In this paper we consider some features of vibrational relaxation of a guest molecule in a host matrix. The model system involves a harmonic molecule interacting with a harmonic medium. The molecule-medium coupling was handled by the rotating wave approximation considering linear terms in the intramolecular displacements and high terms in the medium displacements. Three specific models for the molecule-medium coupling were considered, which involve single phonon decay, vibron–phonon decay and multiphonon decay. Within the framework of the random phase approximation the Heisenberg equations of motion for the system could be expressed in terms of a unified scheme which is valid for both single phonon and multiphonon processes. Explicit solutions were derived utilizing the Wigner–Weisskopf approximation. This generalized formalism was applied for the study of the time evolution of the distribution, the cooling and the heating processes of the oscillator by a thermal field and for the coupling between vibrational relaxation and infra-red emission.