What Is the Difference Between IOP and PHP?

When someone is seeking addiction treatment, there are different levels of care and program settings to choose from. Two options are an intensive outpatient program (IOP) and a partial hospitalization program (PHP). When you gain more insight into these levels of care, you can make an informed treatment decision, whether for yourself or helping a loved one do so.

It’s important to note that most people who receive addiction treatment follow a continuum of care. This means that they participate in multiple levels of care. They step into lower-intensity programs as they’re ready and following their unique path.

What Is an Intensive Outpatient Program?

An intensive outpatient program or IOP is structured treatment that provides comprehensive care for people who are struggling with substance abuse issues.[1] They can keep up with their daily routines, such as home, school or work obligations, but still receive treatment.

An IOP will offer individual and group therapy and psychoeducation sessions tailored to the participant’s needs.

Compared to residential inpatient programs, an IOP lets you attend your treatment sessions during the day or evening while still living at home. The sessions take place three to five days a week. IOPs usually include different therapy approaches, like cognitive-behavioral therapy and mindfulness techniques. They also integrate family therapy.

Therapists and peers support and hold you accountable, and your IOP may include collaboration with other healthcare providers, such as primary care physicians, psychiatrists or community resources. This collaborative approach helps coordinate care as you transition between different treatment levels.

Benefits of an IOP include:

  • The flexibility lets you keep up with daily responsibilities while you receive an intensive level of treatment, which can minimize disruptions to your life.
  • Compared to inpatient programs, an IOP tends to be more cost-effective.
  • By attending therapy sessions in your environment, you can apply coping skills and strategies learned in treatment to real-life situations, which can improve the effectiveness of the therapy process.
  • Often integrated into an IOP, group therapy sessions provide opportunities to connect with people facing similar challenges. This offers the chance for empathy, validation and mutual support.
  • An IOP can be a step-down option for someone who’s transitioning out of a higher level of care.

Broadly, an intensive outpatient program balances intensive treatment and flexibility to maintain commitments in daily life.

What Is a Partial Hospitalization Program?

A PHP is a structured treatment program with intensive therapeutic services geared toward people who need more support than outpatient care but not 24-hour supervision.

PHPs offer a range of types of therapy, including group and individual therapy, psychoeducation and medication management.

During a PHP, care providers can help stabilize your symptoms, and you can then work on developing coping skills and enhancing your functionality in your daily life.

What’s the Difference Between IOP and PHP?

When comparing a PHP vs. IOP, a PHP program has more support and structure than an IOP program. An IOP is considered a moderate intensity level with therapy sessions three to five days a week for a few hours each day. While it’s still intensive, you do return home after your sessions, and you’re responsible for managing your routines outside of treatment hours.

A PHP usually includes treatment sessions five to seven days a week, for several hours per day. A PHP involves a full day of therapeutic interventions.

Participants in an IOP receive structured therapy and support during their scheduled sessions but not around-the-clock supervision. They’re expected to maintain their well-being and safety outside treatment hours. A PHP has a higher level of supervision.

IOPs focus on comprehensive therapy and support to manage symptoms, develop coping skills and work toward recovery goals. PHPs provide intensive treatment to stabilize symptoms, enhance coping skills, and prevent the need for higher care levels.

You might consider an IOP if:

  • You’re experiencing moderate mental health or substance abuse symptoms, or you have a short-term addiction.
  • A residential or inpatient program isn’t feasible for logistical or personal reasons. An IOP can be a more accessible option.
  • You’re transitioning from a higher level of care and need a lower-intensity program as a step-down option.
  • You don’t have co-occurring mental health complications.

You could consider a PHP if:

  • You’re experiencing severe symptoms of a mental health disorder or addiction requiring intensive treatment.
  • You could be at risk of harming yourself or others, or you need ongoing monitoring.
  • You require more intensive intervention than traditional outpatient therapy, but you don’t need 24-hour supervision.
  • You have mental health conditions that require psychiatric care or management.

Ultimately, a decision between an IOP and a PHP should be made when you consult with a professional mental health treatment provider who will consider your particular needs, goals, and the level of support required to facilitate your recovery.

Find Out if IOP or PHP are Right for You

Choosing between an intensive outpatient program and a partial hospitalization program requires careful consideration of your individual needs, the severity of your symptoms and your treatment goals. Both programs offer structured therapy approaches and support, but they differ in intensity, level of supervision and flexibility.

If you have moderate symptoms and you’d like to maintain your daily responsibilities, an IOP  may be a good option. You might benefit from a PHP if you have severe symptoms or safety concerns. Either type of program could be something you continue with after you complete inpatient rehab, or they might be the first step on your treatment path.

Both programs share the ability to support you on your recovery journey and your path toward improved mental well-being. To find out which one is right for you and to begin your recovery journey, please contact our team at The Best Treatment today.

1. National Institutes of Health (NIH): Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient Programs: Assessing the Evidence

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.