongoing support and skill-building. It also focuses on the management of longer-term mental health issues.

What is a Partial Hospitalization Program Like Compared to Inpatient Hospitalization?

Both partial hospitalization programs and inpatient hospitalization provide structured mental health treatment. However, they differ in several key ways.
Some differences include:
  • Setting: In a PHP, patients return home at the end of the day after receiving treatment. They do not stay overnight in the treatment facility. In inpatient treatment, patients remain in a hospital or a specialized facility 24/7 for a limited period of time.
  • Intensity and Duration: Partial hospitalization programs generally offer treatment five to seven days a week. Sessions can last for several hours each day. Inpatient hospitalization, however, provides round-the-clock care. In addition, the duration of treatment is typically more intensive and might last from a few days to several weeks. 
  • Freedom and Structure: Although structured, partial hospitalization programs offer more freedom than inpatient hospitalization. In a PHP, patients return home between sessions. In some cases, they might even continue working or attending school.
  • Cost: A PHP is typically less expensive than inpatient care. This is primarily due to the fact that there’s no cost for overnight stays. Inpatient hospitalization is more extensive in that it provides 24/7 care, room, board, and intensive services. 
  • Transition and Continuity of Care: A PHP will often serve as a transitional step for patients leaving inpatient care. This is especially true for patients transitioning from inpatient care back to daily life. It can help bridge the gap, ensuring continuity of care.

When is a PHP the Right Choice?

The appropriateness of a partial hospitalization program is based on multiple factors. These include the following:

Severity of Symptoms

This refers to people with moderate to severe psychiatric symptoms, or individuals struggling with symptoms that impair daily functioning but don’t require constant supervision. Individuals who might be experiencing increased symptoms but are not in immediate crisis also fall under this category.


This refers to those who may be at risk of requiring inpatient hospitalization. A PHP can serve as an intervention to prevent the progression to a state requiring inpatient treatment.

Medication Management

Medication management is used for patients who are currently using or may need medication to manage their symptoms. It is also recommended for patients undergoing significant medication changes. A PHP should allow for regular assessments and adjustments in a supportive setting.

Structured Support

Partial hospitalization programs provide a structured environment that can help individuals establish routines and manage their symptoms. It can also help to develop coping strategies.


Partial hospitalization programs are suitable for those who are not at immediate risk of self-harm or harm to others. For those at immediate risk, inpatient care is more appropriate.

Dual Diagnosis

Partial hospitalization programs can be suitable for patients with co-occurring disorders, such as individuals struggling with alcoholism and anxiety simultaneously.

A reputable PHP should be able to address the underlying root of both conditions at the same time, rather than just treating the overlying symptoms, to provide the best chance for sustainable recovery.

Therapeutic Readiness

People who are motivated and ready to engage in intensive therapeutic work can benefit from a partial hospitalization program.

Family and Social Support

A PHP can be particularly effective for those with a supportive home environment. The support of family or close friends can be crucial to recovery.

Skills Building

Partial hospitalization programs can help develop specific skills, such as coping mechanisms, stress management techniques, or interpersonal skills. This can help individuals navigate challenges that once exacerbated their mental health or substance use disorder.

Cost Considerations

Partial hospitalization programs can be a cost-effective alternative to inpatient care, for individuals who don’t require close supervision. These programs provide intensive treatment without the added cost of overnight stays.

Therapeutic Modalities and Interventions Offered In a PHP

Partial hospitalization programs provide a blend of therapeutic modalities and interventions. These therapeutic interventions can be tailored to meet individual needs. The variety of options provided ensures that each patient’s unique mental health challenges are holistically addressed.
Some common therapeutic modalities and interventions in PHP include the following:

Individual Therapy

This refers to one-on-one sessions with a therapist. It is done to address personal challenges, emotions, and behaviors. Therapists adapt the approach based on the individual’s diagnosis, symptoms, and personal history.2
For instance, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy might be used for someone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Group Therapy

This refers to structured sessions where multiple patients discuss and share experiences under a therapist’s guidance. Different groups can focus on specific issues.
Examples include depression, anxiety, addiction, or interpersonal relationships. This provides communal support, accountability, and diverse perspectives.

Family Therapy

These are sessions that include family members. They address relational dynamics and improve communication, enabling family members to gain a deeper understanding of one another and the tools to establish healthy boundaries when necessary.
The tailoring approach varies depending on the family’s needs. Family therapy can address issues like substance use disorder and conflict resolution.


This refers to educational sessions that inform patients about mental health conditions. It also involves education about treatment options and coping strategies. The content is adjusted based on the diagnoses prevalent within the group, ensuring relevance.3

Medication Management

This refers to regular evaluations to ensure a patient’s medications are effective. It also involves addressing side effects and making necessary adjustments.
Medication regimens are individualized based on specific diagnoses, symptoms, and any potential drug interactions.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns and behaviors. Tailoring CBT depends on the condition being treated. For someone with phobias, exposure therapy (a subset of CBT) might be introduced.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a form of CBT that teaches emotional regulation. It also teaches mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance.
DBT is particularly effective for borderline personality disorder. However, it can be adapted for other conditions, especially when emotional dysregulation is a key symptom.

Mindfulness and Meditation

These techniques promote presence, self-awareness, and relaxation. For example, deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation can be beneficial for people with anxiety disorders.

Expressive Therapies

This refers to using art, music, dance, or drama to explore and express feelings. Someone with difficulty verbalizing emotions might be directed toward art therapy, for example. This approach can help them to visually depict their feelings.
Often, expressive therapies can complement more traditional treatment modalities – such as individual counseling or medication management – for a more comprehensive, whole-person approach to healing.

Experiential Therapy

This involves using activities or props to address underlying issues. Examples of these activities include role-playing and guided imagery. This approach is used in trauma therapy to help individuals reprocess distressing memories.

Relapse Prevention

These are strategies and tools that can help prevent a return to harmful behaviors. This is especially useful in treating substance use disorders. For someone with an alcohol use disorder, interventions might focus on identifying triggers. They may also focus on planning sober activities.

Skills Training

This involves teaching practical skills for daily living. These skills also help with emotional regulation and communication. For example, someone with ADHD might receive specific training in time management. They may also receive training in organizational skills.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR offers a unique structured therapy approach. It helps individuals process traumatic memories. It is specifically used for trauma and PTSD, focusing on the patient’s traumatic events.4

Biofeedback and Neurofeedback

Biofeedback, a non-invasive therapeutic technique, involves using electronic monitoring to provide individuals with real-time information about physiological processes in their body, such as heart rate, muscle tension, or skin temperature.
This information enables individuals in recovery to gain conscious control over these processes, aiding in stress reduction, pain management, and overall well-being.
Neurofeedback, a subset of biofeedback, specifically focuses on monitoring and training brain activity patterns, helping individuals in recovery regulate brain functions and address conditions like anxiety, depression, or addiction through self-regulation of their neural responses.

12-Step Programs

These programs focus on addiction recovery. They also focus on personal responsibility and mutual support. Different 12-step groups exist for various addictions. Examples include Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
what is a partial hospitalization program

What is a Partial Hospitalization Program Like at South Shore Recovery?

At South Shore Recovery, we recognize the complexities and difficulties that accompany the journey of recovery. In response to these challenges, we extend a helping hand to guide you through every step of your recovery.

What We Offer

We provide a highly-knowledgeable and compassionate team of experts who work with you to guide your treatment journey. Our dedicated staff includes experienced and licensed therapists, counselors, and a range of other medical professionals.
Their collective expertise ensures that your treatment experience is not only comprehensive but also tailored to address your unique needs.
We firmly believe that a strong support system forms the foundation for successful recovery. At South Shore Recovery, we offer a safe and supportive environment to share your concerns, triumphs, and setbacks.

Contact Us Today

If you’re ready to start your journey to wellness in Plymouth, Massachusetts, contact us today. Our dedicated team is ready to answer your questions and guide you toward recovery.
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