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PHP vs IOP Part 2: My Therapist Recommended IOP/PHP...Now What!?

June 29th, 2022


In my last article I outlined treatment options in mental health care in hopes that this knowledge would not only help more people access the right level of care but also normalize what mental healthcare is all about. We are truly no different than any other type of healthcare, and yet, we seem to have the most barriers to accessing our care.

One of the barriers I often see to accessing care is fear, mainly fear of the unknown. For patients who have been recommended to go to a higher level of care, that fear is often rooted in a lack of understanding of the next steps.

So, if your therapist or psychiatrist has recommended that you go to a partial hospitalization program (PHP) or intensive outpatient program (IOP), here’s what you can expect:

Initial Assessment

Initial Assessment

It all starts with a phone call. This phone call will be step one in making an appointment for an assessment. This assessment historically was done in person (and most programs linked to a hospital still do it this way) however with the wave of telemedicine that has taken over healthcare a lot of treatment centers that offer PHP/IOP will do an assessment either via phone or over a platform like Zoom.

In this assessment, you can expect to share your psych history, family history of mental illness, current treatment (including medication), and the problems you are hoping to address. You will be assessed by someone who is at least a masters-level clinician. During this call, you will also discuss the logistics of the program (to see if the timing is a fit), insurance, and payment. The treatment center should also verify your benefits for this is usually done after the assessment but before you start your first day.

Insurance Concerns

One of the barriers I often see is clients not understanding their insurance benefits or the cost of care. If you are using Medicaid/Medicare you will likely only be able to go to an IOP/PHP that is linked to a hospital that takes that insurance. Additionally, if you are using an HMO you will need a referral from your primary care provider and will need to go to a treatment center that is linked with your HMO in order to avoid having to use your out-of-network coverage.

Most independent (not linked to a hospital) treatment centers will take PPO insurance plans and a select few HMO’s. It is important to understand that just because a treatment center is in-network with your insurance that doesn’t mean that it will be low cost. Some insurance plans offer great coverage for these services while others hold these services to high deductibles/coinsurance and copays. Make sure that you understand your benefits before you start your treatment.

The Role of Your Current Treatment Team

The Role of Your Current Treatment Team

It can be helpful if your treatment team (therapist and psychiatrist) also connects with the PHP/IOP you are hoping to attend so that they can update the team on what you have already been working on. I have found that most patients, when recommended, will pick up the phone and set up the assessments. At times, when the anxiety is just too high to do it on their own, I will do the initial phone call with them in session.

What’s Next?

After your assessment you will be given the recommendation for a level of care (PHP, IOP, or possibly another type of treatment) and a start date.

Your First Day

Whether it’s PHP or IOP, your first day will be mostly assessments and meetings with your new therapist, MD, and other members of your treatment team. If you get to go to the groups it likely will not be for long. You will also get info on the program and details about the weekly schedule, what groups to expect and when your lunch break will be.

From there you will either come 5-7 days a week (PHP) seeing a therapist and MD two times a week and staff one time per week with your whole team, or 3-5 days a week (IOP) seeing a therapist once per week and possibly seeing an MD, although this is not required and some IOP programs do not offer medication management.



One of the biggest concerns I come across when talking to my patients about PHP or IOP is the time commitment and possible disruption of work or school. It is really important to understand that the benefits far outweigh the temporary inconveniences to one’s daily routine.

  • Fast-tracked treatment: PHP and IOP are able to give you the information you would learn in individual therapy over a year, in a matter of weeks or months.
  • Family Involvement: PHP programs will involve a family component. This will look like family sessions or support/educational groups that are open to your family to attend.
  • An environment that is free of other life stressors: While taking time off of work/school may seem daunting, this is the only way to truly give your full attention to your mental health

I have seen firsthand the life-changing impact these programs can have on a person’s life. Just in case you don’t want to take my word for it, below I have linked a few research articles outlining the data supporting the benefits of partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs:

National Library of Medicine - Effectiveness and Application of Partial Hospitalization

SAMHSA - Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment for Substance Use Disorder

Psychiatry Online - Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient Programs: Assessing the Evidence

Written By: Tara Javidan, LCPC, CADC.

Clarity Clinic

At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff who specialize in therapy and psychiatry services. To learn more about how we can support your mental health, call Clarity Clinic at (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.

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