Partial Hospitalization vs Intensive Outpatient Programs for Mental Health

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Home » Blog » Partial Hospitalization vs Intensive Outpatient Programs for Mental Health

When you are seeking mental health treatment for yourself or a family member, it is important to learn about the array of options that are available to you. For many people, outpatient care – such as a partial hospitalization program (PHP) or an intensive outpatient program (IOP) – may be the ideal choice.

Differences and Similarities Between Partial Hospitalization vs. Intensive Outpatient

The primary differences between partial hospitalization programs and intensive outpatient programs are the amount of time that patients spend in treatment and the scope of services that are included in their care:

  • In a PHP, patients usually take part in full days of treatment five days per week. In an IOP, patients typically participate in a few hours of care a few days each week.
  • With more time in treatment per day and per week, PHP patients may also take part in a greater variety of therapies and support services than IOP patients do.


Admission policies at partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs can vary from one center to the next, but the following are examples of typical requirements: 

  • Age range: PHPs and IOPs are almost always organized by age, with separate options for adolescents and adults. Some centers may also offer age-specific outpatient programming for older adults.
  • Gender: Most PHPs and IOPs serve patients of all genders, but some are limited to either men or women. Gender-specific outpatient programming can be especially valuable for people who have histories of trauma or other needs that they would be hesitant to discuss in a mixed-gender environment.
  • Symptom severity: To be an appropriate candidate for treatment at either the PHP or IOP level, you must have achieved the level of stability that will allow you to fully engage in all aspects of care without requiring 24/7 services or round-the-clock support.
  • Transportation: Since outpatient programs don’t have a residential component, a person will usually need to have access to transportation to and from the treatment center. 
  • External support: Having people at home who care about you or being able to live in an alternative supported residence while you’re in a PHP or an IOP can be extremely beneficial. Regardless of which type of outpatient program you are in, you will have substantial time to yourself, which can be particularly challenging for people with some mental health needs.


The specific benefits that you can receive from a partial hospitalization program or an intensive outpatient program will depend on the scope of your needs as well as your treatment goals. In general, though, the following are examples of many benefits of PHPs and IOPs:

  • Customized care: Reputable PHPs and IOPs will assess your needs, then develop a customized plan that includes the therapies and support services that are right for you.
  • Step-down services: If you have completed an inpatient or residential mental health program, but you still need additional support before you transition out of treatment, spending time in a PHP and/or an IOP can be ideal steps on your journey toward improved health.
  • Shared support: Group therapy is often one of the primary means of treatment at the PHP and IOP levels. Groups can be excellent environments in which to practice healthy communication and conflict-resolution skills. Groups can also introduce you to the many benefits of sharing support with others who are working to address similar challenges.
  • Increased independence: These programming options offer increased opportunities for independent living, so that you can practice the skills and strategies you have been developing during treatment. Then, during the next session, you can process your experiences and receive focused feedback from the members of your treatment team.

What They Treat

Some partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs specialized in treating people who have a specific mental health disorder, while others serve a broader patient population. The following are examples of the types of concerns that are often addressed in outpatient mental health programs:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Other effects of trauma
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Schizophrenia

Many outpatient mental health programs also offer dual diagnosis services for patients whose struggles with mental illness are accompanied by a co-occurring substance use disorder (which is the clinical term for addiction). 

How to Decide Between Intensive Outpatient vs. Partial Hospitalization 

To determine whether a partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient program is the right place for you, you should discuss the symptoms you’ve been experiencing with a professional at the facility that you are considering.

When you speak with someone at the facility, you will also be able to gain a greater understanding of the features and benefits of each programming option. 

While we have provided a general overview of PHPs and IOPs in this post, every facility does things a bit differently. Learning about the specific policies and practices of each program, as well as the facility’s treatment philosophy, can help you make the most informed decisions about your treatment and your health.

Remember: There is no single perfect way to run a PHP or an IOP. What you should be focused on is finding the facility whose services align most closely with your needs, goals, and expectations. 

To speak with someone who can answer all your questions about partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programming at Montare at the Canyon, please call (310) 651-8957.

Begin Your Mental Health Journey Through Partial Hospitalization or Intensive Outpatient Programs Today

Montare at the Canyon offers a full continuum of customized mental health treatment services, including a partial hospitalization program and an intensive outpatient program. 

Our team can work with you to assess the full scope of your needs, identify your immediate and long-term treatment goals, then determine which level or levels of care are right for you. Regardless of which program you enroll in at our center, you can expect to receive personalized services in a safe, welcoming, and highly respectful environment. Every step of the way, you can benefit from the guidance and support of a team of highly skilled treatment professionals.

If you have any questions about mental health treatment at Montare at the Canyon, or if you’d like to schedule a free assessment for yourself or a loved one, please complete our online Contact form or call us today.