What’s the Difference Between PHP and IOP Outpatient Programs?

When you are researching an addiction rehabilitation facility to treat substance use, mental health or an eating disorder, you probably come across the mystifying acronyms PHP and IOP. It’s important to know what these acronyms stand for, as they are valuable options for your recovery program.

PHP and IOP are both types of outpatient programs. PHP stands for Partial Hospitalization Program and IOP is an acronym for Intensive Outpatient Program. Casa Palmera is proud to offer these programs, in addition to our residential program, for comprehensive recovery care. Patients can either start out in one of these programs, or transition to outpatient status after a residential recovery stay as part of an overarching treatment plan. Here is a closer look at PHP and IOP to help you know which one may be right for you or your loved one’s needs.

What is PHP?

PHP is like a bridge program in a way; it’s ideal for a patient who doesn’t need the intensive level of care offered by around-the-clock residential rehabilitation facility but needs more than a typical outpatient program. It can also be an option for a patient who has previously completed a recovery program but has suffered a relapse and needs extra support and re-education. 

With PHP, patients spend time in treatment at a facility for a set number of days and hours each week. After attending program sessions as required by the treatment plan, patients then go back to their normal living environment for evenings and weekends. At Casa Palmera, the PHP hours are 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays; patients who need to board at our facility overnight can attend the program seven days a week. 

At Casa Palmera, our PHP treatment offers the same high level of quality care that’s found in our residential program based in Del Mar, CA. This outpatient program is carefully structured so patients receive comprehensive, whole-person care. It is also staffed with licensed professionals who are experts in their disciplines and can offer knowledgable and compassionate guidance to patients in order to best prepare them for a life in recovery.

Our PHP is also organized by tracks to meet specific needs. The Chemical Dependency Track includes 12-step program participation, relapse prevention according to American Society for Addiction Medicine guidelines and education in topics such as anger and stress management, relaxation techniques and communication skills. Our Mental Health Track offers tools such as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy and emotional and mood regulation, among others. Finally, the Eating Disorders Track focuses on key elements including weight stabilization/restoration, eating normalization, emotional coping skills and preparation for independent living. By differentiating our PHP services, Casa Palmera can offer targeted, a specific treatment that provides patients with the optimal chance for success upon completing the program. 

With all PHP tracks, patients start off by meeting with a treatment coordinator, who can introduce the program and answer any questions. Patients are then thoroughly assessed by one of our Primary Care Coordinators; this person will be the patient’s clinician throughout the program to ensure continuity. The assessment is the basis for the patient’s individualized PHP treatment plan and goals. Patients also have regularly scheduled meetings with their assigned psychiatrist, learn coping skills to handle everyday stress, receive professional nursing assistance when necessary and participate in treatment sessions with family members and loved ones. Outside of the PHP, patients are required to attend at least two support group meetings each week, as well as find a sponsor. Once the PHP program is completed, patients can attend weekly 

Continuing Care group meetings to ensure a smooth transition out of the program; these meetings are covered in the treatment plan costs for up to one year.

What is IOP?

The IOP is designed to mesh seamlessly into a patient’s daily life to provide treatment support and life skills that allow for independent living in recovery. For increased flexibility for patients’ schedules, Casa Palmera offers two IOP sessions, one from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the other from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. 

The goal with the IOP is to provide support to patients as they go about their normal life routines so that they continue to feel empowered in their recovery. As with the PHP, Casa Palmera offers IOP tracks in chemical dependency, eating disorders and emotional/mental health. Also, like the PHP, the IOP starts with an introductory clinician meeting and comprehensive assessment to set the plan and goals for the program. Soon after, patients meet with a program psychiatrist, who will continue to meet with them monthly and oversee any medication management program along with a registered nurse. 

The IOP offers patients several group sessions, including group therapy that focuses on problem-solving; relapse prevention founded on coping and cognitive skills; skill-building meetings to help patients identify and manage issues; stress management techniques that include Acceptance & Commitment Therapy; and family meetings to promote healthy interpersonal relationships. IOP patients, like PHP patients, must also attend support group meetings outside of the program and can participate in Continuing Care meetings after finishing the program.

Outpatient programs such as IOP and PHP can be an integral part of your rehabilitation treatment plan. To learn more about which program is the best one to meet your needs, contact Casa Palmera today.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.