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The Partial Hospitalization Program Demystified

young girl sitting on couch with hands pressed against mouth thoughtfully while therapist counsels her

It’s known as PHP in the mental health community, a program that provides significant structure and treatment to a patient while providing some flexibility within their day-to-day life. It’s differentiated from its cousins–the Inpatient Program and the Intensive Outpatient Program–but provides many of the same benefits. And within the right mental health institution, it can lead to a significant reduction in symptoms. The Partial Hospitalization Program is typically a 4-6 hour program, often during the day, where those with significant or still severe mental health symptoms can seek treatment from the care of doctors, nurses, and therapists. It is a middle-ground in hospital treatment for mental illness, between the 24-hour supervision of an Inpatient Program and a little more than the 3-4 hours required within an Intensive Outpatient Program. But like the others, there is a significant benefit to being part of PHP, with the three main benefits being structure, treatment, and socialization. Mental health patients benefit from structure, especially when there are significant or severe symptoms. As Mariana Plata from Psychology Today writes, a structured daily routine leads to better sleep at night, which can reduce symptoms. It also focuses a patient throughout the day, allowing them to easier combat symptoms. Patients within the Partial Hospitalization Program are typically required to be at the program early in the morning, sometimes as early as 8 am or 8:30. Breakfast is then sometimes served and patients start their first class. While the classes can be therapeutic or educational and often there can be disruptions if the patient is receiving medication management, each class runs roughly around the same time, creating a structure and a rhythm to the daily lives of patients. With a typical Partial Hospitalization Program stay lasting at least five days, the structure the program creates can alleviate symptoms with the help of the treatment methods (which are the second main benefit of PHP). There are many different types of treatment available in PHP, varying according to the mental health or treatment facility. Many programs offer a variety of classes, focusing on two areas: Group Therapy and Education. Group therapy can have significant benefits in a Partial Hospitalization Program. First, patients are exposed to their peers, which can lead to a trusting and supportive environment. Second, they have the opportunity to share about their personal issues. Talk therapy often helps, and the support and input of peers can be invaluable. Education classes are focused on telling patients about their illness. This may include statistics about drug and alcohol use disorders, tips on managing depression, thoughts about trauma, and notes on different kinds of therapy that might be helpful when they leave the program. Education classes underscore the importance of adhering to medication. Sometimes, medication management is offered within the PHP program, as patients are monitored carefully for an increase of symptoms and the necessity for any adjustments. Often, the same psychiatrist that treated the patient when they were in the Inpatient program will continue treatment in PHP. Medication is often a crucial factor in alleviating symptoms, even if they take 3-4 weeks often to take full effect. The third main benefit to the Partial Hospitalization Program is the socialization. Often, those seeking treatment for mental health symptoms from an institution have struggled to maintain relationships during their day-to-day lives. For people suffering from depression or anxiety, the socialization within a PHP program can lead to reduced symptoms, less loneliness, and relationships that carry on outside of the treatment facility. As Jane Brody writes in the New York Times, socialization and healthy connections can lead to a happier life. Without socialization and connections, it’s easier to feel depressed. Our body even takes note, as without socialization our immune system begins to suffer. Socialization can also create a resilience to further situations, which can allow a patient in PHP to build their confidence and create relationships after they have left the program. There is the aspect of socialization in group therapy as well, which creates a community of support. With treatments varying according to facility and the needs of their patients (an example if the Connections Wellness Group in Denton, TX (contact us) which solely uses group therapy in a four-hour daily PHP program) it’s important for a patient to research before being admitted. A patient finding what they want is critical for a reduction in symptoms as it allows them to be proactive and take part in the treatment process. In conclusion, the Partial Hospitalization program provides innumerable benefits for patients who are in-between the Inpatient and Intensive Outpatient Stage. It provides structure, treatment, and socialization to encourage the patients to manage their care and reduces symptoms overall. It is helpful for many, from those with a mood disorder, thinking disorder, or alcohol or substance use disorder. It can lead to a relationship with a therapist or doctor outside of the facility. It helps.