How Long Is a PHP Program?
A partial hospitalization program (PHP) is a rigorous outpatient treatment program that usually lasts for several weeks. The care you’ll receive in a PHP is similar to the care provided in inpatient programs, where clients live at the facility.
In a PHP, you’ll usually receive about six hours of treatment per day, up to five days a week. You’ll return home after treatment, or you may choose to live in a sober living environment while you receive care.
Average Length of a PHP
Partial hospitalization programs include various services, such as individual therapy, group therapy, educational classes, and other medical or mental health services as needed. Many treatment professionals with different specialties offer care.
Data from the Center of Medicare & Medicaid Services states that most people stay at a PHP for an average of three to four weeks. Everyone is different, and one study looked at challenges associated with a five-day PHP. Five days often wasn’t a sufficient amount of time to set a good basis for recovery.
Most private programs allow you to stay in a PHP for as long as needed before you transition to a lower level of care.
The Step-Down Approach
In psychology, a step-up or step-down approach refers to starting out in one program and then transitioning to one that is more or less intense, depending on your needs. If you first checked into a residential program, finished that, and then moved on to a PHP, you took a step down.
After you have finished a PHP, you may transition down to an intensive outpatient program (IOP) or traditional outpatient treatment. This means you are moving to a less concentrated form of care that requires fewer hours of treatment per week.
- Where you are in relation to the goals set at the beginning of the PHP
- How the program is affecting your daily life, such your ability to maintain a daily routine
- Your family life
- Your overall progress throughout the PHP
The goal of a PHP is to prepare you for a lower level of care. As a result, PHPs are time-limited. You are not intended to stay in them for extended periods of time.
Your treatment providers will aim to step you down to a lower level of outpatient care when you’re ready. There isn’t a set timeline for everyone. Your treatment providers will assess your progress and help you determine when you are ready.
How Long Does Recovery Last?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says that everyone is different when it comes to addiction recovery, so there aren’t finite rules about recovery timelines.
This doesn’t mean you’ll be in a PHP for 90 days. Your full course of care, including various transitions to lower levels of treatment, should last at least three months.
Recovery has four main aspects that must be addressed in treatment.
- Purpose: You’ll be encouraged to participate in your community and have a consistent income stream so you can live independently in recovery.
- Home: You’ll need a safe, stable place to live and sleep. If your home environment is not stable, consider a sober living home.
- Community: You’ll need a supportive network of friends, family, and others who support you. You’ll build this network out while you’re in addiction treatment.
- Health: Your overall health is crucial to your ability to stay sober. In a PHP, your treatment team will identify any co-occurring medical or mental health issues and teach you how to manage them. You’ll also learn good habits that support a healthy lifestyle.
You must also take the possibility of relapse into account, as it is common in recovery. Addiction specialists now understand that substance abuse is a chronic health condition, and relapse isn’t a sign of failure. It’s simply a sign that treatment needs to be changed or resumed.
Be ready to commit more time to treatment if relapse occurs or seems likely. Have a plan in place for how to handle it. Creating this relapse prevention plan will be a key part of your PHP.
Does Everyone Start in a PHP?
Not everyone starts in a partial hospital program. It all depends on the specifics of your addiction, history of substance abuse, mental health status, medical conditions, and other personal factors.
For some, a PHP is more intensive treatment than they need. Perhaps they have only struggled with substance abuse for a short period of time, and standard outpatient treatment will be effective. Others may need the 24-hour supervision of inpatient care due to a longstanding, severe addiction. Your assessment will determine what level of care is best for you.
Your addiction treatment should be effective as long as it follows these principles, outlined by NIDA:
- Your needs must be identified first, so treatment can match them.
- Your treatment center must recognize that addiction is treatable, but there is no cure at this time.
- Treatment must deal with other aspects of your life, not just substance abuse. The whole picture of your life — your overall health, relationships, career, stress level, cultural issues, and so forth — must be considered.
- Staying in treatment for the right amount of time is important to your success. The exact timeline will vary, but a minimum of 90 days of care is recommended for most people.
There isn’t an exact answer for how long you should stay in a PHP. It comes down to your individual progress in recovery.
Your treatment team can give you a rough estimate of a timeline at the outset of your treatment. This can give you a general idea of what to expect. Just know that this estimate may change somewhat throughout your care.