Overview of the Matrix Model
- Drawn heavily from other types of treatment, including cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing.
- Uses an intensive outpatient approach over a 16-week period.
- Combines individual and group therapy sessions on relapse prevention, addiction education, and sober skills.
- Weekly urine testing is a requirement of treatment.
- Shown to be effective for treating abuse of stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamines.
What Is the Matrix Model?
The Matrix Model of therapy was developed in the 1980s to treat the increasing number of people addicted to stimulant drugs such as methamphetamines and cocaine. It was designed as a more intensive intervention than weekly outpatient counseling or 28-day inpatient rehab. 6
Within this treatment model, users learn about triggers for their addiction, as well as relapse prevention, through guidance from a therapist. They also undergo regular drug testing to ensure that they are not using substances while in treatment.
How the Matrix Model Is Used to Treat Addiction
Looking for a Matrix Model program?
Helpline Information to speak with a treatment support specialist.
While engaged in addiction treatment using the Matrix Model approach, the therapist acts both as a teacher as well as a coach. The therapist strives to form a positive and supportive relationship with the goal of encouraging positive behavior change.
Materials used in treatment with the Matrix Model approach are drawn heavily from other research-supported treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing.5 These techniques are combined to provide an integrative style of treating addiction and abuse of stimulants.
The Matrix Model aims to:
- Establish a strong relationship between the therapist and recovering user.
- Teach users how to live more structured lives.
- Educate users about stimulant addiction and recovery.
- Offer opportunities for users to learn about relapse prevention and practice coping skills.
- Include family and other loved ones in treatment.
- Encourage users to participate in self-help groups in their communities.
- Assess treatment effectiveness by administering random urine screens or breath tests.6
Typical Course of Treatment
Substance abuse treatment using the Matrix Model is delivered using an intensive outpatient approach over a 16-week period. The approach uses individual and group counseling sessions, including:
- Individual therapy (3 sessions) – These sessions focus on treatment planning and evaluating the user’s progress. Family members may also participate.
- Early recovery skills group (8 sessions) – These sessions are for users in the first month of recovery. Users learn techniques for managing their time and dealing with cravings. They also learn about community services they can use for support.
- Relapse prevention group (32 sessions) – These groups are highly focused and help users change addictive thoughts and behaviors.
- Family education group (12 sessions) – Users and family members learn about substance abuse, the effects of addiction, and how addiction affects the family.
- Social support group (36 sessions) – These groups are conducted in the last month of treatment. Users learn how to live a drug-free lifestyle.6,7
Participants are also encouraged to participate in 12-step meetings as a supplement to treatment using the Matrix Model approach.
Matrix Model Effectiveness in Treating Addiction
Over the last two decades, several studies have examined the effectiveness of the Matrix Model. Findings from these studies have suggested that the Matrix Model approach is ideal for treating people suffering from abuse of or dependence on stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamines. 4,5
One study found that methamphetamine users who received Matrix Model treatment had substantially reduced their drug use 2 to 5 years after treatment. Many were employed and not in the criminal justice system. 8
Drawbacks of This Approach
The Matrix Model has received some research attention as an effective treatment for some substance abuse disorders, particularly stimulants. But this treatment is not recommended if you need detoxification.
In addition, the highly structured approach may not appeal to all recovering cocaine or methamphetamine users, and the program requires staff to be specially trained and supervised. 6
Where to Get More Information
. Compton WM, Thomas YF, Stinson FS, Grant BF. Prevalence, correlates, disability, and comorbidity of DSM-IV drug abuse and dependence in the United States: Results from the national epidemiologic survey on alcohol and related conditions. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2007;64:566-576.
. Hasin DS, Stinson FS, Ogburn E, Grant BF. Prevalence, correlates, disability, and comorbidity of DSM-IV alcohol abuse and dependence in the united states: Results from the national epidemiologic survey on alcohol and related conditions. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2007;64:830-842.
. Dutra L, Stathopoulou G, Basden SL, Leyro TM, Powers MB, Otto MW. A meta-analytic review of psychosocial interventions for substance use disorders. Am J Psychiatry 2008;165:179-187.
. Huber A, Ling W, Shoptaw S, Gulati V, Brethen P, Rawson R. Integrating treatments for methamphetamine abuse: A psychosocial perspective. J Addict Disease 1997;16:41-50.
. Rawson R, Shoptaw S, Obert JL, McCann M, Masson A, Marinelli-Casey P, Brethen P, Ling W. An intensive outpatient approach for cocaine abuse: The matrix model. J Substance Abuse Treatment 1995;12:117-127.
. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2006). Substance Abuse: Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment.
. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014). Counselor’s Treatment Manual Matrix Intensive Outpatient Treatment for People with Stimulant Use Disorders.
. Rawson, R. (2002). Status of methamphetamine users 2-5 years after outpatient treatment Journal of Addictive Diseases 21(1):107-119.