Originally developed in response to the cocaine epidemic that began in the 1980s, the Matrix Model utilizes several different evidence-based practices to treat addiction.
Now considered an evidence-based treatment option itself, the Matrix Model is primarily offered in outpatient treatment settings and follows a structured 16-week approach to recovery.
This treatment method is most often used to help people recover from stimulant addiction, but clinicians have had success using it as a treatment for other addictions as well.
A Brief History Of The Matrix Model
The Matrix Model was introduced by the Matrix Institute on Addictions in 1984. Its creators felt that the existing addiction treatments weren’t effective enough for the ongoing stimulant crisis.
Studies were conducted to compare the Matrix Model to the standard rehab programs of the time and found that the Matrix Model had repeated efficacy in treating addiction.
Since then, the Matrix Model has become an increasingly common evidence-based treatment option at rehab facilities nationwide.
Stimulant Abuse And The Matrix Model
Cocaine, crack, methamphetamines, and other forms of stimulants saw a dramatic increase in use throughout the 1980s, and rehab programs were in need of more resources to help people with stimulant addiction.
The Matrix Model provided a comprehensive treatment plan for stimulant abuse, with a highly structured outpatient approach covering all phases of recovery.
The incorporation of weekly drug testing, intensive daily therapy sessions, and a strong focus on relapse prevention can help people overcome the challenging initial period of sobriety.
The Matrix Model And Other Addictions
Research has demonstrated that the Matrix Model is also effective for some people with opioid and alcohol use disorders.
Evidence-based addiction treatment options such as behavioral therapy, group therapy, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) with methadone may not provide enough support on an outpatient level.
The clear structure laid out by the Matrix Model gives clients a path to follow so they don’t feel stagnant in treatment.
Core Principles Of The Matrix Model
When the Matrix Model was created, the people who designed it were focused on a few guiding principles. Following these concepts helps ensure the success of the program.
These principles include:
- building a strong, positive relationship based on trust and mutual respect between the healthcare provider and the client
- having clear goals and rules in place so that clients can learn to lead more structured, stable lives
- utilizing psychoeducation techniques to teach clients about addiction and how it affects people’s lives
- using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), relapse prevention, and other treatment methodologies so that clients can learn to respond to triggers in healthier ways
- offering small rewards and incentives to clients who stay abstinent from substances
- involving friends, family, partners, and other loved ones to be a part of the treatment process so that they can offer support
- encouraging the client to participate in group therapy, 12-step meetings, and other community resources
- monitoring recovery through weekly urine drug screenings
Matrix Model Components
The Matrix Model is a 16-week treatment that is usually provided through intensive outpatient programs (IOP), but inpatient treatment centers sometimes offer it as well.
It works by combining a number of research-based therapies into one treatment plan. Additional services may include contingency management, motivational interviewing (MI), or CBT.
Individual And Group Therapy
In the standard Matrix Model, clients will receive between three and 10 individual therapy sessions with a licensed therapist.
The client will also attend at least eight early recovery skills groups in the initial stages of treatment, which teach them the basics of navigating cravings and triggers in sobriety.
Relapse prevention group meetings are one of the key elements of the Matrix Model. Clients must attend 32 different relapse prevention sessions on various topics related to addiction.
Topics include addiction stigma and shame, spirituality, stress, anger management, building healthy relationships, finding a 12-step group, managing sobriety during the holidays, and more.
Family Education Groups
Family members and other loved ones are invited to 12 family therapy sessions with the client over the course of treatment.
These sessions teach family members about substance abuse, provide insight into how it affects them, and offer ways that they can help their loved one in recovery.
Weekly urine testing is another main component of the Matrix Model and helps to keep clients accountable during treatment.
People who relapse are not punished. Instead, healthcare providers work to figure out where clients are lacking support and ways to meet their needs.
The facilitation of social support groups and 12-step meetings takes place during the last month of treatment.
These are more informal than the other group aspects of the Matrix Model and encourage participants to bond with each other and build drug-free friendships.
Benefits And Effectiveness Of The Matrix Model
Numerous studies have been conducted to determine the effectiveness of the Matrix Model treatment approach, and the results have been consistently positive.
One study discovered that clients in the Matrix Model program were 38% more likely to continue treatment than those who were receiving more standard therapies.
Another study found that people addicted to methamphetamines had a significant reduction in drug use up to five years after Matrix Model treatment ended.
Rates of positive urine tests from those involved in Matrix Model programs have also been lower than those from people in other recovery programs.
What Are The Drawbacks Of The Matrix Model?
Since the Matrix Model relies on behavioral health services instead of medicine-based practices, there are few, if any, physical side effects associated with the program.
However, the lack of MAT services in the Matrix Model means that it is not ideal for people who would benefit from these services, including people who need medical detox prior to treatment.
The rigorous approach to recovery may also be challenging for people with busy schedules, and not all treatment programs provide the Matrix Model.
Finding A Matrix Model Treatment Provider
Although it can be time consuming, one good way to find a Matrix Model treatment provider is to contact rehab facilities directly and ask if they offer the program.
Your doctor and local 12-step group meetings may also be good resources for recommendations.
The Matrix Model is typically provided by drug rehab centers with intensive programs, so you’re not likely to find it offered at MAT clinics.
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- National Library of Medicine
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP)