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What Is A Partial Hospitalization Program In Addiction Recovery Treatment?

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People tend to imagine that hospitalization for addiction comes in two flavors: You are either going to a luxury resort designed for rich people, or you are basically in prison.

These perceptions are an unfortunate product of several factors in society. Yes, the rich have access to better (or at least more visually appealing) medical assistance for drug problems.

But the more economically priced hospitalization programs are better than most people think. In particular, you do not need to stay there and be monitored by medical professionals in order to make use of them. You can if you want, but you are under no obligation to do so.

This is called a “partial hospitalization program”, and understanding how and why it works will illuminate how and why a lot of addiction recovery treatments work as well.

What is a Partial Hospitalization Program?

A partial hospitalization program, sometimes called a “PHP”, is a form of outpatient medical care used to treat people with serious addictions and complications during detox and withdrawal.

Some drug and alcohol addictions are more severe than others. They might have gone on for longer or involve higher dosages of the given substances in order for the addict to find relief. In those cases, detox and withdrawal will be even worse than usual due to this.

Some of the side effects of detox and withdrawal can be life threatening. These include heart attacks, strokes, and seizures. This sort of thing will require hospitalization during the worst of it.

But most addictions will not be this bad. The addict might need medication or medical attention due to the side effects, but it is not invasive or lifesaving as in these cases. When that happens, the patient is instead recommended to undergo a partial hospitalization program.

This allows the patient to have regularly scheduled visits to the hospital and for resources to be set aside for them, while still living at home.

Why Choose a Partial Hospitalization Program?

It is important to note that a partial hospitalization program is not chosen for you. If you check yourself into a rehab, then a doctor can, as some people fear, keep you there. This is not the totalitarian whip-cracking that some people imagine it to be though.

Doctors will only do that if they believe you are a danger to yourself or others. And the possibility is introduced to you when you first check yourself in.

Things are different in a partial hospitalization program. In that case, you choose just about everything in the program. You can have the doctors set the appointments in general, but you can modify them how you want, and you have a ton of agency as to what they include.

There are limits to this, such as the fact that you cannot choose your own medications. The doctor administering the treatment still holds authority over that. But if you want two hospital visits a month, then you can get two hospital visits a month. Same if you want more or less.

For that reason, it can be safely said that most people get into a partial hospitalization program because they want to have a degree of agency, freedom, and control over their recovery.

What do Partial Hospitalization Programs Offer?

There is a lot that partial hospitalization programs give you to make use of, though for the most part people will only use about half of what is available to them.

For instance, one of the main things that hospitals encourage addicts to do is take part in some sort of therapy. To this end, they offer group therapy, solo therapy with a therapist, or online anonymous therapy. Not everyone does it, but it is always offered. And if you ask us, you should take it. No one can conquer addiction on their own, especially with a ton of emotional baggage.

On the more material side of things, partial hospitalization programs will also give you regular access to medication. This is not always necessary, as more mild addictions and addictions still in their early stages will be conquerable even without intervention through medication.

But for other levels of addiction, these can be critical.

The most important components of partial hospitalization programs are their frequent doctor’s appointments and guidance counseling. In the first case, everyone knows that it’s a pain to schedule a doctor’s appointment. This schedules them in advance to make it easier.

Addicts who have frequent health issues or questions will find it extremely beneficial to have their progress tracked through these repeated medical visits and tests.

The other important component is the guidance counseling, which is different than just the therapy. This is where someone, usually a doctor or specialist in addiction, will tell you what needs to change in your life in order to make your recovery from addiction much easier.

When Should You get a Partial Hospitalization Program?

Anyone with an addiction can get and benefit from a partial hospitalization program even before they start their recovery. The kind of care you get will change depending on where you are in your recovery though. For instance, people who have not detoxed will get medication and advice on how to detox safely.

People in the latter stages of their recovery will have their care mostly focused on getting their health back and sorting out their life in such a way that makes the escape and recreational use of their drug or alcohol addiction less necessary.

In short, you can always get a partial hospitalization program, and it will always help. The earlier it is in your recovery, the better. It will still help later, but it will be less intensive.


Every addict has a lot to consider in how they should handle their recovery. Thinking about getting a partial hospitalization program is a great place to start. It is versatile, as it can be upgraded to a hospitalization easily, or downgraded once you have gotten the help you need.

Talk to us if you need any more advice on the matter:

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