The Merriam-Webster dictionary provides six definitions for the word “matrix,” including: “something from within or from which something else originates, develops, or takes form.” In this definition, a matrix is used as a sort of scaffolding, allowing something to take shape in a structured and controlled way. People with addictions may need a matrix like this, allowing them to find their sober selves and learn how to protect and maintain that sobriety in the years that follow. Without structure, sobriety might not grow properly. With it, however, sober habits might be supported and allowed to take root. In time, a person with a matrix may experience an in-depth healing that just didn’t seem possible in the past.
The Matrix Model of therapy is designed to provide people with this kind of structure. This therapy, which is typically provided on an outpatient basis, surrounds an addicted person with a scaffolding of care and a plethora of useful interventions, which may allow new habits to form, grow and take over.
Surrounded by Help
A treatment professional stands at the heart of the Matrix Model, and this person works as a coach and teacher for a person with an addiction issue. The relationship is close, as the two work together on a regular basis for months at a time, and the interactions are rarely confrontational or negative. Instead, the therapist works to help the addicted person see the benefits of leaving an addiction behind, and the steps needed in order to ensure that sobriety takes hold.
Therapy isn’t the only mode of help provided in a Matrix Model, however, as people who participate in this care are also expected to participate in:
- Therapy sessions that include the family
- Skills-based workshops
- Relapse prevention groups
- 12-step support groups
In individual therapy sessions, the person might learn more about his/her own motivation to continue substance use, but these other components of care can allow people to pick up the skills, support and habits they’ll need in order to build on their motivation and make lasting changes.
Therapy like this is intense, and it may shift focus over time. For example, in the beginning of the treatment process, the person might be focused on attaining a sense of sobriety, working past the trauma thoughts of sobriety can engender in people with longstanding addiction. In time, though, the therapy might shift to a relapse prevention mode, allowing people to think about the situations that tend to cause a spike in cravings for drugs. The skills needed to attain initial sobriety might be different than those needed in order to maintain that sober life, so the therapy might also change.
No matter what stage of healing the person is in, however, the Matrix Model also includes a drug testing component, ensuring that people enrolled in these programs aren’t relapsing to drug use. Those who are might need different therapy techniques, different skills courses or a slower therapy pace, so it’s vital for experts to identify a relapse as quickly as possible. Drug testing can allow these experts to do just that.
While almost anyone with an addiction could benefit from an intensive outpatient program like this, an article in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs suggests that the Matrix Model is most effective when it’s provided to people who have addictions to stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamine.
People like this haven’t traditionally been successful in other addiction treatment programs, mainly because their drugs cause intense cravings that can’t yet be modified with medication management. Unlike people in recovery from heroin addiction, who might use pills or shots in order to get through the withdrawal process, people with addictions to stimulants may not have medications to lean on, and their suffering may be intense as a result. The Matrix Model seems to provide enough support, via enough channels, that people like this can move past their psychic pain and really get better.
Research like this shouldn’t dissuade people with other addictions from participating in this type of therapy, however, as some people who don’t fit the perfect treatment model might also benefit from the help this kind of care can provide. Just because people don’t take stimulants, for example, doesn’t mean that they can’t feel compelled to work in an intensive format like this. For people who take other drugs, this might also be a worthwhile therapy.
In order to provide a specific therapy to people in addiction programs, researchers are often required to demonstrate that the therapy works and that it can bring about the kind of results that aren’t often seen in people who get another form of therapy. A significant number of studies like this have been conducted on the Matrix Model, and they’ve brought back results that demonstrate the value of this therapy for some people with addictions.
In one such study, in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, researchers found that abstinence rates were associated with participation in care, meaning that the longer people obtained this kind of care, the more likely they were to be sober. It’s an interesting finding, and it suggests that the treatment has the capacity to help people correct their substance abuse patterns.
Many addiction therapies have the capacity to help people change their behaviors regarding addiction, as that’s what the treatments are designed to do and have been optimized to bring about. Even so, research quoted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration suggests that the Matrix Model could bring people benefits they’d struggle to find in a different form of therapy. In this study, researchers found that those people given the Matrix Model were 38 percent more likely to stay enrolled in care, when compared to people who got another form of therapy.
Treatments work best when people are engaged and active participants, and studies like this suggest that people participate in the Matrix Model, where they might simply walk away from other therapy choices.
People who stay enrolled may reduce their use of addictive substances, but they may also reduce the negative and damaging behaviors that go along with their drug use. For example, according to a study quoted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people who used the Matrix Model were able to reduce the number of risky sexual encounters they engaged in on a regular basis. Since the addicts in recovery weren’t high, they were likely in control of their bodies and their behaviors. Also, since they were sober, they might have been less likely to participate in parties in which drugs and risky sex play a large role. As a result, these people were less likely to engage in behaviors that put them at risk for HIV/AIDS. This may not have been the explicit goal of the therapy, but it’s a benefit that most people would appreciate.
Working the Matrix
While a treatment professional sets up the Matrix Model and determines how fast the therapy will progress and what issues will be covered, there are some things participants can do in order to ensure that the therapy is as successful as it can possibly be, including:
- Being honest in therapy
- Attending all sessions, as scheduled
- Asking for help from the therapist, if relapses seem inevitable
- Refusing to drop out of care early
- Performing all homework assignments thoughtfully
- Attempting to put all the lessons of therapy into practice right away
Those who follow these steps may get the most out of their therapy, and they may experience intense benefits denied to people who don’t take their recovery process seriously. For more tips on utilizing the Matrix Model, or for help in finding a therapist that uses this form of care, please contact us.
Further Reading About The Matrix Model
- A Vouchers Approach to Addiction Treatment
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
- Adventure Therapy
- Art Therapy
- Behavioral Modification
- Cognitive Analytic Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Concentrative Movement Therapy
- Dance Therapy
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy
- Evidence-Based Treatment Practices
- Holistic Treatment
- Mindfulness in Recovery
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)
- The Matrix Model
- Yoga and Recovery
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.
Reviewed by: Kim Chin and Marian Newton