What Are Partial Hospitalization Programs?

Partial hospitalization refers to a highly structured, short term and intensive clinical treatment program. It is treatment program that takes place during the day and does not require an overnight stay.  Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) foster a more intensive treatment program than visiting a doctor’s office or seeing a therapist. Programs such as these are alternatives to inpatient care.  They can also serve the purpose of a step-down program or transitional program for inpatient clients.

PHPs exist to treat a variety of mental health diagnoses and serve an extensive population, from young children to adults. Programs may treat individuals experiencing severe symptoms from depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders or any other mental illness causing great distress in a person’s life.

A partial hospitalization program typically last about six to eight weeks. The overall mission of these programs emphasizes time-limited, intensive, stable therapeutic treatments to prepare individuals with the skills and tools to assist in their recovery.  Moreover, some of the goals of these programs may also include the prevention of admission and readmission into higher level of care facilities.

A comprehensive evaluation and individual treatment plan that includes individual and group therapies is customized for each individual who enters a PHP. Individual-based treatments include medication management and individual psychotherapy sessions, in addition to art therapy, music therapy and even movement therapy.

Many of the treatment modalities utilized in PHPs include group therapy.  These psycho-educational and psychotherapeutic groups help to foster and develop hope and empowerment among participants.  These groups are facilitated by licensed clinical psychologists, therapists, nurses or social workers.  Working in groups with other individuals that have similar stories and who can also challenge one another is an imperative part of many group psychotherapeutic treatments. The sense of belonging and purpose is molded and found within these unique groups.  Complete strangers come together for a similar purpose: to heal and to find strength within themselves. These individuals share stories of immense struggle and failure, yet together, through group therapy and assistance from mental health professionals, they find accomplishment and empowerment. Group therapy can consist of meetings that work on coping skills, symptom management, anger management or goal setting.  These groups may employ various therapeutic modalities such as the cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or mindfulness strategies.

PHPs for children vary a little in comparison to those created for adults or teens.  Early childhood partial hospitalization programs are designed for children living with autism, developmental disabilities or behavior disorders.  Like their adult counterparts, these programs are highly structured and time-limited. They too develop individual treatment plans based upon the child and family’s needs. On top of treating the child, early childhood partial hospitalization programs also support parents to manage and understand their child’s needs and behavioral management.  These integrative programs collaborate extensively with school systems, teachers and regional centers. This ensures a smooth, safe and appropriate transition back to school and to their home.

PHPs are offered in various settings, including community-based to medical systems and hospital. Because most hospitals are in-network providers, they accept most major insurance plans. Other insurance coverage accepted varies from self-pay to private insurance and Medicare. For many adults who are worried about missing work, medical leave can be approved for those in a PHP.

PHPs are most appropriate when an individual has been referred to one by their doctor. It can also be appropriate for individuals already participating in outpatient treatment but experiencing an influx of symptoms that may require a higher level of care. They also provide a safe and stable environment in times of crisis or as an individual transfers out of inpatient care.

Because PHPs allow participants to return home at the end of each day, participants are expected to practice and employ the skills they are learning with the understanding that they will be further supported by their mental health team the following day. Most individuals in PHPs participate three to five days a week during the six to eight week program.  The collaborative efforts of participants, their families and their treatment teams help ensure that the individual’s time in a PHP is a success.


References and Further Reading

Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare http://www.aabh.org/#!partial-hospitalization-progra/c21kz

Randle, Kristina. (August 2011). What Is Partial Hospitalization? Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/09/05/what-is-partial-hospitalization/.

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