The Matrix Model

The Matrix Model is a type of intensive outpatient treatment. It was developed in the 1980s in Southern California, during a period when the use of cocaine and other methamphetamines had become rampant. In Los Angeles, communities were disastrously affected by crack cocaine, cocaine, and methamphetamines. The Matrix Institute on Addictions, which was located in the area and is still in operation today, found itself dealing with numerous stimulant addicts when there was no established outpatient treatment for these individuals. Over the years, the Matrix Model was developed to address this area of need.

Matrix Model SmallDeveloping the Model

The development of the model was based on continued interaction between health professionals, clients, and researchers. Following their experiences with patients, clinicians began to ask questions and looked to research to answer them. There was a need for treatment resources that concise enough to capture the effective elements of other forms of therapy, while still being applicable to diverse populations, health care workers, and situations. Clinicians worked on writing materials that would assist staff members in working with stimulant-addicted individuals to effectively implement elements of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), family therapy, and research on how addiction affects the brain. The team of clinicians involved in developing the Matrix Model received funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to integrate what was already known about stimulant addiction with proven techniques to use in outpatient treatment. Within a few years, the model became more or less the protocol for treating patients addicted to cocaine, crack cocaine, and methamphetamines.

Characteristics of the Matrix ModelMatrix Model Large

The Matrix Model includes 16 weeks of intensive treatment on an outpatient basis – the patient may attend treatment sessions in the day or in the evening, but he or she does not stay overnight as in inpatient treatment. Over the course of treatment, patients attend structured group therapy sessions that help them to develop the skills they need during the early recovery phase and later in the relapse prevention phase. The patient works with a primary therapist, who conducts both the individual and group therapy sessions and acts as a sort of coordinator of the therapeutic experience. Urine testing is a feature of the program. These 16-weeks are followed up with the patient’s integration into a weekly support group and 12 weeks of family education sessions that the patient may attend with a spouse, parent, or other close family members. Patients are also encouraged to attend Narcotics Anonymous (NA) following completion of the program.


The Matrix Model has been applied to numerous socioeconomic groups in treating a wide spectrum of patients. The treatment materials include versions targeting various minority groups, including Hispanics, gay and bisexual men, and Native Americans. Most research has indicated that the model is effective in reducing stimulant use over time. The intervention may also be useful in reducing negative emotions that contribute to drug use, including anxiety, depression, and anger. Its use has also been investigated for other classes of drugs, such as opioids. Research in that area has indicated that the Matrix Model may be effective in reducing the required dosage of medication used to treat the addiction.