Understanding the Differences Between PHP vs. IOP Treatment

Learn more about the key differences between a partial hospitalization program vs. IOP treatment in this informative article.

How Black Horse Health Can Help You Find the Right Treatment Plan For Your Needs

At Black Horse Health, we understand how overwhelming it can be to know which treatment plan is right for your needs and symptoms.

Our team of skilled and compassionate specialists have over 100 years of combined experience, and we are committed to helping you or your loved one lead a fulfilling life by providing comprehensive treatment opportunities, including intensive outpatient treatment and partial hospitalization.

With holistic wellness services including group therapy sessions, trauma-based therapies, and yoga, we will create a path to recovery that best meets your unique set of needs, goals, and symptoms.

We’ll Meet You Where You’re at in Recovery

Learn more about our partial hospitalization program and intensive outpatient program, other treatment opportunities, and how our Black Horse Health team of specialists can help you heal in this comprehensive article.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team for more information or to begin your path to wellness today. We’re here to help you harness the power of wellness.

partial hospitalization program vs. IOP

Partial Hospitalization Program vs. IOP: a General Overview

Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) and intensive outpatient programs (IOP) are comprehensive treatment programs.

These programs provide treatment for people suffering from mental illnesses and substance abuse. About 7.7 million adults suffer from co-occurring mental and substance use disorders.1

Although IOP and PHP programs have similar purposes, their intensity and duration differ. In this comprehensive article, we will provide an overview of a partial hospitalization program vs. IOP.

What is a Partial Hospitalization Program?

Partial hospitalization programs provide a more intensive level of mental health care than an IOP. A PHP is a day program where people suffering from mental illnesses and substance abuse can get professional treatment.
Partial hospitalization programs can be at a residential or inpatient treatment facility. A standard partial hospitalization program treatment includes:
  • Counseling sessions or psychotherapy
  • Educational activities
  • Group therapy
  • Medication management

Structure and Schedule of Partial Health Hospitalization Programs

A PHP lasts for about 4-6 hours daily and at least five days a week, making it an effective treatment that prevents relapse. Sometimes, partial hospitalization programs start as early as 8:30 a.m. These programs provide the daytime support and structure people need to live a balanced life.

Level of Support and Therapeutic Interventions Offered in a PHP

While the treatment methods and types of therapies vary according to the facility offering the program, all PHP follow a treatment structure.


The first step during a PHP at facilities like Black Horse Health is evaluation. Professionals, including general practitioners and therapists, will first interview the client. After the interview, the practitioners will conduct a series of medical examinations to get an accurate diagnosis.


If the client suffers from substance use disorder, the next step will be detoxification. Detoxification is the process of cleansing the body of toxic substances and drugs ingested. It’s necessary for a patient’s complete recovery from substance abuse.

Detoxification can be a challenging stage as people experience mild to severe symptoms. Most programs offer medication-assisted detox to help ease withdrawal symptoms and lower the risks of relapse.

Psychological and Medical Treatment

After successful detoxification, healthcare professionals will begin medical and therapeutic treatments. These treatments aim to teach patients positive coping skills to prevent relapse.
Partial hospitalization programs emphasize both psychological and holistic treatments, including:
  • Medication management
  • Group and individual therapy 
  • Workshops
  • Psychoeducation
  • Relapse prevention skills  

Partial Hospitalization Program vs. IOP: Overview of Intensive Outpatient Programs

An intensive outpatient program is a structured treatment program for people who are suffering from substance abuse, mental illnesses, or behavioral disorders. An IOP is for those who do not need detoxification or round-the-clock supervision.

Instead of moving patients to outpatient care directly after intensive inpatient care, IOP treatment ensures they achieve and maintain sobriety. Research shows that first-month attrition rates in outpatient substance abuse treatment programs are about 30%.2

People attending an IOP can receive care and support while working or going to school. In an intensive outpatient program at facilities like Black Horse Health, patients learn how to maintain sobriety and develop social skills.

Structure and Schedule of Intensive Outpatient Programs

The structure and schedule of intensive outpatient programs are often flexible to accommodate participants’ daily routines. IOP sessions occur during the daytime or evening. The length and frequency of IOP sessions vary across health plans and states.3

Partial Hospitalization Program vs. IOP: Level of Support and Therapeutic Interventions Offered in an IOP

Intensive outpatient programs offer the following levels of support and therapeutic interventions:

Individual Counseling

At an IOP, individual counseling occurs once a week or as much as the professional caregivers think a person needs. Individual counseling or therapy provides extra support and helps improve one’s readiness for change and maintain sobriety.
Aside from individual counseling, other support services and care programs offered include:
  • Psychoeducational groups 
  • Medication-assisted treatment 
  • Groups and family therapy 
  • Wellness programs

Case Management

In intensive outpatient programs, case management services involve case managers working with clients to provide comprehensive care service and support.
The major responsibilities of a case manager include:
  • Evaluating and developing individualized treatment plans
  • Monitoring clients and their outcomes 
  • Coordinating and referring clients to the most appropriate services in the facility and community
  • Establishing and promoting a continuum of care when clients transition from one program to another

24-Hour Crisis Services

Intensive outpatient programs have crisis intervention procedures and policies. These policies address emergencies that occur outside of program hours.
Incidents that are considered emergencies include:
  • Relapse risks 
  • Psychological distress
  • Suicidal thoughts and actions
One major aspect of IOP crisis interventions is the use of warm lines after hours. IOP facilities like Black Horse Health provide warm lines for individuals in need of support to prevent relapse but not in acute crisis.


Aftercare is a major part of the recovery journey. Many facilities, including Black Horse Health, provide aftercare to support those who have completed inpatient treatment in maintaining sobriety.
An IOP often incorporates group therapy sessions and peer support as a continuum of care. Interacting with people who’ve been through a similar journey helps patients maintain sobriety after leaving the facility. Some major aftercare support groups include AA and SMART Recovery.

Partial Hospitalization Program vs. IOP

Below are some of the major differences between a partial hospitalization program vs. IOP treatment.

Level of Care

Partial hospitalization programs provide a higher level of structured care to people suffering from substance misuse and mental disorders compared to an IOP.
Intensive outpatient programs are less structured and allow for flexibility, enabling people to get treatment while living in their homes and going about daily tasks.

Medical Supervision

Intensive outpatient programs offer less medical supervision. They may act as a continuum of care and support programs for patients who have achieved sobriety or face less risk of relapse.
Partial hospitalization programs are more intensive and have a team of healthcare professionals who track patient well-being. They’re often recommended for people with active psychiatric diagnoses and pose a risk to themselves or others.

Time Commitment

PHP is a full-day program where participants attend treatment from around 8:00 in the morning to late afternoons or evenings. PHP treatments occur an average of five days a week. The duration and frequency of PHP varies, but they are still more intensive than an IOP.
For intensive outpatient programs, clients only need to attend treatment sessions for a few hours each day, three to five days a week. This smaller time commitment allows people to continue with their daily routines.

Transition and Continuity of Care

An IOP is a step-down program from partial hospitalization programs or inpatient treatments. Intensive outpatient programs often focus on:
  • Coping skills
  • Relapse preventions
  • Support for maintaining recovery after treatment
They allow people to practice coping and recovery skills in real time. By practicing recovery skills with friends and families, patients can build self-confidence, which is crucial for behavioral changes.

PHP Transitional Care

PHP is used as a transitional step from inpatient hospitalization for those who have started their journey to recovery and need less intensive treatment. Partial hospitalization acts as a middle ground between restrictive inpatient care and traditional outpatient programs.

Partial Hospitalization Program vs. IOP: Criteria and Assessments

Wrong placements in treatment programs can affect a person’s recovery journey.
Although PHP and IOP treatments address mental illnesses and substance abuse, they’re not effective for all cases. Intensive outpatient treatment is often more helpful for people who have a substance use disorder.
To ensure clients receive the adequate level of care they need, healthcare professionals must conduct an assessment before selecting a treatment program. The following are six factors doctors should assess when making placement decisions:4

Acute Intoxication and Withdrawal Potential

People with minimal to no risk of withdrawal get placed in an intensive outpatient program (IOP). Those who are at low risk of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms should be placed in a partial hospitalization program (PHP).

Biomedical Conditions and Complications

Patients with less severe medical conditions that do not warrant inpatient care but may interfere with their recovery journey should be placed in intensive outpatient treatment.
Individuals with mild conditions that warrant 24-hour observation, and relapse could worsen their conditions to be placed in a partial hospitalization.

Emotional, Behavioral, or Cognitive Conditions and Complications

If a person can maintain behavioral stability between contacts and symptoms do not affect treatment, they are to attend an IOP.
If the person is unable to maintain behavioral stability over 72 hours, they get assigned to a partial hospitalization program. If they also display behaviors that pose a risk to themselves or loved ones, they are to be placed in a PHP.

Readiness to Change Treatment

Patients who are willing to accept treatment and only need monitoring and motivation to be placed in an IOP. If the person denies or resists treatment and needs a less intensive structured environment, they are to be placed in a PHP.

Relapse Potential

If the client needs support and therapy as they struggle to resist cravings, they are to be placed in an intensive outpatient program. Those who are likely to continue using if not monitored and supported tend to benefit from partial hospitalization programs.

Recovery/Living Environment

If the person has a supportive living environment or the will to create one, they are to be placed in an IOP.
If exposure to usual daily activities makes a recovery unlikely, the person is to be placed in a partial hospitalization program. If an individual does not have adequate support for recovery from loved ones, a PHP is recommended.

Partial Hospitalization Program vs. IOP: Transitioning Between Treatments

Transitioning between partial hospitalization programs and intensive outpatient programs helps provide the levels of care each patient needs. People attending outpatient treatment may relapse, necessitating a return to a PHP to restart their recovery journey and improve health outcomes.
Transitioning involves adjusting the level of care and support provided for people seeking mental health or substance abuse treatment.
Here’s a guide on how to transition from PHP to IOP and vice versa:

Step 1: Consult with the Treatment Team

Discuss your progress and treatment needs with your healthcare provider or treatment team. They will assess your current condition and determine if transitioning to an intensive outpatient program or partial hospitalization program is appropriate.

Step 2: Understand Partial Hospitalization Program vs. IOP Structure

Familiarize yourself with the structure of intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization programs. An IOP involves fewer hours of treatment per week, ranging from 9 to 20 hours, while a PHP has a longer duration. By understanding the structure, you can better prepare for the new treatment regime.

Step 3: Adjust Schedules and Responsibilities

A PHP often requires full-day participation, while an IOP allows for more flexibility. Review your personal commitments, such as work or education, and adjust your schedule to accommodate IOP or PHP sessions.

Step 4: Maintain Communication

During the transition process, you need to maintain open communication with your treatment team. Always share any concerns or challenges you may encounter. Your treatment team will always be there to provide guidance and support to help you navigate the change.

Step 5: Follow Through with Recommendations

Once you have transitioned to an IOP or PHP, always engage in the program. Ensure you follow through with the treatment plan and recommendations your case manager or care team has curated.
The treatment plans may include:
  • Attending group or individual therapy sessions
  • Medication management
  • Other therapeutic interventions and treatment modalities
partial hospitalization program vs. IOP

How Black Horse Health Can Help

If you or a loved one are showing symptoms of substance use disorder or mental health challenges, Black Horse Health is here to help. Black Horse Health is a treatment facility in Houston, Texas, that provides integrative wellness services tailored to individual needs.

Our Mission

At Black Horse Health, our primary focus is care with excellent outcomes. We will equip you with the necessary tools to help find and maintain long term recovery. From numerous experiences from our patients, we believe long term recovery is attainable when you employ our practical tools.

Treatment Opportunities

We treat substance use disorders, mental health challenges, trauma, and chronic pain. Some of our treatment programs include:
  • Substance Use Detoxification & Mental Health Stabilization
  • Inpatient Residential Treatment
  • Intensive Outpatient Treatment
  • Family Program
  • Alumni Program
After performing thorough evaluations, our team of seasoned experts will curate a care plan and determine if a PHP or IOP program is the best course of treatment. At Blackhorse Health, we’re dedicated not only to your wellness, but also to your well-being.

Reach Out and Begin Healing

If you or a loved one are ready to begin healing and leading the happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives you deserve, we encourage you to reach out to us today for more information about our available treatment options.

We’re here to support you along your recovery.