Author: Laura Rusch, PhD, Senior Director of Young Adult and Adult Clinical Programming, Compass Health Center

One thing right now is certain. These are challenging times.

There are many unknowns with the COVID-19 pandemic when we look at stay-at-home guidance, school closures, job security, and an increased concern about health. In this uncertain environment, mental health difficulties are often intensified. We continue to hear from many individuals about their difficulties in tolerating this uncertainty and how it is increasing depression, anxiety, and related symptoms.


When to refer a patient


Nearly all of the outpatient clinicians with who we coordinate have adapted their treatment to a virtual model. Using the virtual model for treatment is new for many individuals, including outpatient clinicians and patients alike. Outpatient care, whether virtual or “in-person”, has proved valuable for many patients, however, it is not sufficient for everyone. Many others require more intensive treatment, which has rendered the PHP (Partial Hospital Program) and IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) levels of care essential.

Here are the top 3 questions often asked about PHP/IOP services:

  1. What is PHP/IOP?
  2. Do I need Virtual PHP/IOP services?
  3. What can I expect in the virtual format?

What is a PHP/IOP?

PHP and IOP services are intensive treatment options for individuals who are struggling with debilitating symptoms of depression and anxiety that interfere with daily functioning. These programs are at different levels of intensity. PHP is a full-day program (6 hours a day) that is attended daily. IOP is a half-day program (3 hours a day) that is attended 3 or more days a week with both daytime and evening options available.

Both programs are centered around interactive, group-based therapy and individual care. The group therapy curriculum is based on scientifically-proven treatment models. Individual care includes psychiatry, individual therapy, family therapy, and additional specialized services if needed. Areas where specialized services are offered include substance use, trauma, obsessive compulsive disorder, chronic pain, and mindfulness.

Treatment plans are developed by a multidisciplinary treatment team in consultation with the patient’s family/support network and their outpatient team. Programming at Compass differs from other facilities in terms of accessibility and frequency of meeting with a psychiatrist at both the PHP and IOP level of care.

Do I Need Virtual PHP/IOP Services?

The goal of the PHP and IOP levels of care is short-term stabilization for patients in a crisis or in need of crisis level support. Most patients are ‘stepping up’ to a more intensive level of care (usually from an outpatient psychiatrist or outpatient therapist) due to needing additional support. Some patients are ‘stepping down’ from inpatient or residential treatment facilities. Regardless of the most recent level of care, the goal is to return patients to their daily functioning with the ability to more effectively manage their symptoms.

Compass specializes in mood and anxiety, however, we also provide significant support for comorbid or secondary diagnoses. At Compass, our programs are delivered and segmented based on age. This includes our Child Program (ages 10 to 14), Adolescent Program (ages 14 to 18), Young Adult Program (ages 18 to 23), and Adult Program (ages 23 and up). Woven through our age-based programs, we offer specialty services as indicated. Additionally, for patients 18 years old and up, Compass offers a Trauma Program and an OCD / Complex Anxiety Program.

Recommendations for programming are made by an expert therapist based on a live intake discussion. Intakes are completed free of charge as this is an opportunity to determine goodness of fit and for an individual to determine if they are interested in the services we provide.

What Can I Expect from Virtual Mental Health Programming?

Virtual programming, while through a different medium, is designed to directly mirror in-person programming. Programming runs for the same hours, involves the same treatment team approach and customized approach to treatment. We provide the same interactive group formats, utilize the same materials, and evaluate the progress the same way as we do in person. Since opening our virtual programming, we have received feedback from staff and patients on the effectiveness of this model.

We leverage a HIPAA-compliant teleconferencing platform for both group and individual work. Our patients remark that sometimes they forget that they are not in the same room as the rest of the group. Others find this to be a more helpful platform for interaction given their symptoms or schedules. The only change from our in-person care is that we are not currently providing programming for children under 10 years old.

For those who may be experiencing heightening symptoms during this time and are interested in PHP or IOP care, but don’t know if this would be an effective format for them, we encourage you to give us a call. Nearly all individuals who try a PHP or IOP find it to be better than their expectations and find the level of engagement to be impactful.

If you think PHP/IOP services are a possibility for you, we encourage you to reach out to us to learn more about our programming.

Learn more about our virtual programs and speak with a patient advocate