What Is the Difference Between Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient Treatment?

What Is the Difference Between Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient Treatment?

Having a mental health condition can make life challenging. Between keeping up with daily tasks and trying to manage your symptoms, it’s easy to feel discouraged. If your symptoms are persistent and interfere with everyday life, there are various treatment options available.

A study concluded that the prevalence of mental health disorders is growing. It’s imperative now more than ever that those battling mental health struggles have access to treatment. When it comes to seeking mental health services, it’s vital to examine the different types of treatment and their benefits to determine which is right for you.

Outpatient mental health treatment is a specific service that takes place in a structured outpatient setting. It differs from inpatient treatment because clients get to return home every evening.

The three types of outpatient programs are standard outpatient treatment, including individual sessions with a therapist, intensive outpatient program (IOP), and partial hospitalization program (PHP).

What Is a Partial Hospitalization Program?

While there are many similarities between a PHP and IOP, there are also significant differences.

During partial hospitalization treatment, clients attend this program for several hours, three to five days per week. PHP is considered a “step down” from inpatient and is more intensive than an IOP. The length of the time spent in this program is based on each client’s needs. After completing a PHP, clients often transition to standard outpatient treatment.

During partial hospitalization treatment, you’ll have individual therapy and group counseling sessions where you’ll work on things like building coping skills, team building, and stress management.

What Is an Intensive Outpatient Program?

An IOP is ideal for people who require a lower level of care. During IOP, you’ll have group therapy, psychoeducational groups, skills development groups, and interpersonal groups. All of these will support you on your journey to healing.


When comparing PHP to IOP, the main difference is the time commitment. Partial hospitalization treatment typically requires clients to attend the program for a more extended period than intensive outpatient.

During both types of treatment, clients may have a combination of group therapy, individual therapy, and other treatment modalities to help manage mental health. Clients are also able to participate in various recreational activities.

The group aspect of outpatient treatment is especially beneficial because you get support from people going through similar experiences and backgrounds. Both programs offer flexibility so that you’re still able to tend to your other responsibilities.

How Do I Know Which Treatment Option Is Best for Me?

PHP treatment is often used to transition clients from inpatient to outpatient care, so it’s ideal for someone who recently left inpatient treatment. It’s best for those who are still at risk of causing harm to themselves or struggle with a severe mental health condition. On the other hand, if you require a less intense level of treatment and are ready to get back into your usual routine, an IOP is best for you.

It can be difficult to figure out which treatment option is best for you. There are several factors to consider when choosing a program. These include:

#1 Affordability

When seeking treatment, it’s crucial to consider your financial situation. Insurance usually covers mental health services, and some programs offer payment plans. Outpatient treatment is also more accessible than inpatient treatment because it’s less expensive.

#2 Time Commitment

Think about how much time you have to devote to treatment. Are you available several hours a day to attend a PHP, or do you need an IOP that only requires a few hours of your time? Treatment can be time-consuming, but it’s worth the time it takes to heal.

#3 Lifestyle

Be honest with yourself about the severity of your symptoms, the level of care you need, and your lifestyle. If you’re finding it difficult to function every day or engaging in self-destructive behaviors frequently, you may need to be in a partial hospitalization program. However, an intensive outpatient program is a better option if you’re struggling with symptoms and still require care but are ready to get back to your daily life.

Caring for Your Mental Health

Seeking help for your mental health is often a difficult but courageous decision. Realizing you’re not okay and need support is the first step to improving.

Next, you’ll need to find a mental health service that meets your needs. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shared research proving that treatment works for mental health conditions. The right treatment will help you manage your condition and improve your life.

Outpatient programs are effective at treating a variety of mental health problems. You’ll get support from both mental health professionals and your peers who are likely experiencing similar struggles as you. Improving your mental health isn’t something that can be rushed. It’s a difficult process that requires significant commitment, but the benefits you’ll receive are worth it.

Caring for your mental health can be overwhelming. Not knowing how to manage your symptoms or having balance between all of your obligations can make life difficult. If you’re thinking about seeking treatment, an IOP or PHP may be right for you. It’s important to consider the benefits and what level of care you require before making a decision. Regardless of which program you choose, you’ll receive comprehensive mental health care. At Alter Wellness Care, located in Laguna Beach, California, we understand how important it is to receive quality mental health services. We offer both PHP and IOP as treatment options and provide the resources necessary to assist you in healing your mental and emotional health. Our programs are individualized to ensure your needs are met, and our team of mental health professionals is here to help you through this difficult process. Contact us today at (866) 311-3510.

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