Topsail Addiction Treatment

Making Sense of Addiction Treatments: Comparing PHP, IOP and OP

When you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction, it can be hard to know the best course of treatment. It’s even more confusing if you’re just starting to explore available options and are unfamiliar with the terms commonly used to describe outpatient recovery programs.

PHP (partial hospitalization program), IOP (intensive outpatient program) and OP (outpatient program) each have a place in the recovery journey, depending on your unique situation. This article will guide you through each service, explaining how the programs differ and why you might choose one of them for your rehabilitation. By understanding what to expect from each type of program, you can choose the right level of care and give yourself the best chance to succeed.

Inpatient vs Outpatient Recovery Programs

First, let’s distinguish between inpatient and outpatient treatment. Residential inpatient treatment is one option for recovery from substance abuse, providing intensive support and therapies. As an inpatient, you stay at a rehabilitation facility around the clock, removed from work, school or home life so you can focus on your recovery.

With an outpatient program, such as those offered at Topsail, you attend treatment as recommended by your care plan but have the flexibility to come and go after sessions are completed. You can stay at home or a sober living house.

Outpatient Programs at a Glance

Many people transition from a residential to outpatient program although you can enter outpatient treatment at any time.

Outpatient programs provide varying levels of support depending on your needs. There are three main types: full-day (PHP), half-day (IOP) and weekly (OP). The main difference between them is the time commitment and intensity of treatment. No matter which Topsail program you choose, services and therapies are customized to your situation.

The chart below compares the typical frequency and duration of sessions for each outpatient program. The more time you can devote, the more comprehensive the treatment. Think of these programs as part of a continuum. As you complete one program, you can step down to another as needed to continue expanding your coping skills.


Typical Session Frequency

Typical Session Duration

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

5 days per week

5 to 6 hours

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

3 days (or evenings) per week

3 hours

Outpatient Program (OP)

2-5 days per week

1 to 3 hours

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

PHP is the most rigorous outpatient program, with sessions longer in duration and frequency than an intensive outpatient or outpatient program. This comprehensive treatment is designed for those with significant drug or alcohol addiction or substance abuse issues. It may be a good option if you’ve recently completed inpatient treatment or medical detox, or are in the early stages of rehabilitation and require highly structured, focused therapy.

This day therapy treatment requires you to be at our treatment facility in Andover five days per week for about 5-6 hours a day. The longer daily sessions allow time to address specific triggers and challenges you might be facing and develop strategies to manage them. While the program is customized based on individual needs, you can typically expect:

  • Private, one-on-one therapy to address behaviors
  • Group therapy and activities to provide peer support
  • Counseling to develop a care plan you can follow after therapy is completed

Think of a partial hospitalization program as a transition between inpatient and outpatient treatment. It helps to stabilize your behaviors and gives you the foundational skills to manage your addiction.

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

An intensive outpatient treatment program is more flexible than a PHP and can be scheduled around personal commitments, enabling you to go to work or school or care for family. It provides you with a greater level of resources and support than a regular outpatient program but is less in-depth than a PHP.

An IOP may be part of a long-term care plan, enhancing skills learned during an inpatient stay or PHP and providing continuing support as you return to daily life. It may also be an entry point into rehab if you have moderate substance abuse issues, or provide specialized therapy if you’re managing depression and other mental health issues alongside addiction.

Half-day treatment usually requires you to attend three hour-sessions, three times per week to provide sufficient time to concentrate on recovery. Treatment may involve:

  • Private counseling to treat addiction issues
  • Group counseling to share experiences
  • Specialized therapy such as family therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy
  • 12-step meetings and support groups to interact with others
  • Classes and workshops
  • Case management to connect you to community resources

IOPs help you refine the skills needed for long-term wellness, developing important relapse prevention strategies and helping you create a community support system. You can pursue treatment while maintaining some of your day-to-day responsibilities and activities.

Outpatient Program (OP)

An outpatient program is less restrictive than a PHP or IOP. It’s fully customized to your needs, so you could attend sessions anywhere between once and three times a week. Your treatment program is tailored to your individual recovery goals, taking into account your substance abuse history, mental health concerns and schedule. Treatment can involve a mix of counseling, therapy and education.

This type of recovery program may be a good fit if you have a mild addiction, are beginning to experiment with drugs or are concerned you’re developing a substance abuse problem. Those who have previously entered recovery and are experiencing relapses can use OP treatment to get back on their path to wellness. OP treatment works best for people who are highly motivated with a strong personal support system.

Choosing the Best Level of Outpatient Care

Here are a few questions to consider as you choose the appropriate level of treatment for your recovery.

1. Where Are You in Your Recovery Journey?

Comprehensive, full-day PHP treatment may be suitable if you:

  • Are early in the recovery process and prefer not to, or are unable to, enter a residential program.
  • Have completed a residential program or medical detox and are ready for the next step in your recovery.

Half-day IOP treatment may be a good fit if you:

  • Have completed inpatient or PHP treatment and wish to continue progressing in your recovery.
  • Are early in your recovery and have less severe substance abuse issues.
  • Are experiencing depression or mental health issues along with your addiction.

Weekly OP treatment may be a good choice if you:

  • Have completed IOP treatment and are ready to step down to less frequent sessions.
  • Previously engaged in recovery work and want more flexible treatment.
  • Are early in your recovery and have mild substance abuse issues.

2. How Severe Is Your Addiction?

  • If you’re struggling with substance abuse and experiencing chronic relapses, you may need more intensive support to concentrate on recovery. Consider PHP or IOP treatment, depending on the time you can commit.
  • If you have recent or mild addiction issues, you may be able to manage with a less restrictive OP treatment.

3. How Much Time Can You Devote to Treatment?

  • While PHP can accelerate your progress with focused treatment, it requires full-day participation, making it difficult to commit to school, work or other responsibilities.
  • Half-day IOP treatment is less disruptive and enables you to participate in many daily activities. You may be able to attend treatment sessions after work in the evenings.
  • People with work and family obligations may prefer to focus on recovery through flexible, less frequent OP treatment.

Whichever service you choose, you’re taking an important step toward regaining control of your life. Our licensed team of professionals is available to help you choose the best level of care for your drug or alcohol addiction. Contact us with any questions about your journey to recovery.

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