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The Value of Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) for College Students

By Lee Neagle MA, LPC| 8 Min Read | March 6, 2024

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • What is a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)?
  • Why PHP Might Be Right for College Students
  • Indicators That PHP Might Be a Good Fit
  • How Inner Haven Can Help

College life brings a whirlwind of demands and excitement, but for some students, it also includes the added struggle of an eating disorder. If you’re facing these challenges, seeking help from an eating disorder therapist for college students can be a crucial step toward recovery. 

Eating disorders can erode your ability to focus on academics, create strain in relationships, and seriously impact your physical and mental health. A Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) might offer a way forward.  

A PHP provides structured, intensive treatment for eating disorders within a less restrictive setting than full-time hospitalization.

What is a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)?

Think of a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) as a middle ground in eating disorder treatment. It’s more intensive than regular outpatient therapy sessions but less restrictive than staying in a hospital setting. PHPs offer a structured daily schedule filled with support and skill-building. 

Let’s break down the key components.

Individual Therapy Sessions.

Group therapy in addition to one-on-one sessions is a cornerstone of PHP treatment.

You’ll work with a qualified therapist to explore the root causes of your eating disorder. At Inner Haven Wellness the therapists draw from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and place significant emphasis on skill development and practice to empower individuals on their recovery journey. In this environment clients will work to build the following capabilities:  

  • Mindfulness
  • Acceptance
  • Values Identification
  • Goal Setting
  • Commitment Action
  • Emotional Regulation
  • Cognitive Defusion

This focused, personalized space allows for a deep exploration of your needs and challenges.

Group Therapy.

Group therapy sessions provide a unique opportunity to connect with peers and connect with individuals struggling with similar experiences. Sharing your story, hearing from others, and offering mutual support helps break down the isolation that often accompanies eating disorders. 

Group therapy creates a sense of community and reminds you that you are not alone in your recovery journey.

Supported Meals and Snacks.

Addressing your relationship with food is central to eating disorder recovery. Supervised meals and snacks help you relearn healthy eating habits with support from dietitians and therapists. 

They can help you challenge food-related anxieties, practice mindful eating, and address any distorted beliefs about food and nutrition.

Experiential Therapies.

PHPs often incorporate experiential therapies such as art therapy, yoga, or mindfulness practices.  These activities offer nonverbal ways to express emotions, develop body awareness, and cultivate stress management skills. 

Experiential therapies provide valuable tools to use outside the clinical setting, empowering you to manage difficult emotions and triggers in your daily life.

Remember, the specific elements of a PHP can vary between programs. However, the overarching goal is to provide intensive, multifaceted treatment within a supportive environment that promotes lasting recovery.

At Inner Haven Wellness we incorporate mindful movement practices into our treatment program. 

Medical & Psychiatric Management. 

PHPs is not a hospital environment. However, in the Inner Haven Wellness PHP program you will receive care from trained nursing staff highly specialized in the medical complications that come from an eating disorder. In addition, clients are seen by a psychiatrist on a regular basis. 

Why PHP Might Be Right for College Students.

PHPs offer several potential benefits that make them particularly well-suited to the needs of college students struggling with eating disorders. Let’s explore some key reasons why:


Unlike residential treatment programs, which require 24/7 commitment and a break from normal life, PHPs offer more flexibility. 

While attending a PHP is a significant time investment, some programs may allow for maintaining a limited academic or social schedule. This can be crucial for students who want to minimize disruption to their studies or maintain a sense of connection to their campus community. 

This flexibility is particularly important for college students, and many PHPs are designed with this in mind. 

Community Support.

College life can be isolating, especially for students battling mental health challenges. 

PHPs provide a built-in community of understanding and support. Regular interaction with therapists, dietitians, and peers who share similar experiences offers a safe space to connect, learn from each other, and combat the loneliness often associated with eating disorders.


Residential treatment programs can be financially burdensome and geographically distant. PHPs may offer a local accessible option for some students.  

Their outpatient nature may reduce costs compared to inpatient care, and local programs eliminate the need for travel and the associated expenses. Increased accessibility can be crucial for students who might struggle to find appropriate treatment.


A crucial aspect of PHP treatment is the focus on developing coping mechanisms and independent living skills. This emphasis on practical strategies is particularly valuable for college students dealing with academic life and independent living challenges. 

PHPs help students learn how to manage their eating disorders alongside the demands of college, fostering the skills necessary for a successful return to campus and beyond.

Indicators That PHP Might Be a Good Fit.

While only a qualified mental health professional can definitively determine if PHP is the right choice, there are specific signs that it could be a beneficial step in your recovery journey.  

Here are some common situations where a PHP might be appropriate:

Difficulty Managing Daily Functioning.

If your eating disorder significantly disrupts your ability to attend classes, hold a part-time job, maintain relationships, or care for yourself, a PHP might be necessary. 

This disruption indicates that the severity of your eating disorder is impacting your overall well-being and requires a more intensive level of treatment.

Outpatient Therapy Provides Insufficient Support.

Outpatient therapy is often the starting point for eating disorder treatment. However, if you find that weekly or bi-weekly therapy sessions aren’t helping you make significant progress, a PHP might provide the additional structure and support you need.  

If disordered eating patterns persist or underlying emotional issues feel overwhelming despite therapy, stepping up to a PHP could address those needs more comprehensively.

Medical Stabilization is Needed, but Full Hospitalization isn’t Necessary.

In some cases, an eating disorder can cause physical complications that require medical monitoring. If you need more intensive medical support than can be provided in an outpatient setting, but your condition isn’t severe enough to require 24-hour hospitalization, a PHP can be a suitable option. 

PHPs often include regular medical assessments and collaboration with healthcare providers to ensure your physical well-being while actively addressing the psychological aspects of your disorder.

How Inner Haven Can Help.

At Inner Haven, we have eating disorder specialists  on staff who recognize the unique challenges facing college students. Our Partial Hospitalization Program is designed to empower you with the skills to recover from your eating disorder while navigating college life. 

We understand the importance of minimizing disruption to your academic life. 

Our PHP hours from 12-6:30pm M-F allow you to still maintain coursework.  Our program emphasizes developing the coping mechanisms and independent living skills you’ll need for a successful return to a full college life.  

We focus on practical strategies for managing your eating disorder alongside the demands of academics and social life. We may offer telehealth components to our PHP, facilitating participation if you’re located further from our physical treatment center or need flexibility for academic or personal commitments.

As in our previous discussions about PHPs, Inner Haven’s program features:

  • Individual therapy 
  • Group therapy
  • Supervised meals 
  • Experiential therapies
  • Regular medical monitoring

This multi-faceted approach addresses the complex physical and emotional aspects of eating disorders.

If you’re a college student struggling with an eating disorder, Inner Haven is here to provide eating disorder support and specialized treatment. We’ll work collaboratively to determine if our PHP fits you and design a treatment plan tailored to your needs.

Key Takeaways

  • Eating disorders are serious: Eating disorders disrupt academic success, relationships, and overall well-being. Seeking help from a specialized eating disorder therapist is crucial for college students facing these challenges.
  • PHPs offer a middle ground: Partial Hospitalization Programs provide structured, intensive treatment for eating disorders in a less restrictive setting than inpatient programs.
  • PHPs focus on skill-building: PHPs help college students develop coping mechanisms and independent living skills they need to manage their eating disorder successfully while navigating campus life.
  • Flexibility is key: Many PHPs, especially those designed for college students, offer flexible scheduling options and may include telehealth components to minimize disruption to academic and personal commitments.
  • Community matters: PHPs provide a built-in support system of therapists, dietitians, and peers who understand the unique struggles of eating disorders. This combats isolation and fosters a sense of community.
  • Seek professional guidance: If you’re struggling, you can reach out to us for a free confidential assessment. You can reach out by clicking here. College students have options and specialized treatment to support them on their recovery journey.