Partial Hospitalization Programs: What You Should Know 

December 12, 2023

6 mins

Jackie Rosu


Partial hospitalization programs, PHPs, give patients with severe symptoms an affordable middle ground for treatment.

Partial hospitalization programs, PHPs, give patients with severe symptoms an affordable middle ground for treatment. A patient stays in the hospital during the day and returns home at night. This split approach provides all the benefits of full hospitalization at a lower cost and with greater flexibility. According to the legal definition, PHPs are suitable for patients who require intense care but can keep themselves safe. 

PHPs cover many disorders, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance use disorders. 

Partial vs. Full Hospitalization 

Patients spend 100% of their time at the hospital when fully hospitalized, including overnight stays. A given patient eats, sleeps, and otherwise lives in the hospital. This approach is appropriate for patients in detox, critical condition, or recovering from a suicide attempt or overdose. However, the intense monitoring and associated high costs are not realistic for all patients. Partial hospitalization and other outpatient therapies better serve the patient’s needs in such cases. 

How Long is Partial Hospitalization? 

Short-term PHPs that last between one and four weeks are growing more popular than extended stays. This abbreviated approach uses a rigorous, structured treatment program that lasts between four and eight hours a day, five days a week. Patients spend all day in treatment and return to their homes each night. This approach imitates the familiar nine-to-five workday. Returning to a routine reduces stress and avoids life disruption, increasing treatment efficacy and reducing the chance of relapse or backsliding.

Why Stay in the Hospital Only Some of the Time? 

The stability of home life and the emotional support of family caregivers let PHP attendees rest after a day of therapy while families help hold patients accountable for their sobriety and medication management. Some PHPs give patients enough flexibility to continue work or school in a reduced capacity, which fosters a sense of normalcy while in recovery. 

Familiar Routine and Environment 

In a PHP, patients can maintain a modified version of their work and school routine, which allows them to benefit from treatment without severe emotional and economic difficulties. 


The cost for PHP patients is much lower than patients who spend 24 hours in the hospital. A partial hospitalization can cost as little as one-third the price of a hospital stay for insured patients and half as much for uninsured patients. Price is not always a determining factor, but many patients benefit greatly from PHP options when appropriate. 

Partial Hospitalization: Disorders Treated 

Many outsiders compare PHPs to outpatient drug rehab. While scheduled similarly, rehab focuses on substance use and related co-occurring disorders. Partial hospitalization programs specialize in other conditions. Popular specializations include mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, eating disorders, and depression.

Mental Health 

PHPs combine various treatment modalities with greater intensity and duration than a typical therapy regimen. While effective, this approach is not effective for every patient. Patients who are an active suicide risk or otherwise dangerous need hospitalization. The mental health treatments offered in a PHP are helpful for people whose treatment needs can’t fit into their daily lives.

Depression, Bipolar Disorder, and Suicidal Ideation 

People who are not actively suicidal but may be susceptible to depressive episodes can use PHPs before their situation worsens. Bipolar patients during a manic episode can use these programs to limit the potential damage done to their careers and finances.

Eating Disorders 

Eating disorders that PHPs treat include anorexia, binge eating, and rumination disorder. These illnesses can pose severe danger to nutrition and digestive health but are only life-threatening in the most severe cases. Patients can learn new techniques for healthy eating during the day and implement them during other meals at home.


Anxiety is extreme tension, fear, or nervousness triggered by any number of factors that cause severe emotional outbursts or major life disruptions. A common major disruption involves a patient’s inability to leave the house. Complete hospitalization with patients isolated from home could worsen this condition rather than treat it. PHPs’ less extreme intervention allows patients to return to a familiar, comfortable environment each night and rest after an intense treatment. 

OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) 

Partial hospitalization for OCD requires patients to spend time away from the disruptive rituals that impair their daily functions. Patients removed from this familiar environment during the day can’t participate in rituals, which opens the door to ritual prevention therapy. Patients can then implement those skills at home and report their progress the next day. 

Substance Abuse 

Outpatient rehab and PHPs seem similar, but PHPs are more involved. Most outpatient programs require 9-15 hours weekly, while a patient enrolled in a PHP meets 5-6 hours daily. A PHP is dissimilar to a residential rehab or other program where patients live in the facility 24/7. 

Programs in PHP

Most partial hospitalization programs have the same treatments and programs offered by inpatient hospitals at a fraction of the cost. Limited time each day focuses the patients on working hard and showing loved ones their progress. These programs take a proactive approach and help patients build the skills they need to stay out of inpatient. 

Counseling and Therapy 

Therapy, in conjunction with treatment, strengthens outcomes. Specialized PHPs offer therapy sessions in one or more styles to create a program suitable for the conditions they treat.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 

This common psychological therapy approach challenges the distorted thought patterns that perpetuate and intensify mental illness. These thought patterns influence mood disorders and addiction and make them more difficult to challenge. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps break that cycle, which makes it a “dominant psychotherapy modality” in modern clinics. 

Family Therapy 

This form of group therapy brings family members together to mend damaged or broken relationships. Family relationships form a strong support network that aids recovery, and family therapy helps reconstruct and strengthen those bonds. 

Family therapy also allows caregivers to air grievances, set boundaries, and gain the tools they need to succeed and advocate for themselves. 

Creative Therapy 

In creative therapy, patients paint, dance, sing, act out skits, build sculptures, and engage in the arts. These creative sessions are as stringent as other therapies so patients can find ways to communicate thoughts they struggle to verbalize.

Most therapies rely on verbal communication. Thoughts patients can’t articulate but discover in creative therapies help them progress in more traditional treatment sessions. A PHP’s tight schedule and combined approach help patients discuss these revelations minutes or hours after they happen. 

Trades Education and Life Skills

PHPs take a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to treatment to reduce the chances of a repeat visit. Educational programs in PHPs make patients less likely to require additional treatment and more likely to live happy, healthy lives. 

PHPs provide life skills training, which teaches coping mechanisms, healthy reactions, and vocational education. A typical hospital would not include education in its treatment package, but research shows a strong connection between “gainful employment” and successful, lasting recovery.


Trades education gives patients the foundation to build a healthy life and lifestyle after discharge from a program. Education opens new career paths for patients, who gain:

  • A source of legal income 
  • An external source of accountability 
  • Daily life structure 
  • Improved self-esteem courtesy of greater perceived competence 

Patients who struggle with listlessness, lack of direction due to mood disorders, or who have lost their jobs can undergo trades education as part of their busy day in a PHP. This education builds useful career skills that keep the patient employed as they recover. 

Life Skills 

“Life skills” refers to a collection of healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress involved in daily life after the patient leaves treatment. Life is stressful, and life skills training equips patients to deal with stress healthily rather than avoid it. 

Medication Management 

Psychiatric medications make a critical difference in psychiatric treatments, and noncompliance with drug regimens harms treatment outcomes. A PHP with scheduled medication administration forces patients to take their medications as prescribed, just as it would in an inpatient. A partial hospitalization program allows patients to enjoy freedom and flexibility while doctors enforce their medication regimens.

Find the Right Partial Hospitalization Program With Never Alone Recovery

Our services provide the resources patients need to locate the perfect drug recovery programs. From in-patient rehabs to partial hospitalization programs, we handle insurance verification, travel arrangements, and more. Call our toll-free number to learn more about how we can help you find the perfect treatment program. 

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