The Matrix Model – Stages of Recovery

By Terence T.Gorski, Author


The Matrix Model for Cocaine Addiction was originally developed by Richard Rawson.

I believe the recovery chart depicted her is modified from the framework of the Matrix Recovery Model.

The model is developmental in nature (i.e. their are a series of developmental steps and stages of recovery). The idea of Post Acute Withdrawal is built into the model by intruding the the concept of “hitting the wall” which is a severe episode of PAW. PAW however, was not specifically mentioned in early versions of the model.

The Matrix Model was popular during the years of “The Cocaine Epidemic” in the 1980”s and 1990’s. It was an empirical model growing out of treatment experience and I clinical practice.

As with many other models it was expanded to include all addictive substances without any real evidence it was valid. It implies progressive recovery, with relapse as a treatment recovery failure.

There is no specific relapse prevention plan or emergency plan to stop relapse quickly should it occur. As a result the model, toy knowledge, has not adapted to integrate the chronic life-style related disease model and the need for relapse prevention and management of the course of the entire lifespan.

The model has been used in many programs and helped many people to recover.

The Matrix Model has been recognized as an evidence-based program and practice by NREPP –

I cannot locate the specific diagram and it is not referenced. The idea that neurological symptoms of recovery (PAW) can be predicted by days abstinent is controversial. Stage of addiction, type and amount of drug(s) used, age and health status of the patient, type of treatment, nutrition and stress management effect the progression of recovery.


5 Responses to The Matrix Model – Stages of Recovery

  1. Guy Lamunyon says:

    Terry – Matrix does address triggers and warning signs. Matrix educational videos are available on YOUTUBE.

  2. Do I
    Do I need permission to use Gorski’s “Stages of Recovery” in a workshop?

    • Terry Gorski says:

      Having your own blog will help you to spread the message. You have a lot to say and more people need to hear what you have to say. Believe in yourself and your message. It’s important.

  3. Michael McCann says:

    Let me first say that Terri Gorski is a founding father of relapse prevention and I have a deep respect for him and what he has contributed to our field.

    I am one of the founders of the Matrix Institute and I helped develop the Matrix Model. I wanted to make a few corrections/clarifications of the comments on the Matrix Model above.
    1. The central treatment component of the MModel are relapse prevention groups in which we extensively work on relapse prevention planning for the short run and for the long run in line with the chronic disease approach to substance use disorders.
    2. We do not approach relapse as a “treatment failure.” Rather we deal with relapse as a common manifestation of the disorder to which we respond with a structured “Relapse Analysis” and a revised plan for relapse prevention.
    3. The Matrix Model initially flourished during the era of the cocaine epidemic, but we continued to expand beyond the 1990s. (Training in the Matrix Model has been done in all 50 states and 20 countries, and to more than 2500 agencies). Actually our designation as and EBP was mainly a result of a CSAT-funded, multi-site trial for methamphetamine dependence (Rawson et al., Addiction, 2004). While there are no controlled studies of the Matrix effectiveness with all substances, our clinical outcomes with the spectrum of substances is positive.
    4. The Stages of Recovery provide a general guideline for a progression of changes in mood, cognitive functioning, and relapse risk, but in clinical delivery we emphasize that the timing and severity of these stages is not the same for all people and what is important is the general concept that stabilization from addiction occurs over a period of many months.

    Thank you for this opportunity to provide this information.

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