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  • If you or someone you love has been dealing with substance abuse or addiction it can be difficult to know what to expect from the rehab process.

    • What will the approach be?
    • What is expected of you while you participate?
    • Why is the program structured the way that it is?

    While we can’t cover every treatment model here, we can share a bit about the most widely used approach to addiction treatment in the United States, which is also one of the oldest and a direct offshoot of the best known and most successful addiction treatment movement in history.

    Origins Of The Minnesota Model

    In 1950 Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) was only fifteen years old, but the organization’s core beliefs and 12-step program were already fully formed.

    Before this point chronic, self-destructive alcohol use was considered a personal failing or a character weakness. If someone wanted to quit the drink and couldn’t manage it, it was their own fault.

    But in the eyes of the program alcoholism was a disease. A curable mental illness and involuntary chemical dependency that could be treated through the compassion and mutual support of other recovering alcoholics.

    A.A.’s widespread success and rapid growth across the nation meant that the organization was poised to change how the American medical system approached alcoholism and addiction treatment in general, and in 1950 the brand-new Minnesota Model was born.

    A Minnesota Model Overview

    The Minnesota Model (or Abstinence Model) was developed in a Minnesota state mental hospital and first adopted by the Hazelden Foundation. It builds directly on the disease model and principles of Alcoholics Anonymous while specifically including doctors and psychiatrists as well as patients with addiction in the treatment process.

    It’s also been expanded and adapted to accommodate the full range of modern substance abuse and drug addiction, from alcohol to opioids and more.

    The Process

    Treatments in this model are highly individualized but generally follow the same basic structure:


    To safely deal with withdrawal symptoms, medical detox often includes a program of tapering-off the drug, sometimes in combination with drug replacement therapy.


    According to A.A., addiction has physical, mental, and spiritual components and each of these factors needs to be addressed for an individual to recover.

    The Minnesota Model carries on this tradition by actively seeking out and treating social and mental health issues that contribute to the cycle and pull of addiction, and by giving participants an opportunity to connect with a higher power.


    If these issues go beyond the scope of what can be treated inside the program, participants are referred to outside specialists and programs better able to care for them and help them truly recover and thrive.

    Group Meetings

    The Minnesota Model heavily relies on group treatments, with the vast majority of treatment and therapy occurring in group settings.

    Substance use disorders naturally push people into themselves, cutting off relationships and closing doors. 

    By putting patients in groups the program gives each participant a way to ease back into social situations and to be vulnerable and open, sharing their experiences and supporting one another throughout the process.

    The Minnesota Model also strongly encourages friends and family to participate with individuals going through the program. Addiction harms relationships and recovery is an opportunity to rebuild those connections and reestablish emotional support.


    Knowledge is power and the Minnesota Model puts great stock in participants learning throughout the recovery process. 

    Lectures are provided on topics ranging from the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse to techniques for managing cravings, avoiding relapse triggers, and valuable overall life skills.

    Where Can You Find Minnesota Model Treatment?

    In 1950 the Minnesota Model marked a tremendous shift in how drug use and addiction were thought of and treated by medical professionals. 

    And, although it’s more than seventy years old, the model has grown and changed to keep up with the times. You can still find an abundance of treatment centers using variations on this system all over the nation.

    Ark Behavioral Health is proud to be one of these locations, and we firmly believe that your recovery should fit you and your situation:

    • We provide drug abuse treatment in a variety of comfortable settings, from inpatient to intensive outpatient treatment.
    • We use individualized treatment plans tailored to your situation and needs.
    • We work with you to identify and challenge the underlying causes of your addiction.
    • We include our patients in meaningful programs like group therapy, twelve-step support groups, and educational courses.

    To learn more about the addiction treatment programs available at Ark Behavioral Health, please contact our team today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Alcoholics Anonymous - Historical Data: The Birth of A.A. and Its Growth in the U.S./Canada
    National Library of Medicine: National Center for Biotechnology Information - The origins of the Minnesota model of addiction treatment--a first person account

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on August 24, 2022
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