Most people enroll in partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) after being hospitalized on an inpatient basis or graduating from a residential treatment program. Partial hospitalization programs are designed to smooth the transition from these more intensive programs to life in the outside world. Partial hospitalization programs generally require that clients attend 6-7 days a week for multiple hours.
They are held inside of addiction treatment centers, hospitals, and medical clinics. These highly structured programs are designed to meet the needs of people with severe addictions and mental health conditions.
Clients at PHPs generally engage in a wide variety of activities. These include:
- Mental health counseling
- Medical treatment and support
- Relapse prevention planning
- A variety of therapies
- Education about substance abuse and mental health conditions
- Support groups
Partial hospitalization programs are all distinct in their methods, treatment philosophies, and the specific resources that they provide. However, they all share a common goal of helping people become more functional and addressing the underlying causes of their mental health disorders and substance abuse problems. When you are first admitted to a partial hospitalization program, the first event that generally occurs is an evaluation.
This initial assessment is designed to provide your case worker and treatment team with a better idea of your needs. Common questions that are asked during initial evaluations include questions about your family’s history of substance abuse, your current living situation, what drugs you used, how often you used them, and your general health. It is also normal for PHPs to ask questions about your relationships, lifestyle, and your friend group. The answers you give help your treatment team design an individualized treatment plan that meets your unique needs.
Individuals who are arriving at their partial hospitalization program following an experience in a residential program or a hospital stay have generally begun the process of withdrawing from drugs and alcohol, and many have already achieved a basic level of stability. However, many people begin their initial days at their PHP with a detoxification period.
Helping clients withdraw from drugs and alcohol and achieving physical abstinence is not the only goal of a partial hospitalization program. Rather, physical abstinence provides the fundamentals — it is a prerequisite for the growth and self-development that comes afterwards.
Partial hospitalization programs recognize that mere physical abstinence is rarely sufficient to ensure long term sobriety. To help people stay sober, trained staff at a partial hospitalization program work to help clients develop a wide range of new tools, coping strategies, and support resources. Clients learn to recognize their own personal triggers and create plans for handling them. Clients also work to address underlying issues, such as depression or anxiety, that may have driven them to abuse drugs and alcohol in the first place.
Above all, clients in PHP programs work to rebuild their lives, rather than simply quitting drugs and continuing to live in the wreckage. Most clients continue to pursue outpatient treatment even after their PHP ends, but a PHP can provide the fundamentals and support people as they take their first steps toward living lives that are joyous, fulfilling, and free.
Partial hospitalization programs provide a diverse array of services and addiction treatment methods. These treatment methods, which are evidence-based and back by research, are geared toward providing clients with new sober tools, a strong sober social support system, and a meaningful life. By taking part in the intensive ad structured program of a PHP, clients can decrease their chances of relapse and begin feeling better. Most PHPs offer comprehensive addiction programs that utilize some or all of the following addiction treatment methods:
Group therapy forms the backbone of most PHPs. Research shows that group therapy has a similar efficacy rate to individual therapy, and it also possesses its own unique benefits. People who engage in group therapy have a chance to improve their communication skills and develop strong relationships with other people in recovery.
It thereby reinforces healthy ways of interacting while also helping people see their own problems from multiple new perspectives. Group therapy sessions are held in safe and supportive environments so that participants are able to maximally benefit from the experiences and feedback of others.
Partial hospitalization programs tend to offer distinct forms of group therapy. Each one is run slightly differently and has a different purpose.
The types of group therapy offered by PHPs include:
Psychoeducational Group Therapy
The most common form of group therapy, psychoeducational group therapy is generally run by a trained clinician with a graduate degree. The clinician leads the group with the aim of helping them come to a better understanding of the condition they suffer from. Participants learn about the nature of addiction, physical dependence, and the underlying causes. The clinician will also often teach participants evidence-based strategies for dealing with triggers and recovering from addiction. To that end, participants learn to rethink unhealthy beliefs, such as the misconception that addiction is caused by having weak willpower.
Family Group Therapy
Family group therapy sessions are ideal opportunities to PHP clients to heal relationships with family members. Often, these important relationships are damaged during the course of a client’s active addiction. Getting the opportunity to heal or develop relationships with family members is one of the rewards of sobriety, but perhaps more importantly, it actually helps people stay sober. After all, dysfunctional family relationships are often a driving force behind substance abuse. Having strong social support systems is also associated with a decreased likelihood of relapsing down the line.
Relapse Prevention Groups
Partial hospitalization programs offer relapse prevention groups so that clients can begin to recognize their own unique triggers for substance abuse. Identifying these triggers allows clients to develop alternative ways of coping with their triggers. Instead of immediately and automatically reaching for drugs and alcohol, they can simply carry out a plan they’ve made in advance for dealing with the trigger. It is inevitable that people will experience triggers and strong cravings, especially during the early days of addiction recovery. Recognizing these high-risk situations and formulating a plan for dealing with them is essential.
Skills Training Groups
Partial hospitalization programs often hold skills training groups so that clients can practice their new coping strategies and tools in a trigger-free, safe, and supportive environment. Many skills training groups also cover skills that are pragmatic and not directly related to recovery. These include writing a resume, getting through a job interview, and even basic self-care practices like exercise and grooming skills.
Individual Therapy in PHP
Clients at partial hospitalization programs can generally expect to attend individual therapy sessions in addition to group therapy. Individual therapy gives clients the chance to reflect more deeply on the underlying issues behind their substance use disorders. These issues are often unique to each individual. It is common, for instance, for people to turn to drugs and alcohol because they suffer from untreated and even undiagnosed mental health conditions, including ADHD, depression, and anxiety disorder. Therapists can help people learn to cope with their mental distress, and it thereby relieves patients of the need to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. For many people, it comes as a revelation that it is possible to treat these conditions without getting intoxicated.
Individual therapy is also used as a tool for managing substance use disorders directly. A variety of treatment modalities are used, though cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT) are the most utilized. These treatment modalities are based on the theory that a person’s thinking patterns have a direct affect on their emotions and behavior. As such, clinicians work with patients to develop new ways of thinking about problems — and about themselves. The emotional support that individual therapists provide is essential to early recovery, helping clients meet the inevitable difficulties and challenges of the first few months.
12-Step Programs and Support Groups
Research shows that individuals who develop strong support systems have a significantly decreased likelihood of relapse. As such, partial hospitalization programs help clients cultivate sober networks by encouraging or even requiring them to attend support group meetings. While PHPs are not officially affiliated, they often specifically recommend 12-step meetings because they have high success rates and are so widely available throughout the world. 12-step programs include Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, and countless others. Meetings of AA or other 12-step programs provide people with opportunities to connect to the larger recovery community, beyond their PHP. Attendees learn new sober skills, benefiting from the experience, strength, and hope of AA members who have been sober longer. 12-step meetings are free to attend and they are available at almost all times of day throughout every major city, making them an invaluable resource even after a person has graduated from their PHP.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
Many clients enter PHPs with addiction-related medical conditions that require treatment; others begin their PHPs while suffering from debilitating withdrawal symptoms. Because PHPs are staffed by medical professionals, partial hospitalization programs can help people get relief from any mental or physical condition they suffer from. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) therapy is a specific addiction treatment modality that helps people detox from drugs and alcohol safely and effectively. Individuals who are facing severe withdrawal symptoms, such as those that commonly occur during alcohol, opioid, or benzodiazepine withdrawal, often benefit from medication-assisted treatment. MAT therapy utilizes a combination of behavioral therapies alongside prescription medication. While the behavioral therapies provide the bulk of the benefits, medication can mitigate the severity of withdrawal symptoms and cravings, allowing clients to benefit from behavioral therapy more.
Medications often utilized during medication-assisted treatment include buprenorphine, suboxone, and methadone (for opioid withdrawal), naltrexone and acamprosate (for alcohol withdrawal), and a wide variety of other prescription drugs. These medications not only make the detox process less physically and emotionally painful, they often reduce cravings and thereby reduce the likelihood of relapse. Once a person has developed a strong foundation of sober tools, a physician can supervise the client’s withdrawal from these medications. This process, known as “tapering,” involves gradual dosage reductions so that the withdrawal process is almost unnoticeable.