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Matrix Model of Treatment: Structuring Addiction Therapy

Therapy is the cornerstone of rehab. Although detox gets clients physically stable in a clean state, they usually aren’t psychologically equipped to maintain that state. Relapse looms on the horizon for those who do not work on a comprehensive therapy program. Many different modalities for treating addiction exist. One of the most successful methods is called the Matrix Model, which combines several types of therapy into a long term approach¬†outpatient (IOP) care. So what makes the Matrix Model work?

Matrix Model

Matrix Model Devotes Time to Treatment

As the clich√© goes: recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. The most successful approach to addiction therapy spans over a long period of time so the drivers of addiction can be addressed. The Matrix Model works because it’s an optimum length for intensive outpatient: 16 weeks, or about 4 months. This can be extended up to 12 through continuing care/aftercare. This form of IOP is structured differently than inpatient treatment.

  • The Matrix Model is less “in your face”. It does not take the more direct, blunt approach of the 12-step modality. Instead, individuals use intention to step back, analyze problems, and produce solutions without jarring confrontation.
  • Progress can be gradual. Matrix group therapy focuses on individual issues each session in depth. In order to go over all issues thoroughly, the process takes an extended amount of time. That also allows individuals to bring daily problems into Matrix group therapy to be able to process them healthfully.
  • Sessions don’t immediately dive into core issues. The Matrix program for addiction treatment sets a path that individuals can follow safely without getting into sensitive issues before that individual is ready. Diving into core issues too quickly can lead to relapse in an outpatient environment, so this approach prioritizes relapse prevention over speed of treatment.
  • Focus is on the present. Addiction recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. The Matrix model helps individuals in early recovery to navigate a dangerous world. There are triggers and temptations everywhere especially with how society glamorizes alcohol. Guidance helps individuals process these triggers in a healthful manner as they come, rather than trying to work with abstract psychological problems with no present context.
  • A non-judgmental attitude is the basis for the client-therapist bond. Matrix model therapists understand the disease model of addiction. They assist clients to understand why the brain processes or reacts to things in a different way while in active addiction. Therapists provide guidance without judgement to maintain an attitude of mutual respect.
  • Changes are incorporated immediately into client’s lifestyle. Outpatient care allows the Matrix model of treatment to be applied the same day in documentable and concrete decisions/lifestyle choices.

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Matrix Group Therapy Focuses on Behavior, Not Generalities

The Matrix Model works because it’s more directive and behavior-focused than general therapy. While inpatient does great with focusing clients on the motivations behind their problematic actions, IOP has the advantage of “immediate gratification,” so to speak. Changes in behavior can be applied right away because clients are already integrated into the real world. The Matrix Model encourages personal responsibility by focusing on behavior rather than feelings.

  • Visit frequency results in strong transference, which is encouraged and utilized. Detox and res provides a clearer mind during inpatient. So outpatient presents the first opportunity to start building the good habits that change brain chemistry back to normal. This only happens with some degree of independence.
  • Goal is stability versus comfort. Comfort is the main goal of inpatient because getting physically clean and sober presents a very difficult challenge. Once detox ends, clients must rise to the challenge of maintaining a clean and sober lifestyle. That means constantly redirecting thoughts, adjusting behaviors, and building new good habits.
  • Focus is abstinence; bottom-line is always continued abstinence. Again, detox builds the foundation of physical sobriety out of the gate. But that foundation provides no guarantee past the gate into the real world. Matrix model therapy assists individuals in keeping their focus on abstinence at all times.
  • Therapeutic team approach utilized. Blue Coast Behavioral Health offers a team of experts to help our clients complete our outpatient program successfully. That includes individual case managers, licensed dedicated therapists, and group therapy to help process events with peers in the same situation.
  • Therapist frequently pursues less motivated clients. Individualized care represents a cornerstone of Matrix model therapy (as well as addiction therapy in general). While certain individuals pursue their recovery with self-motivated enthusiasm, other clients benefit from more help and guidance than others.
  • Focus is on behavior rather than feelings; the behavior is more important than the reason behind it. Human behavior results from many complex factors. But ultimately the confluence of reasons behind problematic behavior do not make those behaviors any less problematic. Recovery requires constructive habits to build toward a successful future.
  • Family system support encouraged. Matrix model therapy addresses family because those dynamics often significantly impact recovery.
  • Therapist functions as a coach/advocate. They assist clients to get their lives back on track. Whether that means finding a job, getting back to work, or going back to school, therapists assist with the logistics of moving that process forward.

It’s proven effective. The organizing principles of the Matrix have been developed and modified over a 20 year period, using data from the treatment experience of 6,000 cocaine and 2,500 methamphetamine addicts. The Matrix Model works because it creates explicit structure and expectations from the group. Therapists establish a positive, collaborative relationship with each client while teaching them cognitive-behavioral concepts.

Matrix Model of Treatment Reinforces the Recovery Lifestyle

Therapists also positively reinforce good behavior changes, while providing corrective feedback when necessary. The Matrix Model introduces and encourages self-help participation so eventually clients successfully adopt a lifestyle of recovery. Finally, most programs use urinalysis to monitor drug use and take the issue of use off the table.

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It’s evidence-based. The Matrix Model is evidence-based and has over 20 years of research and development. It was recently tested in the CSAT Methamphetamine Project, the largest randomized clinical trial of treatment of methamphetamine addiction to date. Clients assigned to the Matrix Model attended more groups, stayed in treatment longer, provided more clean drug tests during treatment, and had longer periods of abstinence.