Recovery from a mental illness is a lifelong process, and it takes a strong commitment to maintain your health. How you do that depends partly on other factors in your life. The amount of care you need, your family and job commitments and your financial situation all play a role in determining how intensive your care needs to be, what level of supervision and interaction is appropriate and how much time you can commit to the talk and group sessions that are part of most mental health treatment approaches of IOP vs. PHP.
Two of the main approaches to mental health treatment are partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) and intensive outpatient programs (IOPs). These terms have somewhat different meanings based on the details of the program you’re participating in, but they broadly describe the intensity of care you get. Some programs require an initial commitment to PHP followed by a tapering off into IOP, while other programs are PHP- or IOP-only and don’t have a required approach you have to pick.
What are IOP vs. PHP in Relation to Mental Health Treatment?
PHP and IOP are the most common approaches to mental and behavioral health management. Both have their place, and they can often be used together with great effect for many people. If you’ve had a mental health crisis, such as a psychotic episode, bout of depression or a suicide attempt, you’re likely to need the intervention of a professional and empathetic care team in one of these settings. Many programs offer both or use them in sequence as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, so it’s best to think of them not as competing approaches to care but as complementary approaches that often work together for your benefit.
PHP behavioral health is the more intensive approach to treating a mental health condition. People with severe or acute mental health needs, such as a person with suicidal thoughts or active schizophrenic symptoms, is likely to need PHP during the initial phase of treatment. It’s typical for people getting PHP mental health services to live and sleep in a facility where they can get direct, 24-hour care from mental health professionals. A physician and/or psychiatrist are likely to either be in residence or make daily visits, and specialized mental health nurses are available around the clock to care for residents. You may have admitted yourself to a PHP facility, or you may have been involuntarily committed for a time for your own safety.
IOP doesn’t require you to sleep in the facility where you’re being treated. Instead, you may come in for any length of time as part of a plan worked out between yourself and your care team. Some people visit for weekly group sessions as their continuing therapy, while others come more frequently. If you’ve just finished a PHP plan, you might come in for IOP treatment every day for sessions that average 90 minutes for most people. It’s a typical goal of IOP treatment to ease you into a less intensive and more sustainable schedule that lets you function outside of the clinical setting as independently as possible.
What to Expect From PHP for Mental Health
People arrive at inpatient mental health facilities for all kinds of reasons, and there’s no single path everybody takes through the program. As a rule, you can expect the first few hours after your arrival to be busy. Caring staff have to get an idea of how you’re doing right away so they know how to take care of you. In the first few hours, you’ll probably get a medical exam from a doctor and an intake assessment for your mental health, medical history, medication and drug use and any other factors that could affect your needs during the first few days. It’s important to be as honest as possible during the initial assessment. Your caregivers aren’t there to interrogate you, and the things you tell them are confidential. The more open and honest you are about things like substance abuse, the safer and more effective treatment will be for you.
In the days following admission, you can expect to see the doctor and a mental health therapist often. You may be given medication, and there’ll probably be one-on-one and/or group therapy sessions. The care team is trying to stabilize your situation and make sure you’re safe, followed by diagnosing issues you may be dealing with and prescribing the appropriate treatment. This takes time, and your progress largely depends on how well you respond to this level of care.
What to Expect From IOP for Mental Health
After your initial stay in PHP, which may last anywhere from 72 hours to 90 days, you’re likely to transition to an IOP schedule. This lets you return home or move into a safe halfway house where it’s easier to keep up with your care plan. The schedule you keep in IOP is determined by your medical and mental health treatment needs, how much independence you can safely handle and what the best balance is for you between the demands of treatment, family and your job. Expect a demanding early schedule that gradually tapers off into fewer sessions and less close supervision over time.
Life After Care
The goal of mental health treatment is to eventually help you return to a normal life outside of the care setting. For some people, this can mean a full remission and a life free from mental health issues. For others, it’s a continuing effort that requires at least weekly sessions with a support group. As a rule, IOP gradually draws down the intensity of your care until you and your care team agree you’re in a good place and you’re getting the amount of treatment that’s right for you on a continuing basis. While many people experience relapses and may cycle back through PHP for a time, you should expect that you’ll gradually need less and less attention and can ease back into a routine that leaves you free to work, live independently and travel without mental health issues getting in your way.
Seeking the Help You Need
Taking the first step is probably the hardest part of getting the mental health care you need. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t let fear of the unknown get in the way of starting your recovery. Call us at (833) 596-3502 to talk to a caring expert who can help you make an informed decision about your care and find a good balance between IOP and PHP.