There is a great need for quality mental health treatment across the United States, particularly following the stresses we've faced during the past few years. Many people turn to their outpatient psychiatrist or therapist for regular care. However, sometimes a weekly appointment isn't enough—this is where a partial hospital program comes in.

What is a partial hospital program?

A partial hospital program is a comprehensive, intensive, short-term treatment program. It's designed to help adults who are facing mental health or substance use challenges that are significantly impacting their daily lives, making it hard to work or care for themselves or others. It involves daily group therapy sessions, medication assessments and individual therapy. Now offered virtually, partial hospital programs are more accessible than ever for those who need help, as people can participate in the full program from the comfort of their homes.

Who can benefit from a partial hospital program?

A partial hospital program serves patients who are feeling extremely distressed or overwhelmed and are not functioning as they typically would. This includes people who are so depressed or anxious that they're unable to go to work or complete their typical responsibilities. 

To be admitted to the program, a patient must:

  • have significant symptoms of psychiatric illness
  • be significantly impaired in daily functioning
  • be willing and able to participate in group therapy 
  • be willing and able to seek emergency assistance in the event of a potential crisis outside of program hours
  • not be at imminent risk of acting on suicidal or homicidal thoughts

While program duration varies for each person, most people attend the program daily for several weeks and generally experience enough improvement that they are able to return to work and day-to-day functioning upon completion of the program.

Partial hospital program services and treatment options

The programming draws from a range of specialized, proven treatment methods for mental health issues that include:

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), including CBT for insomnia
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy 
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy

The programs also feature tailored specialty tracks for individuals with a history of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and those diagnosed with borderline personality and related disorders. There is also a program for substance abuse as well as a young adult track for individuals ages 18 to 26.

A key component of the partial hospital program is a group-based curriculum. Group therapy is an effective way for people to gain insight and learn coping strategies to help with their current mental health struggles in a group of other patients who understand and relate. This connection and support from others going through similar struggles is a powerful experience within the partial hospital program. In addition, virtual programs increase access to people, allowing even those with transportation barriers and medical health limitations to still obtain the treatment they need. In fact, as long as someone has access to a wi-fi connection, the programs at Rhode Island Hospital can provide a Kindle device to use for the program if needed.

Do partial hospital programs work?

The success of our program is vital for our patients’ well-being. To measure our programs’ success, we offer surveys to all patients, to learn how happy they are with treatment, and to understand the specific improvements they made. We also invite people to comment and offer any feedback so that we can continually adapt to our patients’ needs and improve the programs. 

Some wonder if a virtual program is as effective as an in-person program. We asked the same question! Through careful research and assessment, we learned that 95 percent of patients who complete the program say they would recommend it to a family member or friend in need. We also learned that when compared to an in-person program, the patients who completed the virtual program experienced the same improvements in ability to deal with stress and learn coping skills. Both groups had the same reduction of symptoms, and improvement in functioning. They also experienced the same boost in many positive mental health factors, such as optimism, energy, and vigor. In a nutshell, the virtual program delivered care just as effectively as the in-person program.

If you, a friend or a loved one are experiencing issues with your mental health, a Lifespan partial hospital program may be right for you.

Learn more about the Partial Hospital Programs at Rhode Island Hospital and Newport Hospital on our website.

Bethany Rallis, PhD, LCP; Sarah Schmidhofer, MD; and Sarah Zimage, LMHC

Dr. Bethany Rallis is the director of the Adult Partial Hospital Program at Newport Hospital.

Dr. Sarah Schmidhofer and Sarah Zimage, LMHC are the directors at the Adult Partial Hospital Programs at Rhode Island Hospital.