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Matrix Model Of Addiction Treatment

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

February 20, 2019

The Matrix Model of addiction treatment originated in the 1980s in an attempt to counter the rising threat of cocaine abuse and the subsequent need for treatment. Since this time, it has grown beyond treatment for only cocaine and other stimulant abuse, to become a renowned and diverse treatment for alcohol and other substance use disorders.

Supported By Research And Top Governmental Agencies

The CSAT Methamphetamine Treatment Project, a multi-site comparison of the Matrix Model against treatment-as-usual (TAU), sought to examine methamphetamine (MA) abuse in eight community outpatient settings located within California, Montana, and Hawaii. Study findings note that “In the overall sample, and in the majority of sites, those who were assigned to Matrix treatment attended more clinical sessions, stayed in treatment longer, provided more MA-free urine samples during the treatment period and had longer periods of MA abstinence than those assigned to receive TAU.”

Furthermore, two of our nation’s foremost governmental agencies on mental health and/or substance use disorders have recognized the impact that this therapeutic model has. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) lists this behavioral therapy within their “Evidence-Based Approaches to Drug Addiction Treatment,” denoting its effectiveness as a science-based treatment regimen. Secondly, the Matrix Model is contained within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP).

In addition to engaging a person towards obtaining and maintaining a drug-free life, according to NIDA, research also illustrates that the Matrix Model may aid in decreasing hazardous behaviors and lifestyles that increase the odds of HIV transmission, while also creating “improvements in psychological indicators,” meaning an individual’s general state of mental health is improved—an important focus in substance abuse treatment, as mood imbalances and co-occurring disorders may aggravate a person’s substance use disorder further if left untreated.

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What Is The Matrix Model?

Diverse in its offerings, this intensive outpatient program is designed in a format that can be accomplished within a 16-week period or six months, however, used adjunctly with additional support and aftercare follow-up, it may continue for up to one year. This flexibility allows it to be adjusted and used in a manner that best serves an individual’s unique recovery needs, while yet adhering to its hallmark, structured outpatient care model. What sets this method apart, is its focus and commitment towards providing, as their website explains, “the structure of an inpatient treatment experience on an outpatient timetable.”

This in-depth model of care includes:

  • Brief/early intervention
  • Individual and group therapy
  • Manual-based worksheets utilized during individual therapy
  • Skills and group support for the early stages of recovery
  • Relapse prevention, including group support
  • Relapse analysis to help prevent additional relapses
  • Social support services, including group sessions
  • Continued education on current advances in addiction medicine
  • Urine testing to monitor for drug use
  • Continuing care groups

As one publication from the Matrix Institute’s site, “The Matrix Model of Intensive Outpatient Treatment,” outlines, structure is highly important within this model of care. Specifically, within treatment, an individual is aided in creating a “roadmap” of their recovery. The article notes that “Functioning within a structure can decrease stress and provide consistency and predictability which are all incompatible an addict’s spontaneous, unplanned, chaotic lifestyle.” This approach helps to create a schedule outlining the entirety of their day, including employment responsibilities, those related to treatment and recovery goals; family, leisure, and social events; and time to relax, all the while decreasing a person’s anxiety and creating a more balanced and focused state. By doing so, they are not trying to obstruct an individual’s freedom, rather, they are trying to illustrate to a person how to maintain sobriety on a daily basis, while not feeling overcome by stress or pressure.

Contrasting more general therapies, the Matrix Model is more direct in its approach and centers its focus primarily on the client’s present behaviors, versus those centered around feelings. Though this model progresses slower, with “core issues” not being initially engaged, any suggestions for change are based on empirical scientifically-derived information and incorporated immediately into a person’s lifestyle, as explained by a National Criminal Justice Reference Service document on the subject. The structure and expectations that are central to an individual’s success within this program are largely created and directed by their partnership with their therapist.

What Is The Role Of The Therapist?

Based heavily on the relationship between the therapist and the client, the Matrix Model aids an individual in more positively defining their sense of self and self-confidence. This therapeutic approach is a non-confrontational and collaborative partnership between these two individuals, while also seeing the therapist become an advocate for the client as they progress through recovery. Commenting on this alliance, NIDA notes that “The therapist functions simultaneously as teacher and coach, fostering a positive, encouraging relationship with the patient and using that relationship to reinforce positive behavior change.”

As the client and therapist work together in this way, they begin to address the client’s needs and create mutually accepted and supported recovery goals. At times, the therapist will offer corrective comments when necessary, in a nonjudgmental way, that helps to improve the client’s focus and accountability. This partnership also engages the client in a way that makes them more receptive to learning and implementing new skills and strategies, while also being open to discussing the ways they are struggling or succeeding in their pursuit, as to better adapt their goals and approach.

A Model That Focuses On Psychoeducation

The Matrix Model adhere to the disease model of addiction, that is, that addiction is a disease of the brain. As explained by the Matrix Institute’s publication we referenced earlier, there is a large amount of scientifically-driven information on this subject that may be too complex for the average individual and their family to understand. Because of this, within their “science-made-simple lectures” delivered during the family group sessions, individuals and their families are granted access to this information in a more digestible and easily-implemented way. Within this time, they learn about conditioning and neurobiology, two elements that may strongly influence the addicted individual’s behaviors.

This increased awareness helps a person and their family to understand changes they may have undergone in the past, but more importantly, to comprehend and somewhat anticipate changes they may encounter within their mood, thinking, and relationships, going forward. The author explains that by identifying and normalizing a person’s symptoms, a person is granted greater control and skills by which to overcome and progress beyond them.

To explain these scientific premises, two ““brain chemistry made simple” lectures” have been developed. The first relates to how the brain’s makeup is changed by the addiction, so that “Classically conditioned craving occurs independently of rational choice or renewed resolve to stop drug use.” Based upon this, then, are a variety of printed materials and exercises, such as “time scheduling,” to deter a person from relying on thoughts which are undermined by addiction; “thought stopping,” to circumvent a craving from occurring; and guidance that helps a person to learn how to navigate around triggers.

The second concept centers around making an individual aware of the reality that a damaged brain takes time—often more than anticipated—to heal and regain an optimal state. This is closely linked to, and accompanied by, relapse prevention training and also the “road map” we spoke of before; these two things help the individual in recovery to have a more concrete sense of purpose and accomplishment as they move farther away from the physical manifestations of the addiction.

What Modalities Are Utilized Within This Model?

What is perhaps most interesting about the Matrix Model is that it is a composite of several outstanding behavioral therapies that are often used as standalone methods within addiction treatment. This combined approach allows for the treatment to be individualized and directed towards a person’s specific treatment needs. The Matrix Model encompasses the following treatment modalities:

  • Twelve-step facilitation — This model incorporates education about Twelve-Step programs and also encourages participants to attend meetings. In addition, “Matrix also encourages involvement in other spiritual approaches to recovery.”
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy — Helps an individual to uproot maladaptive behaviors within their life, by aiding them in developing effective coping skills.
  • Contingency management — As substance abuse creates a host of negative behaviors, this method seeks to undo this damage by reinforcing positive behaviors through a rewards-based approach.
  • Motivational interviewing — Foundational within the model, this client-centered approach is non-confrontational and aids an individual in overcoming ambivalence by utilizing self-actualization to create a positive atmosphere for change.
  • Medication-assisted treatment — This modality utilizes various medications alongside of behavioral therapies to aid a person through both withdrawal and recovery.
  • Family involvement — The Matrix Model encourages both family and friends to participant in their loved one’s treatment to provide support and affirmation throughout their treatment and recovery by integrating family education group sessions.

Additionally, this comprehensive treatment model is not stagnant, rather, it is a dynamic model that has the capacity to change as current knowledge and research progresses. As the site explains, “Moving forward, Matrix is committed to expanding our research activities and incorporating new and improved treatments into existing programs.” This continuously engaged focus will allow this model to stay adept at offering its treatment participants the best measure of evidenced-based care.

Find Programs That Utilize This Approach

If, after reading about the Matrix Model, you’re interested in finding a program that employs this treatment method, let our highly-trained staff at assist you today. We can help you, or your loved one, to determine if this is the best treatment option for your unique needs. A substance use disorder doesn’t have to run your life; contact us now to regain control over your life and find a way to build a sober life.

Matrix Institute on Addictions - Home

National Criminal Justice Reference Service - Matrix Model of Outpatient Chemical Dependency Treatment

Matrix Institute on Addictions - The Matrix Model of Intensive Outpatient Treatment

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