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The Minnesota Model: What is it?

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The Minnesota Model What is it

The Minnesota Model is an approach to treating addictions that emphasizes abstinence and is founded on the ideals of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It has become a well-known standard for addiction treatment since its inception in the 1950s.

One key component of the Minnesota model of addiction treatment is the combination of trained professional and nonprofessional (recovering) employees based on AA principles, according to a first person account on the origins of the Minnesota model of addiction treatment published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases in 1999.

Even though the Minnesota model is now over 70 years old, it has kept up with the changing times and has since evolved to account for the whole spectrum of modern drug addiction and substance abuse, including alcohol, opioids, and more.

What is the Minnesota Model?

The Minnesota Model, also referred to as the “abstinence model,” is one of the most commonly employed methods in addiction treatment settings that adheres to the 12-Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous and focuses on abstinence.

The Minnesota Model of addiction treatment also conceptualized alcoholism as a fundamental, progressive condition whose care needed persistent abstinence and an active, ongoing program of recovery, drawing significantly on the experience of AA members.

How does the Minnesota Model work?

The Minnesota Model works by placing a strong emphasis on individualized care, which means that each patient’s treatment plan is tailored to their specific health needs and situations in order to address any unique addiction-related concerns.

This personalized approach of the Minnesota method recognizes each individual’s unique journey through addiction and recovery and the fact that everyone’s experience with substance use is different.

It also abides by the 12-Step program of AA, which follows a set of guidelines designed as “steps” toward recovery, and which members are allowed to revisit at any time.

How does the Minnesota Model differ from other types of addiction treatment?

Some key characteristics that differentiate the Minnesota Model from other types of addiction treatment include its adherence to the 12-Step philosophy, multidisciplinary approach, peer support, and its continuum of care approach.

The 12-Step concept is one of the foundations of the Minnesota Model. It integrates the spiritual values of acceptance and personal responsibility and promotes abstinence as the primary objective. It urges people to acknowledge their helplessness against addiction and look for assistance from a higher power or support group.

The Minnesota Model of treatment also employs a multidisciplinary team of experts, including doctors, psychologists, counselors, and other addiction experts.

Another factor that the approach highlights is peer support. The Minnesota method promotes joining self-help organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) as a way of long-term recovery support. This aids people in creating a network of sober peers who can relate to their struggles and offer constant support.

Finally, because it recognizes that addiction is a chronic problem requiring continuing support, the Minnesota Model encourages a continuum of care approach. Usually, it follows a tiered care model, with residential treatment coming first, followed by partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient programs, and finally by outpatient or aftercare treatments.

What type of addictions does the Minnesota Model treat?

A close up photo of a girl with a cigarettes in her mouth

The Minnesota Model can be used to treat different types of addictions, such as alcohol use disorder (AUD), drug addiction, and even a behavioral addiction like pathological gambling. Many rehabs around the world utilize the Minnesota Model to address people’s difficulties around alcohol, drugs, and gambling.

Ever since it was first developed, the cornerstone of the Minnesota Model has always been the discovery that alcoholics and addicts can help each other, as stated on a page about the Minnesota Model published in the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, an addiction treatment pioneer that first adopted the Minnesota method.

Furthermore, in an article entitled, “Is the treatment of behavioural addictions fundamentally the same as the treatment of substance addictions?” written by senior addiction counselor Marie Healy, for the 2019 issue of the Irish Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy, she stated that the Minnesota Model appears to have addressed the gambling type of addiction in its early stages.

This is based on an analysis which found that 22% of service users in the Cork area of Ireland in 2017 had received treatment for problem gambling at a provider that primarily used the Minnesota Model.

Does the Minnesota Model treat drug abusers?

Yes, the Minnesota Model can be used to treat drug abusers, or those who have not yet developed a physical and mental reliance on drugs, but continue to use them despite being aware of the harm it causes them.

In a 2006 program evaluation of the Minnesota Model treatment for substance dependence in a Swedish setting by Maria Bodin, 111 (59%) of the 188 people in the 1-year follow-up sample had attended AA meetings before starting treatment. At the 1-year follow-up, 132 (70.2%) of the 188 patients were fully or partially remitted (i.e., better), whereas 56 (29.8%) were still dependent.

14 of these individuals did not meet the baseline criteria for dependency and are therefore classified as substance abusers. At the 1-year follow-up, all 14 subjects had fully recovered.

What are the key components of the Minnesota Model?

The key components of the Minnesota model of addiction treatment include the major elements that contribute to the method’s widespread success and rapid growth. The key components of the Minnesota Model are listed below:

  • The disease model of addiction: The Minnesota Model sticks to the idea that addiction is a disease, or a chronic, progressive illness, with alcohol or drugs acting as the primary cause and occasionally as a therapeutic agent. It also views alcoholism as an involuntary disability, which is no fault of the affected person. Therefore, it is generally ineffective to humiliate an alcoholic into abstinence.
  • Group work: Another key component of the Minnesota method is group work. It emphasizes the importance of working in groups, such as in peer support groups, group therapy, or meditation groups in order for people to gain a new perspective about their situation, be able to offer support, and benefit from the advice of others who share the same experiences and struggles.
  • Psychological and educational components: To address underlying psychological difficulties connected to addiction, the Minnesota Model also includes individual and group therapy sessions in addition to the 12-Step approach. To improve awareness of addiction and create relapse prevention skills, educational components include lectures, workshops, and activities.
  • Active family participation: Family members are strongly encouraged to participate with their recovering loved ones going through the program. The negative effects of addiction ripples beyond just the individual and also impacts relationships with friends or family members. Recovery is a good start to repair damaged relationships and restore emotional support.
  • Residential treatment: The Minnesota Model often entails inpatient or residential therapy, when patients spend an extended amount of time in a treatment facility. People can focus completely on their recovery in this highly regulated and focused setting, which also offers a supporting community.

What is the role of spirituality in the Minnesota Model?

The role of spirituality in the Minnesota Model is to serve as one of the key elements in the method’s approach to recovery in a way that is not intertwined with religion or common religious practices, such as church attendance or group prayer. 

The AA literature – in which the Minnesota method was heavily based on – originally uses the word of God in its approach. More recently, however, the word Higher Power is being used as the teachings have undergone modernization over the years. 

Today, a higher power can be understood in many ways, such as believing in the members of your group, making it possible for those without a religious background to benefit from the steps.

How long does the Minnesota Model last?

The Minnesota Model inpatient treatment typically lasts for at least four weeks, with daily treatment and 12-step program compliance necessary both before and after admission, according to a 2019 article entitled, “The Minnesota Model of Addiction Treatment” from

Used searing with the description on it.

Although applications of the method may vary between institutions, after the initial treatment episode has been delivered in residential settings, six to 24 months of program aftercare may follow, as indicated by a 2006 program evaluation of the Minnesota Model treatment for substance dependence in a Swedish setting by Maria Bodin.

How does the Minnesota Model approach relapse prevention?

The Minnesota Model approaches relapse prevention by using the 12-Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous as a tool, emphasizing group work, and offering educational lectures for those in recovery. 

The 12-Step philosophy promotes frequent attendance at meetings and active engagement in the recovery community. People create a network of encouraging connections by opening up about their struggles, accomplishments, and hopes with other people. These relationships provide support, understanding, and responsibility, all of which can help lower the chance of relapse.

Also, people in peer groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), have had similar problems with addiction. This gives people hope and motivation by assisting them in realizing they are not alone in their path and that others have successfully maintained their sobriety.

Educational lectures, workshops, or activities can also help prevent relapse by teaching people in recovery the consequences of drug and alcohol use, coping strategies in the face of triggers, techniques for controlling cravings, and even life skills therapy to assist a patient in reintegrating into society after treatment.

How has the Minnesota Model evolved?

Over the years, the Minnesota Model has evolved to be more inclusive of those who are religiously unaffiliated, the integration of evidence-based practices, and the expansion to include outpatient programs. 

Many years ago, the frequent mention of God in AA literature has caused nonreligious people to be taken aback, thinking that AA was a religious organization. As years passed, however, it has emphasized the use of belief in something more powerful than oneself, which is not limited to a deity. 

The integration of evidence-based practices, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), family therapy, and motivational interviewing (MI), is also proof of the modernization of the abstinence model. According to a study on the therapeutic factors and psychological concepts in Alcoholics Anonymous by Stone et al., published in the Journal of Counselor Practice,  cognitive restructuring, a concept employed in cognitive, rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), and behavioral therapies, can also be found in 12-Step programs. 

The Minnesota Model is one of the most extensively used 12-step inpatient addiction treatment programs. That said, the abstinence model takes a holistic approach, encouraging extended group membership, learning from others, and cognitive restructuring. 

The Minnesota Model has evolved to incorporate outpatient and intensive outpatient programs, whereas it originally only included residential or inpatient treatment. This allows those with less severe addictions or those who have completed inpatient treatment to continue their recovery while still living at home.

Does the Minnesota Model incorporate family therapy?

Yes, the Minnesota Model incorporates family therapy as a crucial part of its treatment approach. Family therapy is a central component of the method, as it acknowledges the importance of family dynamics and relationships in the addiction and recovery processes. 

The model highly encourages family involvement in treatment and also includes educational sessions or workshops where family members can learn more about addiction and its impact on the affected individual and the family system. 

The active participation of one’s family in the educational aspect of the Minnesota addiction treatment helps their loved ones gain a better understanding of addiction and reduce the stigma surrounding it. 

How effective is the Minnesota Model?

A 2021 article entitled, “What is the Minnesota Model of Addiction Recovery?” from Riverside Recovery of Tampa states that the Minnesota Model integrates family engagement, employment opportunities, and more demanding requirements, making people’s recovery processes more involved and thorough. This makes it more effective than other treatment programs that primarily focus on detoxification.

In fact, a 2020 study by Montague H. and Fairholm, I. published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, contrasted two patient groups who underwent Minnesota Model treatment. 

Their findings revealed that in addition to treating addiction, the Minnesota Model also dramatically reduces anxious and depressive symptomatology, which the self-medication theory suggests may impact long-term sobriety.

What is the success rate of the Minnesota Model in treating addiction?

The success rate of the Minnesota model in treating addiction is at 53%, according to a 2000 study about the effectiveness of the Minnesota Model approach in the treatment of adolescent drug abusers published in the journal Addiction (Abingdon, England), where 245 drug-dependent teenagers took part.

179 of the members of this cohort underwent treatment that at least partially followed the Minnesota Model. None of the others received care. The study’s conclusions were clear: people who finished therapy using the Minnesota Model had better outcomes than people who either didn’t start any treatment or didn’t finish it.

a relaxed looking woman is lying in the bath in a nature.

An easy survey that asked the participants about any relapses they had experienced following their therapy served as the basis for measuring this. After a year, 53% of those who employed the Minnesota Model revealed no relapse or a slight lapse. 

Meanwhile, another study on the effectiveness of a national ‘Minnesota Model’ based residential treatment program for alcohol dependence in Ireland published in the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine in 2018 found the Minnesota Model’s success rate at 81.5%.

The study’s authors followed the patients during treatment and again 6 months later to do a longitudinal study on how well the abstinence approach works for treating alcoholism. 

The 6-month follow-up showed that 81.5% of individuals who finished therapy had a favorable treatment outcome, demonstrating the Minnesota model’s high level of efficacy in the treatment of alcoholism.