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Understanding Addiction Recovery Programs: PHP, IOP, and OP


Recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) is rarely an easy journey—nor is it easy to define.

Everyone has a unique experience with their own substance use disorder, and finding the right recovery path for your needs is imperative for successful care and lasting recovery. Whether you require a more rigorous, intensive care approach or one that lets you determine when you receive treatment, it’s important to know that there are options.

Outpatient treatment programs are some of the most common forms of substance use disorder treatment. Understanding each type of outpatient treatment program, including how they differ from other forms of treatment, can help you make a more informed decision to begin your recovery journey.

Inpatient Versus Outpatient for Addiction Treatment

Before we explore the various outpatient treatment program types, it is critical to differentiate them from inpatient treatment. Programs for treating substance use disorders typically fall into either the inpatient or outpatient care category. While both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs are equally concerned with lasting rehabilitation, each has particular qualities and advantages to offer.

Inpatient treatment programs, usually referred to as residential treatment programs, are intensive, 24/7 programs for severe substance use disorders. Inpatient programs take place in a fully controlled environment, often in a hospital or clinical setting. Conversely, the varying levels of part-time programs for outpatient therapy all offer a greater degree of flexibility so that a patient can attend treatment without neglecting family, employment, or academic obligations. Depending on the level of support needed to treat your substance use disorder, either inpatient or outpatient may be recommended for you.

Outpatient Addiction Treatment Programs

Although inpatient programs are commonly depicted as the standard for substance use disorder treatment, outpatient treatment can be just as effective for many people. Outpatient programs, hallmarked by the way they allow individuals in a particular program to continue with other aspects of their life, are a great option for those looking into substance use treatment but have other obligations that make them unable to attend full-time care.

Outpatient programs, partial hospitalization programs, and intensive outpatient programs are all excellent options for starting your recovery while maintaining your sense of autonomy and staying present in your everyday life.

There are three primary types of outpatient treatment programs: partial hospitalization programs, intensive outpatient programs, and general outpatient programs. Each type has unique aspects that may make it a better choice for your needs.

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Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP)

Partial hospitalization programs are the most intensive type of outpatient treatment and can be thought of as a compromise between outpatient treatment and full-time residential care. In a PHP, you will spend several hours every day following your prescribed therapy and program plan to aid in your recovery before going home at night. The level of commitment and treatment regimen is comparable to inpatient therapy, even if you live at home. The daily medical and behavioral health assistance you receive through a PHP may be extremely helpful if you are currently experiencing withdrawal symptoms, have difficulties overcoming urges, or have recently overdosed.

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)

Like a PHP, but in contrast to inpatient recovery centers, an intensive outpatient program enables you to conquer substance use issues while residing in the convenience of your home. However, IOPs are less intensive than PHPs and are typically advised for those who have effectively detoxed from drugs and alcohol, can withstand cravings, and do not require round-the-clock supervision. In an IOP, patients receive treatment during the day on a pre-determined schedule and then return home at night. IOPs typically call for weekly visits, with the number of sessions and hours based on your particular needs for rehabilitation. An IOP is ideal for those prepared to return to regular life, employment, and family obligations on a nearly full-time basis.

Outpatient Programs (OP)

The least intensive level of outpatient care is a general outpatient program, which is intended for persons with other commitments who cannot commit to a more intensive level of care but want further support to make positive lifestyle decisions. Outpatient treatment choices are appropriate for people with moderate SUD and commitments to duties in life, school, work, or raising children. During group and individual counseling sessions, patients in an outpatient treatment program work with therapists to acquire skills needed for recovery. You can receive treatment for your substance use disorder during outpatient care without having to make a significant time commitment to daily or full-day treatment sessions.

The type of treatment that best fits your situation will vary. No two people with substance use disorder will have the same experience, and expecting them to be treated in the same method is not conducive to proper, long-lasting care.

Why Do People Choose Outpatient Rehab?

Any effective rehabilitation program, whether self-guided, inpatient, IOP, PHP, or OP, will be focused on defining and unpacking your substance use disorder as well as determining the kind of care needed to help you begin recovery. For some people, regular participation in 12-step programs and other self-guided recovery courses may be beneficial. For most people, however, more direct supervision in the form of treatment-care systems is necessary for the permanent changes required for long-term recovery.

Outpatient addiction recovery systems differ, as mentioned above.

Still, they share several common reasons people choose outpatient treatment to pursue recovery.

people during a group therapy

You Can Access Outpatient Detox

Detoxing from alcohol or drugs is often the most difficult—and most dangerous—stage of recovery. A variety of factors affect how difficult it is to begin this process, but most people will need to detox before concentrated treatment can begin. When withdrawal symptoms are not treated by a medical practitioner, there is a higher risk of severe withdrawals and their side effects—some of which are life-threatening.

It is extremely risky to stop using your substance of choice cold turkey and detox on your own. If your withdrawal symptoms are mild or moderate, it may be safe to detox at an outpatient facility, where medical professionals can monitor you and administer medications to reduce symptoms. Instead of being cut off from encouraging family and friends while detoxing, it may be beneficial for outpatient detox patients to maintain social and family ties. However, patients experiencing severe withdrawals should detox in a facility with 24/7 monitoring before transitioning to an outpatient program.

You Can Receive Continued Counseling for SUD

Outpatient programs are personalized to meet your needs. While inpatient recovery programs are personalized as much as possible, taking part in an inpatient recovery program frequently means most therapies occur in a group environment and on a pre-determined schedule. As a result, you might not feel like you are receiving the tailored care you need to put yourself in the best position for a full recovery.

With outpatient rehab, you will meet with care providers to tailor a program to better suit your needs. You can arrange your schedule so that you can take advantage of therapies that will benefit you while foregoing sessions you and your care team determine may deter your progress. This increased access to individualized care allows you to build a unique recovery plan that takes into account your SUD, mindset, stage of recovery, and overall ability to begin the recovery process.

You Can Establish Healthy Routines and Translate Them to Everyday Life

a female writing on her journal as a healthy routine

Substance use disorder is often accompanied by mental health issues, and these issues tend to heavily impact one another. Establishing healthy routines is crucial for ceasing substance use and addressing other mental health issues related to substance use disorders like anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and more. Outpatient programs can help you address unhealthy coping mechanisms and replace them with effective tools to prevent relapse. You’ll then have the chance to put these strategies to use outside of a substance use disorder recovery context.

Mindfulness goes hand-in-hand with substance use disorder recovery, and developing the ability to assess your feelings and the severity of your SUD is crucial for selecting the best care. Finding the best program for your unique needs can take time and effort, but putting the work towards unpacking these care methods will always benefit your progress. Consulting with a professional to evaluate your medical, mental health, and emotional needs should be another step taken before you choose a treatment program.

How PHP, IOP, and OP Treats Substance Use Disorder

Substance use disorder affects every individual differently. For some, remaining in an environment that heightens their stress or exposes them to triggers is not conducive to successful recovery. However, many people with a stable home life and a sturdy support network can remain fully autonomous in their living situation while still receiving the care they need to reach recovery.

In addition, for some people, residing in an inpatient facility long-term can seem limiting or restrictive, which can be detrimental to recovery. Constant monitoring, regimented wellness check-ins, and the lack of freedom that prevents them from attending work, school, family, and life events are enough of a deterrent for some seeking intensive treatment. For many people who have been avoiding seeking treatment because they don’t wish to commit to inpatient treatment, PHP, IOP, and OP programs can offer valuable help while meeting the patient halfway. Outpatient programs are designed to offer much of the extensive care provided in inpatient programs while allowing people the freedom to come and go as they please and maintain ties with loved ones.

Are There Drawbacks to PHP, IOP, and OP?

Although not every program is right for every individual, the most significant hurdle you will likely face before using an outpatient treatment program is determining the right kind of treatment program for you. For example, you may find PHP treatment preferable if you are recovering from an overdose or facing withdrawal symptoms typically experienced in the early stages of the recovery process. If you have long-term substance use issues and are further along in the recovery journey, this level of care and medical attention may feel excessive. As a result, you may require a less intensive option like an OP program to see results.

In addition, choosing an outpatient program before speaking to a substance use disorder specialist can cause a disconnect between the care needed and the level of care provided. For example, the ability to go home at night after receiving care may expose those seeking recovery to environments, individuals, or substances that could trigger a relapse. Identifying needs and potential issues—and the best program to treat them—should be done with a professional before committing to a program. Overall, speaking with a licensed professional about your current condition will ultimately help determine the best course of action for your recovery journey.

What Are The Benefits of Outpatient Programs?

a male client with a psychologist during an outpatient program

Substance use disorder comes in many forms and can affect anyone, regardless of status, relationships, and responsibilities. Outpatient programs provide people with substance use disorder the opportunity to work on these issues while maintaining their commitments outside of treatment. The guidance provided at outpatient rehab is comparable to what is used in inpatient work, without the overnight stay. As a result, outpatient programs come with many benefits.

The Ability to Support a Family

Some outpatient addiction recovery centers are open late or on the weekends so that patients can continue working while receiving care. Even though the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) often protects leaves of absence for medical reasons, meaning you cannot be fired for seeking treatment for SUD, some people may still be reluctant to take time away from work to receive treatment.

Others may not wish to pause their income while in treatment, as the FMLA does not guarantee paid leave. Further, those in a provider role or those responsible for another person may not want to give up those responsibilities by committing to inpatient care. Outpatient treatment gives these individuals the flexibility to work and care for family members while receiving treatment.

Cost Effectiveness

Inpatient facility costs vary widely depending on the type of facility, location, services provided, amenities, and medications utilized during therapy. Insurance providers may pay for these expenses, but not everyone seeking recovery has medical insurance. Outpatient rehabilitation generally costs less than inpatient rehabilitation, mostly due to the less intensive care provided for fewer hours of the day. The price of treatment does vary depending on the level of care needed, the duration of the treatment, the medications needed, and whether the patient has insurance.

Support and Comfort

While inpatient facilities do their best to offer comfortable, sometimes even spa-like settings, nothing will compare to the comfort of the patient’s own home. The ability to receive treatment during the day and return to the familiarity and privacy of the home is an enormous benefit experienced by those in outpatient treatment. In addition, outpatient treatment enables the recipient to experience the love and support they expect from family and friends.

Find the Right Addiction Treatment Program

Outpatient programs, partial hospitalization programs, and intensive outpatient programs are all excellent options for starting your recovery while maintaining your sense of autonomy and staying present in your everyday life. At Stairway Resource Center, we can provide the necessary tools you need to select the recovery path that works for you, including long-term outpatient addiction rehab. For more information on our various treatment paths, visit our website and explore the treatment options available to you.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4152944/

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Medical Disclaimer: Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken in place of medical advice. Before making any decisions regarding your health, please consult your doctor. The staff at Stairway Resource Center develops a custom treatment plan for each of our patients. Specific medical advice will be provided to our patients by our professional providers while in our care.