What Is the Matrix Model of Addiction Treatment? - The Discovery House

What Is the Matrix Model of Addiction Treatment?

Treating addiction isn’t easy. That’s because substance use disorders are complex and they affect every aspect of an individual’s life. The best addiction centers offer a variety of treatment modalities in an effort to cater to patients’ psychological, medical, and emotional needs. Many offer an integrative treatment approach called the Matrix Model of addiction treatment, this has proven to be an effective method and is now an evidence-backed approach used by top facilities as part of a continuum of care.

The Matrix Model incorporates multiple techniques and services and it is often used in intensive outpatient programs. These programs are designed for people who need more structure than what a standard outpatient treatment setting offers.

However, the model can also be adapted for inpatient treatment. In this article, we’ll examine the Matrix Model and how it works to encourage positive behavioral change and long-term sobriety.

Structure and Origins of the Matrix Model

The Matrix Model was developed in 1984 during the cocaine epidemic in Southern California. The researchers at the Matrix Institute on Addictions found that outpatient programs as they existed at the time were not doing enough to treat stimulant addiction.

The Matrix Model is most often used with people who are addicted to methamphetamine and cocaine but it can actually be applied to any type of substance abuse.

The model is typically administered over a 16-week period. It follows a highly structured format and consists mainly of group therapy sessions.

Individuals who are enrolled in intensive outpatient programs that follow the Matrix Model are involved in treatment every day. They typically participate in formal treatment three days per week and are encouraged to take part in informal programs such as 12-step meetings on the other days

This model borrows specific components from many of the traditional components of addiction treatment including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Contingency management
  • Person-centered therapy
  • 12-step groups
  • Couples and family therapy

The Matrix Model is a NIDA-endorsed practice and it is also backed by The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Stages of the Matrix Model


The Matrix Model divides recovery into four stages: early recovery, family education, relapse prevention, and social support. Let’s look at each of these.

Early Recovery

This is for patients at the start of their sobriety journey. They undergo individual therapy sessions that are designed to help their counselors understand their situation and determine how to guide their recovery. Therapists then provide patients with the tools and support that will help them to manage their addiction. The patient is given a treatment regimen and monitored throughout the process.

Family Education

Addiction doesn’t only affect the person who is drinking or using drugs. It also affects family members. This stage of the Matrix Model is all about educating the patient’s loved ones about how addiction affects the mind and body and how they can establish and maintain boundaries. Family members also learn how they can provide the support and encouragement the patient needs. Family education sessions often take place weekly.

Relapse Prevention

Relapse prevention sessions are designed to help patients change the way they think and behave so they can remain sober in the long term. In this stage, patients also get a chance to share both their struggles and their victories with their peers. This creates opportunities for connection, inspiration, and learning. 

Social Support

Toward the end of treatment, patients are encouraged to find new sober friends and new hobbies. They also get support in building an overall healthy lifestyle and leaving substance abuse in the past.

8 Principles of the Matrix Model

There are eight principles or core concepts that guide treatment under the Matrix Model. Individuals have better treatment outcomes if all eight areas are addressed. Therefore, therapists who follow this model seek to:

  1. Build a strong and collaborative relationship with the patient and treat them with respect and empathy. The therapist and the patient work as a team.
  1. Outline the structure of the program and set expectations for the patient. The patient should know what is expected of them. This helps them to plan their lives from day to day and week to week.
  1. Educate the client about the nature of addiction and how it affects the brain. The patient also learns about the changes they can expect in their thinking, mood, behavior, and relationships as they go through the recovery process.
  1. Use cognitive-behavioral concepts to teach the patient how they can avoid using addictive substances in the future. The patient practices the skills they learn and then reports to the group on their progress
  1.  Provide rewards to reinforce positive behavior change.
  1. Educate family members about addiction and recovery and how they can support their loved one.
  1. Introduce patients to self-help groups and encourage participation in community-based programs. The 12-step model is often recommended.
  1. Use regular drug testing to monitor patients and provide them with feedback such as rewards for negative tests and advice following positive tests.

Benefits of The Matrix Model

Matrix Model of Addiction Treatment

The Matrix Model offers multiple benefits for people who want to overcome addiction and maintain sobriety in the long term. For starters, it’s more comprehensive than any single treatment approach. By combining multiple approaches, all aspects of addiction and recovery are addressed.

Matrix programs are also characterized by a strong relationship between therapist and patient. Therapists who practice this model need to be highly trained, skilled, and encouraging so they can elicit positive behavioral change from their patients.

Another benefit of the Matrix Model is that it encourages social and familial support through its emphasis on group therapy and the involvement of family members and/or significant others. Individuals in recovery learn from their peers and develop deeper relationships with their loved ones.

People who are treated with the Matrix Model are more likely to stay in treatment. Completing a treatment program and then participating in aftercare make it more likely that a person will recover and maintain their sobriety.

Stimulant Treatment Best Practices

Treatment varies according to the substance a person used, how they used it, and how much they used it. If a person is actively using stimulants, the first step in recovery is to stop using them under medical supervision. Quitting cold turkey on your own isn’t advised since acute withdrawal symptoms can be both uncomfortable and dangerous.

When a person undergoes medically supervised detox, they have 24/7 access to professionals who will monitor their vital signs, prescribe medication is necessary, and keep them safe from the triggers of the external environment.

Withdrawal symptoms can include depression and suicidal ideation and they can run for varying lengths of time depending on which drugs were being abused. Enrolling in a detox facility gives individuals the best chance of making it through the detox process safely and successfully. After this, they will be ready to move on to rehab.

Treatment for stimulant addiction takes place in a variety of settings depending on the individual’s needs. While some people need the most intensive care offered by inpatient treatment programs, others can recover in either intensive or regular outpatient treatment. A lot depends on the individual’s symptoms, risk professional, psychological and medical history, and support system.

Build Foundations for Lasting Recovery with The Discovery House

The Matrix Model can be an effective approach for people struggling with stimulant abuse or any type of drug or alcohol addiction. If you think you or a loved one would benefit from comprehensive addiction treatment or you want to know who benefits from a matrix approach, contact the professionals at The Discovery House in beautiful southern California. TDH offers a range of treatment options and patients are guaranteed to get a customized plan that meets their unique needs. Contact us today to learn more about how we use the Matrix Model in our treatment offering.