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Partial Hospitalization 2018-11-29T14:16:13+00:00

Partial Hospitalization Programs for Addiction Treatment

Inpatient and outpatient programs are standard offerings at drug and alcohol rehab centers. The former keep clients onsite for the duration of their treatment plans, providing 24-hour medical supervision and complete separation from home life. Outpatient programs, on the other hand, allow clients to continue living at home while receiving treatment services, and may include as little as nine hours per week of therapy and other recovery services.

These options are acceptable for many people—but not for everyone. Some men and women in recovery need more supervision and more intensive care services than outpatient programs can provide, yet full-fledged inpatient treatment programs are not a practical alternative, either.

For people seeking another option, partial hospitalization may be the ideal choice. Intensive but flexible care is the hallmark of partial hospitalization programs, which are designed to bridge the gap between inpatient and outpatient treatment plans.

Partial hospitalization programs have an excellent track record of success, and an increasing number of addiction treatment centers are now offering partial hospitalization plans for clients who need addiction or dual diagnosis treatment.

Partial Hospitalization on the Continuum of Care

The American Society of Addiction Medicine has delineated five levels of care for addiction treatment[1]:

  1. Early intervention
  2. Outpatient treatment
  3. Intensive outpatient treatment or partial hospitalization
  4. Residential inpatient treatment
  5. Medically managed intensive inpatient treatment

Occupying a midpoint on this continuum, partial hospitalization straddles the border between conventional outpatient and inpatient treatment. It represents a creative and effective amalgamation of the two, which is suitable for those who need more than traditional outpatient services but don’t require inpatient services or cannot enroll in them for personal, professional, financial or medical reasons.


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Partial Hospitalization Defined

Under the terms of partial hospitalization programs, clients in treatment for addiction—or for chemical dependency and a co-occurring mental health disorder—will spend between four and eight hours per day, three to five days per week onsite at an addiction treatment facility. During this time period they will remain under close supervision, as they receive therapy and other vital medical services as outlined in their individualized recovery plans.

The length of a partial hospitalization program varies, depending on the treatment needs of the client and the specific requirements of the individual rehab center. In general, those who enroll are likely to stay in partial hospitalization for at least a month, with stays of up to six months possible for people with more severe conditions.

Treatment is usually provided in the mornings and early-to-mid afternoon, but schedules are flexible enough to accommodate the needs of those who would prefer to receive services at night or on weekends. While onsite at the treatment facility, clients will be carefully monitored by doctors, nurses and medical support staff, who are dedicated to observing the highest standards of hospital care. Treatment for any pre-existing physical injuries, illnesses or chronic conditions will be provided as needed, and emergency medical care is always available.

The menu of treatment options offered will be nearly identical to what is included in a residential inpatient program and should include some combination of:

  • Detox. Partial hospitalization programs can provide appropriate medical detox services for people with mild-to-moderate withdrawal symptoms.
  • Individual therapy. Individual therapy offers compassionate private counsel to those who have emotional and psychological issues they must work through before they can find peace, contentment and lasting sobriety.
  • Group counseling. Partial hospitalization programs often feature group therapy sessions that focus on themes important to people in recovery, such as relapse prevention, stress management and coping skills and life skills training.
  • Family therapy. Family members are invited to participate in therapy sessions that focus on the client’s substance use and its impact on everyone’s life.
  • Medication management. Medications for opioid or alcohol dependency, mood or anxiety disorders, or for physical conditions that complicate addiction treatment may all be prescribed, and trained medical personnel will be available to help clients use them safely and effectively.
  • Holistic healing practices. Overall wellness is promoted through the introduction of mind-body health practices such as meditation, art and music therapy, yoga, Tai Chi, biofeedback and more.
  • Aftercare. Strong aftercare programs will be arranged as a follow up to partial hospitalization programs, and will likely include a combination of individual and family therapy, regular attendance at 12-step or alternative support group meetings, and possibly some time in a sober living facility.

Some treatment centers offer partial hospitalization programs that allow clients to live at home during their off-hours, replicating the approach of traditional or intensive outpatient treatment plans. But others have affiliated housing either adjacent to treatment facilities or otherwise close by, and clients will occupy private rooms or apartments in these housing complexes while enrolled in their partial hospitalization programs. For those who choose the latter type of program, free transportation will be provided to and from the treatment center if requested.


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Partial hospitalization programs that allow home living may be perfect for those who come from stable, supportive, loving families. Having their loved ones close can bolster their motivation to change and reinforce their determination to keep going despite the challenges they face.

Conversely, people who come from chaotic home environments filled with conflict and/or prolific drug and alcohol use would be much better off choosing a treatment center that provides affiliated housing for partial hospitalization program participants. Facilities that offer housing are also a good choice for those who come from out of town and need safe, quiet and convenient place to stay during their time in treatment.

Benefits of Partial Hospitalization Programs

By combining attractive elements from traditional inpatient and outpatient plans, partial hospitalization programs create a distinctive but highly effective form of treatment for addiction or a dual diagnosis. As a hybrid, partial hospitalization has some unique qualities for people with specialized needs or who simply aren’t comfortable with the other available options.

The benefits of partial hospitalization programs include:

Flexible scheduling

In partial hospitalization programs, treatment schedules can be customized to make sure they do not conflict with other important duties or responsibilities.

Partial hospitalization gives people time away from treatment facilities to work, care for their children, manage their finances, spend time with family and friends or pursue other activities that bring them satisfaction or improve their lives. If clients choose programs at rehab centers that offer affiliated housing options, they can have as much or as little contact with family members and friends as they’d prefer, along with ample free time to pursue their personal or professional interests.

Lower costs

Despite their intense and comprehensive nature, partial hospitalization plans are less costly than inpatient treatment programs. In fact, these plans are normally 40-60 percent less expensive than inpatient treatment options, and that can be a significant factor in favor of partial hospitalization for people with limited financial resources[2].

More comprehensive insurance coverage

While the Affordable Care Act guarantees access to drug and alcohol treatment for all, health insurance companies have some discretion in what they will or won’t cover. In general, they offer greater levels of coverage for outpatient programs than inpatient programs, and partial hospitalization programs are included under the outpatient umbrella.

Effective as a form of transitional treatment

Many people who complete inpatient rehab programs for severe addiction are not yet prepared to return to their previous lives. Their sobriety is still new and they remain vulnerable to temptation, and to protect against relapse they may decide (after consultation with treatment professionals) to enter a partial hospitalization program to receive a few extra weeks of assistance.


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Compatible with dual diagnosis treatment

When clients with drug or alcohol use disorders also have co-occurring mental health conditions, they need comprehensive, integrated treatment services that prioritize all disorders equally. Traditional outpatient programs offer neither the time nor the supervision necessary to properly care for clients with such complex conditions, but partial hospitalization programs are appropriate for many people who carry a dual diagnosis.

Severe substance use or mental health disorders may require traditional inpatient services, but addiction specialists frequently recommend partial hospitalization options for dual diagnosis clients with more manageable symptoms.

The Effectiveness of Partial Hospitalization Treatment

Research confirms that inpatient and outpatient treatment programs (with partial hospitalization programs classified as outpatient) have similar rates of success[3].

This does not mean, however, that people can choose any type of drug and alcohol rehabilitation program they like and still achieve the same results. What such research reveals is that drug and alcohol treatment in general works better when it’s diverse enough to address the needs of a broad range of clients, so that each person can choose the specialized treatment option that makes the most sense for them[4].

Partial hospitalization is a superior alternative for many people whose life situations require a modified version of traditional outpatient and inpatient programs. Flexible treatment is effective treatment, and partial hospitalization programs were developed by drug and alcohol rehab centers to broaden the range of clients they could adequately serve.

[1] American Society of Addiction Medicine. What is the ASAM Criteria?

[2] Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare. An Overview of the Partial Hospitalization Modality.

[3] McCarty, Dennis PhD. Et al. Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient Programs: Assessing the Evidence.

[4] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2 Settings, Levels of Care, and Patient Placement.

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