There is no one road to addiction recovery. Just as every person’s experience with addiction is going to be unique, so should be their addiction treatment. There are many kinds of therapies and treatment modalities that have a long-proven track record of effectiveness in addiction rehabilitation, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but there are other aspects of recovery that can be extremely helpful for one person but not for another.
Knowing what addiction treatment is going to be useful for someone involves a thorough evaluation of factors such as the individual’s mental and physical health, their medical history if they have a history of prior addictions or relapse, the severity of their current addiction, and the state of their home environment.
These are just a few of the different factors that help determine things like if someone will do better in an inpatient or outpatient treatment setting. For some people struggling with a severe, long-term addiction and a history of relapse, they would be most likely to benefit from inpatient or residential treatment, where they can receive 24-hour medical monitoring and care and are removed from potential triggers and temptations so that they can focus entirely on their recovery.
However, this is not necessary for everyone, nor is it always feasible. For someone with a less severe addiction who is otherwise in fairly good health with a supportive and stable home environment, outpatient treatment is most likely going to be the most effective option. Also, for many who cannot leave their jobs or school or whose insurance will not cover a lengthy residential stay, outpatient treatment is also the most practical.
There are actually several levels of outpatient care, so even if someone does have more complex issues tied to their substance use disorder or other present health issues, an inpatient stay still may not be necessary. This is where partial hospitalization comes in.
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At its most basic definition, an outpatient treatment program is a form of addiction treatment that does not require the patient to live onsite at a treatment facility. Instead, they will regularly visit for medical check-ins, therapy sessions, and other treatments for varying amounts of time, typically at least a couple of days a week.
While still offering the majority of the same services, outpatient treatment programs are significantly less structured and intensive and are largely dependent on the needs of the person in treatment. With a minimum two hours a week spent in treatment, it can give those seeking treatment a level of freedom and flexibility that inpatient or residential treatment cannot provide.
However, on the spectrum between inpatient and outpatient treatment, someone might find themselves in the middle. They may not require the continuous monitoring of inpatient treatment but still require a higher level of care than what is provided in a basic outpatient program.
For those that may not have a particularly severe substance use disorder but instead have a co-occurring disorder or other specific need that necessitates a more intensive form of care, this is where a partial hospitalization program comes in.
Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) is a more structured, comprehensive, medically intensive subset of outpatient treatment.
The American Society of Addiction Medication (ASAM), has what is referred to as a continuum of care that designates different levels of care based on their intensity and the needs of the individual in question. The highest level of care is Level Four, which is classified as medically-managed intensive inpatient services, for patients who are medically unstable and require constant monitoring by a physician. At the other end at Level One are general outpatient services, which are classified as fewer than nine hours of therapeutic care per week.
A partial hospitalization program falls under Level 2.5, in between intensive outpatient care and low-intensity residential care. It is defined by the ASAM as typically involving an instability (such as a co-occurring mental health issue) that does not need 24-hour monitoring and usually a minimum 20 hours per week of therapeutic care.
In short, a partial hospitalization program is designed for someone experiencing emotional, mental, or behavioral issues in conjunction with their substance abuse, but not to the degree that they cannot be released into a reliably stable home environment.
While someone in PHP treatment is still not required to live at a treatment facility, their appointments will generally be much more frequent than someone on a lower tier of outpatient care. Typically, as part of their treatment program, an individual will spend approximately five days a week for about four to six hours at a time at a recovery facility.
Partial hospitalization is also often used as an in-between step as someone progresses through their recovery program and works their way down the levels of care. Someone who has successfully completed an inpatient treatment program but is not yet ready to move on to outpatient treatment will often benefit from using PHP treatment as a step-down service that allows them to maintain a high level of support while still moving forward in their recovery.
Similarly, someone who has started their recovery at the PHP treatment level will typically need to step down to regular outpatient services as opposed to moving directly to aftercare. Their treatment will be much less frequent and for fewer hours at a time, but still provide more support than post-treatment options such as outside support groups or counseling.
The services involved in a partial hospitalization program are similar to what is available at the inpatient level of care. Most PHP treatment programs will place a strong emphasis on dual diagnosis treatment, as co-occurring disorders are frequently the reason why someone will find more success being treated at the partial hospitalization level than just regular outpatient treatment.
Though it will involve at least some of these services, the exact makeup of a given partial hospitalization treatment program will depend, as previously stated, on the unique needs of the individual. Generally, once someone has been evaluated, they will work with their therapist or counselor to create the treatment plan that will be most effective for them.