IOP vs PHP: Comparing Treatment Types

Last Updated: May 20th 2020

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky

IOP vs PHP: Comparing Treatment Types

A decision to enter treatment for drug and alcohol addiction will change life for the better, but figuring out the alphabet soup of program options and sorting through the various choices is always challenging. For example, IOP vs PHP. What is IOP treatment, what is PHP treatment, and what’s the difference? These two forms of substance abuse treatment share much in common, but the differences are significant. 

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) vs Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP)

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) and Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) are two types of outpatient substance abuse treatment options. Both offer higher levels of care than standard outpatient treatment, and both are less intensive than inpatient (residential) treatment programs. While standard outpatient treatment is typically the most expensive, IOP and PHP both tend to be less expensive than inpatient rehabilitation treatment.

What is PHP Treatment?

PHP stands for Partial Hospitalization Program, sometimes known as day treatment or rehab. PHP treatment isn’t right for everybody, but it often fills the bill for people who need more care than traditional outpatient treatment can provide. Depending on the specific PHP program, you may reside in community-based housing provided by the treatment center, or you may go home every evening.

PHP treatment is often a step-down for people who have successfully completed inpatient treatment but aren’t ready for the stresses and demands of regular day-to-day life. 

Because PHP treatment programs are flexible, they also work well for people with less severe addictions who don’t need intensive treatment or around-the-clock care.

What is IOP Treatment?

IOP stands for Intensive Outpatient Program. With IOP, the time commitment isn’t as significant as PHP, and participants go home every night. 

IOP treatment programs work well for people who realize they need substance abuse treatment but are unable to leave work for an extended time, or those who need to keep their treatment private. It can also be part of a gradual step-down approach to treatment, such as inpatient treatment followed by partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and lastly to standard outpatient. 

What’s the Difference Between Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient? 

The main difference between PHP and IOP is the number of hours and days spent in treatment. Although programs vary depending on the treatment provider, people who choose PHP receive treatment for 20 to 35 hours per week. For instance, a person might attend treatment for six hours per day, five to seven days per week.  

Typically, a person who chooses IOP receives approximately nine hours of treatment per week, generally three hours per day for three days per week, usually during the mornings or evenings, or on weekends. The flexibility of IOP is helpful for people who have family obligations, or who need to continue with work or school while still receiving a fairly high level of treatment. 

Detox Programs Vary between PHP and IOP

Partial hospitalization programs may include detox when withdrawal symptoms are mild or moderate. Medical detox at a specialized facility is more appropriate for people with severe addictions that must be monitored around the clock to prevent cardiac arrest or seizures. 

Most intensive outpatient programs require that you detox before beginning treatment, but they will refer you to a detox clinic or hospital if needed. 

Typical Addiction Treatments at PHP and IOP

Both forms of substance abuse treatment generally include various types of individual therapy, as well as addiction education, aftercare planning, and relapse prevention; however, PHP tends to be more demanding and in-depth. Both rely heavily on group treatment. 

Family and close friends are encouraged to be part of your treatment. You’ll also receive care for mental health issues, and you’ll have access to medical care.  

Some partial hospitalization programs include medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which combines counseling with medicines such as methadone, Suboxone, or bupropion that can help control cravings or block the effects of drugs. Although programs vary widely, IOP programs are typically less intensive and don’t usually include MAT. 

Otherwise, PHP and IOP treatment are much like residential treatment, and depending on the provider, may offer nutritional counseling, vocational counseling, or other specialized forms of treatment. You may be encouraged to take part in a 12-Step program. 

The length of treatment varies widely and depends on your needs, but a stay of 90 days is typical. 

PHP or IOP: Which is Best for Me?

Partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient may work best if:

  • You have a dependable network of supportive friends and family.
  • Your home life is safe and stable.
  • You are strongly motivated and committed to your treatment.
  • You are in good physical health.
  • You have no severe mental health issues.
  • You do well in group settings.
  • You don’t need medically supervised detox.
  • You can manage cravings on your own for part of each day.

IOP is suitable for people with less intensive needs, and may NOT be appropriate if:

  • You have experienced multiple relapses.
  • Previous attempts at PHP or IOP have failed.
  • You have severe depression, anxiety, or other serious mental health issues.
  • Your addiction is severe or long-term.
  • You require formal detox for severe withdrawal symptoms.
  • Your cravings are difficult to manage.
  • You’re worried about your ability to cope with stress and triggers.
  • You need medical supervision.

Choosing between IOP vs PHP

If you haven’t been to drug and alcohol treatment before, an addiction professional can assess your situation and help you determine the level of treatment that will work best for you. If your addiction is severe, if you’ve overdosed in the past, or have had frequent relapses, you may need inpatient or residential treatment. 

Similarly, if you’re “graduating” from inpatient treatment, an assessment will determine if you’re ready to re-enter your regular life, or if you need the more gradual, step-down approach from inpatient to PHP, to IOP, and then to outpatient treatment and/or a Twelve-Step program.

Most importantly, keep in mind that a decision to enter PHP or IOP isn’t a sign of weakness, but merely an admission you still have work to do. Both will provide essential support as you continue to cope with cravings and risk of relapse. 

Take the Next Step

At 1st Step Behavioral Health, we’ll connect you with experts that will determine the best substance abuse treatment option that will work best for you. The sooner you begin, the sooner you can get your life back on track. Give us a call at 855-425-4846 or contact us here for more information.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.