The Minnesota Model Of Addiction Treatment
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The Minnesota Model Of Addiction Treatment

Debra Wallace, MA.Ed, LPCC-S, LICDC-CS

Medically reviewed by

Debra Wallace, MA.Ed, LPCC-S, LICDC-CS

January 24, 2019

Addiction treatment methods have changed and varied over the past several years. One of the most prominent treatment methods today is the Minnesota Model. This approach expands on the 12-step program and adds doctors, psychologists, and addiction specialists to the treatment team allowing individuals the opportunity for a well-rounded recovery.

What Is The Minnesota Model?

The Minnesota Model of addiction treatment is commonly called the “abstinence model.” It is an outgrowth of the original 12-step program developed by Alcoholics Anonymous and was founded by two people who worked in a state mental hospital in the 1950s. The idea was to expand the reach of the 12-steps to include professionals, including doctors and importantly, psychiatrists, in the treatment of addiction.

Each treatment was individualized based on the person’s addiction concerns. The family of the individual was asked to participate in the treatment on a very active basis. Inpatient treatment that lasted at least 28 days and daily treatment was a necessity, including adherence to 12-step programs before and after being admitted. In this way, it was believed that treatment could be more comprehensive and effective than past treatment methods which focused only on detoxification.

Since its debut, the Minnesota Model has been adapted and expanded multiple times as new treatment methods became available. However, the core focus on changing a person through psychological support and helping them recover from their addiction in a professional setting, is still there. In many ways, it has formed the foundation of many modern treatment methodologies.

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Mode Of Treatment

When it comes to the Minnesota Model, about 80 to 90 percent of all treatment is done in a group setting. The importance of working in a group is one of the major focuses of the Minnesota Model. The idea is that those in recovery will have an increased understanding of the nature of addiction and will also have a support group to help them fight through the dangers of relapse.

In these group settings, individuals in recovery will discuss their addiction, what triggers it, break through the denial of various problems, receive feedback from participants and the counselor, participate in meditation groups, help others work through their problems, and move through the 12-steps in a constructive and positive way. It isn’t necessary to work through the 12-steps in order, so within counseling sessions the steps may be broken down for people who are focusing on specific needs.

Each person in recovery will receive individualized treatment that meets their needs. For example, those with severe emotional concerns may meet more frequently than those who are more stable. Self-help groups that focus on sobriety, such as Narcotics Anonymous, may also be a part of treatment. The purpose here is to build up a person’s self-esteem and to make them stronger and more capable of handling the problems of everyday life.

To that end, a person may also participate in work-based therapy to keep their body and mind active and focused on positive aspects of progress within their life. This may include working a simple part-time job or doing work in the center, such as helping with meal preparation or handling garbage duties. These simple tasks are designed to help a person feel more productive and valuable, while helping to increase their arsenal of personal skills.

Effectiveness Of The Treatment Model

The effectiveness of the Minnesota Model as an addiction treatment method has been tested multiple times, with many positive results. For example, one study tested 245 adolescents who suffered from drug addiction. Of this group, 179 received treatment, at least partially, using the Minnesota Model. The others received no treatment. The idea was to test whether the Minnesota Model was more effective than no treatment, rather than to test its effectiveness against other treatment models.

Results of the study were conclusive: those who finished treatment in the Minnesota Model were more successful than those who either received no treatment, or who did not finish it. This was gauged by a simple survey, which asked the participants about any relapses they had suffered after their treatment. Of those who used the Minnesota Model, 53 percent reported no relapse or a minor lapse after a year. Those who received no treatment or didn’t finish treatment reported only a 15 to 28 percent abstinence rate.

In other words, the Minnesota Model produced an increased sobriety rate of upwards of 40 percent. What was interesting about this study was that there was no variance in the outcome between residential and outpatient groups, indicating that the Minnesota Model can even be useful when implemented on a less intensive, outpatient-based approach.

Breakdown Of The Benefits Of This Approach

The components of the Minnesota Model vary depending on the treatment utilized for each individual. That said, there is a basic treatment structure that is usually followed for each person. Creating a structured, but adaptable, recovery method like this makes it easier for counselors and therapists to maintain a consistent and effective treatment approach. The individual components of the Minnesota Model and their benefits include the following:

  • Detoxification – The first step in just about any treatment method is detoxification, which typically requires a carefully maintained medical-taper of medicines to help stave off the dangers and discomfort of severe withdrawal symptoms. Each person in treatment will receive their own individualized taper to ensure safe recovery.
  • Psychological Evaluation – Behind most addictions lie a variety of psychological concerns that must be addressed. The Minnesota Model focuses heavily on discovering these problems, bringing them to the light, and finding appropriate ways to manage symptom severity in a constructive way.
  • Group Meetings – As mentioned before, group therapy is the primary focus of the Minnesota Model. Creating a support group is a powerful way to manage addiction. It’s possible to maintain connection with a support group outside of the rehab center, and to contact them when things get too difficult to manage.
  • Educational Lectures – Education is a major part of the Minnesota Model. It includes teaching those in recovery about the dangers of drug and alcohol use, ways to avoid relapse triggers, craving management techniques, and even life skills therapy, which helps a person reintegrate into society once treatment is finished.
  • Referral To Appropriate Services – Those currently within treatment, or beyond in their recovery, may need extra care, including specialized medical, psychiatric, and social services. These services are designed to get a person back on their feet and in great health.

The complex nature of the Minnesota Model is designed to tackle the multiple facets of addiction in a proactive and healing manner. Those who follow it receive treatment that manages their physical and emotional health, and by adhering to the 12-step model, those who are interested in it can even grow spiritually and reach a stronger connection with their higher power.

Finding A Center That Offers This Model

There are a variety of rehabilitation centers across the nation that offer treatment with the Minnesota Model. Finding one is as simple as contacting a center and asking them about their treatment methods. Most will be more than happy to let you know what kind of method they use, and will even offer you details on what to expect at their particular center. They can also answer important questions about insurance coverage and the specific rules dictating the center. Take the time to prepare any questions you have about your specific needs and situation.

Do You Need Help?

If you’re uncertain about the process of finding a rehab center and feel like you need help making a choice, please contact us today at Our experts fully understand the Minnesota Model, and know the centers that utilize it best. We will work hard to place you in one that manages your addiction in a healing manner, while being attentive to your unique needs.

National Institute On Drug Abuse - Minnesota Model: Description of Counseling Approach

National Center For Biotechnology Information - The origins of the Minnesota model of addiction treatment--a first person account.

Society For The Study Of Addiction - The effectiveness of the Minnesota Model approach in the treatment of adolescent drug abusers

Treatment of Adolescents with Substance Use Disorders - Twelve-Step-Based Programs

Minnesota Department Of Human Services - Minnesota’s Model of Care for Substance Use Disorder

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