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Matrix Model of Addiction Treatment

Various treatment approaches are used in the treatment of substance use disorder (SUD), the clinical term for addiction. One treatment approach is the Matrix Model, which integrates cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), family education, and motivational interviewing (MI) to help individuals struggling with substance misuse and addiction.

What is the Matrix Model?

The Matrix Model is a type of treatment designed to aid in recovery from stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamine. The Matrix Model is an integrative addiction treatment approach that incorporates various psychological orientations and therapeutic styles. It typically operates as an intensive outpatient program (IOP), where patients attend several hours of treatment per day, multiple days each week, while allowing patients to return home in the evenings.

This highly structured model includes planned topics and a sequence for each treatment session. Treatment is intended to last 16 weeks and can be extended up to a year based on the patient’s needs. Research has demonstrated its effectiveness in enhancing client consistency and extending recovery, not only for stimulant addiction but also for a wide range of substance use issues. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and many organizations endorse the Matrix Model due to its proven success.

Theory and Foundations of Matrix Model Therapy

Some addiction treatment plans find their basis in one psychological orientation. For example, contingency management (CM) gathers its views from behaviorism and bases its methods on this position. Though this can be valuable, it can be limiting, as gaps in the treatment may appear. Since the treatment approach of the Matrix Model is integrative, it uses specific aspects of several beneficial treatment styles, including:

The Matrix Model’s ability to bring together the most effective facets from the most effective styles makes it a successful treatment type for people new to recovery, as well as for those who have not found success previously. All of the methods are tested for their effectiveness and appropriateness for the population being treated.

The Duty of the Therapist

The integrated approach of the Matrix Model requires a therapist who is highly skilled and adaptable to a variety of situations and styles. The most appropriate therapist will be one who is experienced in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing (MI), and the physiology behind addiction. In the Matrix Model, the therapist will:

  • Facilitate individual, group, and family therapy sessions.
  • Coordinate with other therapists and social services to benefit the client.
  • Encourage attendance of and participation in 12-step meetings.
  • Engage patients in notions of CBT to understand connections of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
  • Praise and reward desired behaviors.
  • Provide consistency and structure to teach the expectations in place for the client.

Since the Matrix Model is not based on confrontation, the therapist will develop a position as a teacher and a coach. It will be the duty of the therapist to create a safe, nonjudgmental environment based on positivity and openness. The therapist will build an empathic understanding with the client and promote their needs.

The Matrix Model Structure

The intensive outpatient program (IOP) structure of the Matrix Model means that patients will be involved in addiction treatment each day of the week. Generally, patients will attend formal treatment 3 days per week, addressing several topics. Typically, treatment will include multiple types of individual and group therapy for several hours. On the other days of the week, patients are encouraged to attend informal treatment, such as 12-step meetings.

Individual and Family Sessions

During treatment, the therapist will incorporate techniques from CBT while using MI skills to reduce ambivalence in patients. At times,  family members will be included in these sessions to address a patient’s needs, while educating family members on issues associated with substance misuse and addiction.

Early Recovery Skills (ERS) Group

The Matrix Model has 8 group sessions focused on early addiction recovery skills that are to be completed over the first month of treatment. These last for less than an hour and are co-facilitated by the therapist and a patient who is established in recovery. This group is intended to be more educational than therapeutic. The ERS group is focused on two concepts:

  • The patient has the power to increase the odds of abstinence and the ERS group will help with this.
  • Individual treatment can be helpful, but someone attempting to achieve lasting recovery will benefit most from attending community-based groups.

Relapse Prevention Group

This group is scheduled to meet at the beginning and end of each week in the Matrix Model. These sessions last for 90 minutes and focus on the idea that drug or alcohol relapse is a predictable, nonrandom event. The goal of these groups is to educate patients and identify the signs of relapse early so that it can be prevented. Topics involve:

  • Shame, guilt, and resentment.
  • Finding appropriate uses of time.
  • Measures to build motivation.
  • Identifying triggers of relapse.
  • Building self-monitoring skills while downplaying the role of willpower.

Family Education Group

The Matrix Model believes that treatment outcomes improve when the entire family and support network of the patient are active in treatment. The family will learn information related to addiction and recovery. Additionally, they will receive education regarding the signs of relapse and ways to modify their behaviors to make them more desirable and helpful for the patient. Both patients and their families are encouraged to attend these weekly sessions together.

Social Support Group

During active substance abuse, many people lose their ability to interact appropriately with others. Perhaps some people in recovery never obtained desirable social skills during childhood, like patience and dealing with rejection. The social support group works to move the person in recovery away from substances and towards a lifestyle based on being healthy and substance-free. This group begins in the third month of treatment and will continue for 36 weeks.

The period following the final week is called aftercare or continuing care. Someone new to the social skills group will practice their skills with someone who has achieved a longer period of recovery. In this case, the group is mutually beneficial, since the member with longer recovery will gain a sense of accomplishment by helping others.

In addition to the structure outlined above, the Matrix Model of treatment uses weekly urine testing and breath tests to monitor all substance use. The testing will be done randomly but, since the program is not confrontational or punitive, positive testing results will not result in dismissal from the program. Rather, it will be a point of discussion within treatment.

Matrix Model Program Principles

  1. Building a strong, respectful relationship between therapist and client.
  2. Following through on the structure of the program and the expectations of the client.
  3. Providing quality educational content to the client that explains the nature of substance use.
  4. Using varied treatment approaches like CBT and motivational interviewing to meet the client’s needs.
  5. Rewarding and encouraging desired behaviors while extinguishing negative behaviors.
  6. Engaging the family and educating them about addiction and recovery.
  7. Motivating members to participate in self-help and community-based programs in addition to the Matrix Model.
  8. Checking for substance use with urine testing.

Matrix Therapy Benefits

Matrix Model treatment offers several benefits for those in need of addiction treatment. It combines diverse psychological orientations and therapeutic styles, creating an adaptable, yet comprehensive approach. As an intensive outpatient program (IOP), it provides flexibility by allowing patients to continue living at home while receiving structured treatment. The Matrix Model’s time-sensitive approach further helps to accommodate patient’s needs. The Matrix Model helps patients develop essential skills and strategies to navigate life after treatment, which can reduce the risk of relapse. Additionally, as the Matrix Model integrates family education and involves loved ones in the recovery process, it can enhance support and understanding.

Finding Matrix Model Treatment

Not all treatment centers use the Matrix Model. However, due to its reputation for success and backing from government agencies, a treatment center near you will likely incorporate the principles of the Matrix Model into the program.

If you’re ready to find treatment for substance misuse or addiction, American Addiction Centers (AAC) can help.  With facilities across the country, AAC offers various levels of evidence-based care to suit your needs. To find Matrix Model treatment or other therapy types, contact us at  or verify your insurance now and reach out for more information later. It’s confidential and free, and there is no obligation to enter treatment.

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