Jump to topic
The matrix model is a highly structured treatment framework used in intensive outpatient treatment programs developed in the 1980s in Los Angeles. It is an effective substance abuse treatment model for patients with substance use disorders involving stimulant substances such as cocaine, crystal meth, and methamphetamine-based prescription drugs.
The matrix model combines many addiction treatment modalities into a comprehensive program. Some common treatments include:
The matrix treatment model takes place over 16 weeks and includes a less intensive aftercare program. This addiction treatment approach uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), combined with a motivational interviewing style, and supplemented with contingency management carried out in a mixture of group therapy sessions and individual sessions.
Therapists using the matrix model use eight central therapeutic constructs:
In order for the matrix model to be successful, therapists combine the following components in a highly structured setting:
These psychotherapy (talk therapy) sessions are the foundation for the entire recovery process. They establish the pivotal relationship between therapist and client. The primary concern of these sessions is to set and monitor the progress of the patient’s goals. Therapists may use cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management, and motivational interviewing throughout the treatment process.
They may also be conjoint sessions (with a loved one in the room) to set the treatment plan. If the patient relapses or their treatment plan needs changing for any other reason, it will be addressed in these sessions.
In the first month of treatment, patients will attend eight early recovery skill groups to teach them the skills they need to abstain from drug use. These are small-sized group sessions. Patients that destabilize or relapse will often return to these groups before proceeding with their treatment sessions.
Patients are taught these five skills:
Relapse prevention groups take place at the beginning and end of every week throughout treatment. A therapist runs them and, if possible, a co-leader who has at least six months of sobriety serves as a peer support person. The purpose of these groups is to teach patients how to stay sober.
These groups focus on:
These sessions take place over twelve weeks and utilize slideshows, videos, panels, and group discussions. The educational component is aimed at teaching family members about:
Each week, patients currently undergoing treatment and graduated members will get together for a 12-Step meeting. These may be official, or if that is not possible, they can be considered “Introduction to 12-Step Program Meetings.” They will use the same format to make sure that patients are familiar with the process of these groups and are prepared for outside meetings.
Urine testing is done each week randomly. Positive results become points of discussion, rather than reasons for condemnation.
If a patient relapses, they will undergo a relapse analysis with their therapist. This will either be a one on one session or with a loved one in attendance. The purpose of these is to try to identify the issues and events that preceded the relapse to understand the patient’s triggers and prevent future relapse.
These groups take place during the last month of treatment. They are designed to help patients make new non-drug-related friends and discover new activities and interests. This will help them acclimate to a sober life outside of treatment.
One study found that the matrix model was effective in treating people addicted to stimulant drugs, particularly cocaine, eight months after treatment. Another study examined methamphetamine users who were treated using the Matrix Model. Two to five years after treatment, the researchers found that this group greatly reduced their drug use. In addition, many of these people also got employed and did not get arrested.
An intensive outpatient program may be best for you or a loved one who is suffering from an addiction to stimulant drugs. Contact a treatment center to find out if their intensive outpatient approach utilizes the matrix model.
Ready to Make a Change?
Rawson, Richard A., et al. The Matrix Model. Intensive Outpatient Alcohol & Drug Treatment Program. Hazelden, 2014.
Herbeck, Diane M et al. “Empirically supported substance abuse treatment approaches: a survey of treatment providers' perspectives and practices.” Addictive behaviors vol. 33,5 (2008): 699-712. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2007.12.003
NIDA. "Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 17 Jan. 2018, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition.