10 Factors to Consider When Evaluating a Partial Hospitalization Eating Disorder Program

Women working together in a PHP eating disorder program

Partial hospitalization for eating disorder treatment is growing in popularity. This is likely because a PHP Eating Disorder Program is a convenient and less costly way to engage in treatment.

This treatment also has positive outcomes, with a great deal of research indicating that it is comparable to residential treatment. [1]

Partial hospitalization supports individuals that may not meet severity criteria for full hospitalization but require more support than Intensive Outpatient (IOP) or Outpatient (OP) therapy can provide.

If it sounds like a pretty specific group of individuals, that’s because it is. As such, there are a few factors to consider before choosing a PHP eating disorder program.

1. Need

Assessing for need is incredibly important. As mentioned above, the individual that can benefit from partial hospitalization is in a specific place in their eating disorder treatment. The sufferer is not severe enough to be hospitalized but still requires more than IOP or OP treatment.

Speak with your treatment team, doctor, or whoever is helping you navigate this process to determine whether this intensity of treatment is right for you. Most treatment teams have an entry assessment that will help you to determine the level of care you need as well.

2. Funding

Partial hospitalization tends to be less expensive than full hospitalization because it does not involve an individual staying at the hospital overnight.

Young girl using a PHP eating disorder programHowever, it still is not cheap, therefore, considering how it will be funded is important.

If you have insurance, I encourage you to learn whether your insurance even covers partial hospitalization.

Additionally, look into non-profit organizations and in-house scholarships, as many treatment centers provide these to help with the cost of treatment.

3. Facility

All treatment centers are not created equal. Therefore, it is valuable to look into the treatment tenets that each facility focuses on.

For partial hospitalization, it is essential that their program focuses on integration and transitioning to the “real world,” as you will be returning to it every evening.

4. Location

This aspect is a bit harder to account for than when searching for inpatient hospitalization.

When hospitalized, you are essentially temporarily living at the treatment center. With a PHP eating disorder program, you will attend treatment from approximately 7 AM to 7 PM, but, will need somewhere to stay overnight.

This makes finding a treatment center more difficult, as it might add another cost for a hotel if the treatment center is not near your home.

Some treatment centers offer temporary housing for individuals and their family.

5. Residence

Speaking of the evenings – where you choose to stay is also crucial.

Individuals that are hospitalized must plan for their return home, ensuring that they are released to an environment that is conducive to, and supportive of, recovery.

This is also important with partial hospitalization, particularly because you will be there every night after treatment.

6. School/Work

Despite this level of care being a step down in intensity from full hospitalization, treatment still goes from early in the morning to evening.

As such, attending school or work will be impossible while in a partial hospitalization program.

Coordinating these aspects of your daily life are essential so that they do not become a concern on top of working toward eating disorder recovery.

Some treatment centers coordinate with school systems or employ teachers specially trained to teach those that are hospitalized and take responsibility for educating the individual while they are in treatment.

7. After-Hours Access

In case it isn’t already clear, the evenings are what make a partial hospitalization program a bit different.

As a result, it is essential to know what access you will have to your treatment team during those evening hours.

Is there a hotline you can call, can you contact anyone on your team should you find yourself struggling or triggered?

These are valuable questions to ask to ensure you do not feel abandoned and in the dark when you leave treatment each day.

8. Support

Many individuals find it important to have at least one family member near or in the vicinity as they undergo eating disorder treatment.

This is especially important in partial hospitalization because you will be returning to this person each night.

Consider who you want there for support and encouragement in your off-hours from treatment.

9. Evening Activities

Partial hospitalization is generally a program for individuals that have just left full hospitalization and are medically stable.

Two puzzel pieces being put togetherThese individuals are making progress. However, they still need intensive treatment.

This makes planning out evening activities incredibly important, as some activities or interactions may be triggering and counteract recovery efforts.

10. Transitioning

Finally, remember that each new level of treatment should move you closer to recovery. Therefore, your PHP eating disorder program should have an emphasis on the next step.

Make sure you choose a treatment center that helps you to plan for not only where you are now in your recovery, but what to do once more progress has been made.


[1] Hay, P. J. et al. (2019). Inpatient versus outpatient care, partial hospitalization and waiting list for people with eating disorders. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Volume 1.

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.About the Author: 

Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published July 23, 2019, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on July 23, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.