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PHP vs IOP: What are the Differences?

February 8, 2023

6 min.

IOP, or intensive outpatient programming, is a form of mental health treatment with significant differences from PHPs (partial hospitalization programs). Learn the main differences and benefits here.

By: Charlie Health Editorial Team

Clinically Reviewed By: Dr. Don Gasparini

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Table of Contents

What is a partial hospitalization program (PHP)?

A partial hospitalization program (PHP) and an intensive outpatient program (IOP) are both types of mental health treatment programs that provide support and treatment to individuals who are experiencing mental health or substance abuse issues.

A partial hospitalization program (PHP) typically involves more intensive treatment than an intensive outpatient program but is less intensive than inpatient treatment. PHPs often require patients to attend treatment for several hours a day, multiple days a week, and may include medication management, individual and group therapy, and other treatment modalities. PHPs are usually designed for people who require more support than an outpatient program can provide but do not require 24-hour care in an inpatient hospital setting.

What is an intensive outpatient program (IOP)?

An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is a step down from a partial hospitalization program. It is designed to provide structured, focused treatment to individuals while allowing them to maintain their daily routines. IOP treatment is usually designed for people who have completed a PHP program or who require less intensive treatment than a PHP. 

Similarly to PHP, IOP typically involves attending therapy for several hours a day, multiple days a week, and may include individual and group therapy, medication management, and other evidence-based interventions. 

Virtual IOP at Charlie Health

IOP at Charlie Health incorporates all the key elements of a traditional IOP in a virtual setting. Our personalized, evidence-based program matches teens and young adults into facilitated groups tailored to address their specific mental health challenges. Clients participate in 3-hour group sessions three times a week in addition to weekly individual and family therapy sessions. All of our care is delivered virtually, meaning that people can heal from home.

To find out if virtual IOP may be an appropriate treatment option for your mental health needs, fill out our quick assessment here.

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Fill out our form or call our team to learn if IOP is right for you

What is the difference between a PHP and IOP program?

The main difference between PHP and IOP is the intensity of mental health treatment provided. PHP treatment is a more intensive treatment program that requires more time commitment than outpatient treatment, while IOP treatment provides less intensive mental health treatment that allows patients to maintain their daily routines. Both treatment programs can be effective in helping people manage their mental health issues and can be tailored to meet the specific needs of each individual.

What are the potential goals and objectives of PHP and IOP?

The goals and objectives of both PHP and IOP will vary depending on the individual’s needs, but some potential goals and objectives include:

Stabilization

The first objective of a PHP and an IOP is often to stabilize the individual’s mental health or substance abuse issues and help them manage their symptoms. Stabilization may involve medication management or medication assisted treatment, group and individual therapy, and other evidence-based interventions.

Development of coping skills

Another objective of both intensive outpatient treatment and partial hospitalization treatment programs is to help the individual develop coping skills and strategies to manage their symptoms, triggers, and stressors. Coping skills may include relaxation techniques, problem-solving skills, and DBT skills, which is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that focuses on helping people develop skills to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.

Improvement of daily functioning

A PHP and an IOP aim to help individuals improve their ability to function in their daily life. This may involve improving social and communication skills, time management, and healthy lifestyle habits.

Supportive environment

PHPs and IOPs provide a supportive environment where individuals can connect with others who are facing similar challenges. A supportive environment may help individuals feel less isolated and more likely to open up during mental health treatment.

What are the treatment modalities used in PHP vs IOP? 

Despite their differences, partial hospitalization programs and intensive outpatient programs both typically utilize similar therapy practices to support clients throughout their healing journey.

Individual therapy

Individual therapy sessions with a therapist may help the client work through specific issues or concerns.

Group therapy

Group therapy sessions and supported groups with other individuals in the treatment program may provide a supportive environment and help individuals learn from one another’s experiences.

Behavioral therapies

PHPs may offer behavioral therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills, and other evidence-based treatment modalities to help individuals develop coping skills and strategies to manage their symptoms.

Family therapy

Family therapy sessions may be available to help individuals and their loved ones address issues that are impacting their mental health and relationships.

Overall, both types of mental health treatment programs aim to provide a supportive and structured environment where individuals can receive the care and support they need to manage their mental health or substance use disorder and improve their overall quality of life.

PHP vs IOP: which is more effective?

Determining whether IOP treatment or PHP is more effective for you or a loved one can be challenging. Both programs can be effective treatment options for individuals with high acuity mental health issues. The effectiveness of each program will depend on several factors, including the individual’s specific needs and circumstances, the quality of the program, and the treatment approach used.

Some research suggests that IOPs and PHPs can effectively treat mental health issues. For example, a 2018 study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that IOPs and PHPs were associated with significant reductions in substance use and improved mental health symptoms.

It’s important to note that the effectiveness of each program will depend on several factors, including the individual’s specific needs and circumstances, the quality of the program, and the treatment approach used. A PHP may be more effective for some individuals as it provides more intensive treatment and support than an IOP. For others, an IOP may be sufficient and more appropriate, as it allows them to receive treatment while maintaining some level of independence and engaging in their daily activities.

Ultimately, choosing between an IOP and a PHP will depend on the individual’s specific needs and circumstances and should be made in consultation with mental health professionals who can help guide the decision-making process. Choosing a program tailored to the individual’s specific needs and providing evidence-based treatments is essential, as this can increase the likelihood of successful treatment outcomes.

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PHP vs IOP: which is better for teens?

Determining whether an intensive outpatient program (IOP) or a partial hospitalization program (PHP) is better for a teen will depend on the individual’s specific needs and circumstances. Both IOPs and PHPs can be effective treatment options for teens with mental health disorders.

IOPs may be a better fit for some teens requiring less structure or support than PHP. IOPs allow teens to receive treatment while staying in school and participating in sports, arts, or other extracurricular activities. IOPs are also appropriate for teens with a supportive home environment and the ability to follow through with treatment recommendations relatively independently.

PHPs, on the other hand, could be a better fit for teens who require more intensive treatment and support. PHPs provide a more structured and supportive environment, benefiting teens experiencing severe mental health issues. PHPs may be appropriate for teens who require more intensive treatment and support than an IOP and may benefit from more intensive and structured treatment and support.

Ultimately, the goal is to choose a program tailored to the individual’s specific needs and provides evidence-based treatments, as this can increase the likelihood of successful treatment outcomes. 

A higher level of care at Charlie Health

If you are stepping down from a PHP or residential treatment program or if you’re interested in stepping up from weekly outpatient treatment, virtual IOP at Charlie Health may be the right fit. Designed to address the mental health needs of teens and young adults, virtual IOP at Charlie Health combines supported groups, individual therapy, and family therapy into customized care plans. Personalized care leads to better treatment outcomes and a more sustainable recovery journey. To learn more or get started today, begin with just a few short questions. 

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