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Biopsychosocial model.

Purdy, Elizabeth Rholetter, PhD

Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2022. 3p.

Article

Biopsychosocial model

The biopsychosocial model (BSP) is a method of looking at all biological,
psychological, and social influences on human health and the body’s
ability to respond to and recover from various diseases. The model
examines a continuum of influences that begins with the biosphere and
encompasses society, culture, community, family, and the individual and
analyzes their impacts on all the systems that make up the human body.
The biopsychosocial model has become part of the medical mainstream;
clinicians are taught to examine biological, psychological, and social
factors when diagnosing and treating all kinds of health problems and
use BSP to treat a wide range of conditions that include but are not
limited to cancer, HIV-AIDS, depression, personality disorders, pediatric
illnesses and traumas, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic
fatigue syndrome, dementia, chronic pelvic pain, and lower back pain.
The model has also been used effectively by emergency room
physicians and acupuncturists.

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89677525

Research Starters

Biopsychosocial model

The biopsychosocial model (BSP) is a method of looking at all biological, psychological, and social influences
on human health and the body’s ability to respond to and recover from various diseases. The model examines
a continuum of influences that begins with the biosphere and encompasses society, culture, community, family,
and the individual and analyzes their impacts on all the systems that make up the human body. The
biopsychosocial model has become part of the medical mainstream; clinicians are taught to examine biological,
psychological, and social factors when diagnosing and treating all kinds of health problems and use BSP to
treat a wide range of conditions that include but are not limited to cancer, HIV-AIDS, depression, personality
disorders, pediatric illnesses and traumas, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic fatigue syndrome,
dementia, chronic pelvic pain, and lower back pain. The model has also been used effectively by emergency
room physicians and acupuncturists.

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Holistic health: body, mind, heart,
soul. By

Derivative work 1:

Derivative work 2:

[CC-BY-SA-2.5
(
sa/2.5)],

Background

In the twentieth century, the foundation for the biopsychosocial model evolved from conflicts between biological
reductionism, which reduced biological explanations to their simplest forms, and traditional psychoanalytic
theories, based on the teachings of Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), the Austrian neurologist. The first American
to attempt a more comprehensive understanding of the ways in which the body and the environment influenced
one another was Adolf Meyer (1866–1950) of Johns Hopkins University. Roy Grinker (1900–93) of the
University of Chicago built on Meyer’s work and is credited with coining the term “biopsychosocial.”

The two individuals most closely associated with the biopsychosocial model are the psychiatrists George Engel
(1913–99) and John Romano (1909–94) of the University of Rochester in New York. After suffering the loss of
his twin brother, Engel became interested in the high correlation between the loss of a loved one and the onset
of various diseases. In 1977, that discovery led Engel to develop the biopsychosocial model that is still used in
the twenty-first century. In addition to contributing to the understanding of the biopsychosocial model, Romano,
who had founded the university’s Department of Psychiatry in 1946, was a major influence on the overall
development of psychiatry in the United States.

Implementations of the biopsychosocial model have focused on patient-centered health care, which has
become the norm in both the United States and Canada, and it has been endorsed by the American Academy
of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American
Osteopathic Association, and the World Health Organization.

Overview

Patient interviews have become one of the most important tools used by physicians as a means of
understanding biological, psychological, and social impacts on a patient’s health. Each year physicians conduct

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between 120,000 and 160,000 patient interviews. A group of physicians at the Centre for Studies in Family
Medicine at the University of Western Ontario built on the biopsychosocial model to develop a patient-centered
model that is used throughout North America. In a 2000 study conducted at the Centre by Moira Stewart and
colleagues, the researchers discovered that Engel’s emphasis on patient interviews held up over time because
it continued to be integral to successful outcomes in medical treatment. They found that patient-centered
communication was effective in speeding up recovery time, improving mental health, and reducing the need for
follow-up medical treatment and referrals to specialists.

In the early twenty-first century, the biopsychosocial model has been widely used in treating chronic illnesses
such as cancer and HIV-AIDS. In a 2010 study, Scott M. Debb and David L. Blitz noted that the
biopsychosocial model is significantly more effective than traditional methods in treating such diseases
because it takes biological predispositions, psychological stressors, socioeconomic factors, physiological
characteristics, and patient-generated appraisals of all these factors into account. In their examination of
chronically ill patients in Atlanta, Chicago, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, Debb and Blitz found that African
Americans recovered more slowly from cancer and HIV/AIDS than White people and received poorer health
diagnoses. This was assumed to be partly due to greater access to the health-care system by White people.
However, African Americans expressed more optimism about their health, a fact that researchers posited was
linked to higher levels of ethnic identity.

Within the field of physiotherapy, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has established
guidelines for using the biopsychosocial model in conjunction with traditional methods of therapy. The new
paradigm calls for increased attention to the overall environment of patients. However, many physiotherapists
still lack sufficient training in implementing the model.

The biopsychosocial model also has significant potential for dealing with issues presented by diverse
ethnicities that make up the client base of community counselors throughout the world. In 2009, British clinical
psychologist Waseem Alladin offered a nine-dimensional model for community counseling based on the
biopsychosocial model that recognizes respect for human dignity as articulated in the United Nations
Declaration of Human Rights. For example, understanding social and religious perceptions associated with
particular ethnicities is integral to treating individual patients successfully.

Most medical schools teach both the biomedical and biopsychosocial models. When training physicians, the
biopsychosocial model emphasizes the need to acknowledge the role that relationships play in an individual’s
health; take a patient’s own impressions of their health problems into account; mandate detailed life histories
from patients; attempt to identify the most relevant biological, psychological, and social factors in particular
cases; and offer treatment based on a multidimensional perspective. For instance, understanding how a person
perceives health problems and identifying levels of support available to them may determine how well they
recover from an illness. Some psychiatrists and psychologists have criticized the biopsychosocial model for
various reasons, one of which is that one of the biological, psychological, or social aspects of diagnosis may be
underrepresented depending on patients’ subjective experiences or doctors’ own biases. Some have argued
that the blurring of physicians’ boundaries of expertise required by the method could be detrimental to
treatment or could demand overwhelming extra training. Nonetheless, it continues to be used across the
medical spectrum.

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After the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic was declared in early 2020, some proponents of the
biopsychosocial model argued that though the model was not regularly or widely used across patient care, it
was especially beneficially suitable to rehabilitation efforts for those infected with the disease. Experts who
shared this perspective argued that once people with COVID-19 were recovering following appropriate
biomedical treatment, they would need biopsychosocial model support to rehabilitate fully due to the
pandemic’s heavy psychological and social impacts as well as physical. As surveys had shown that virus
control measures such as lockdowns and physical distancing measures had affected many people’s
psychological health as they attempted to adjust to new ways of living, working, and socializing,
biopsychosocial model supporters believed that this model could be crucial to managing negative effects such
as increased stress and anxiety. Others pointed to the need to address the disparate sociological and
psychological impacts of the pandemic on people from communities of color and lower socioeconomic
statuses.

Bibliography

Alladin, Waseem. “An Ethno Biopsychosocial Human Rights Model for Educating Community Counsellors
Globally.” Counselling Psychology Quarterly 22.1 (2009): 17–24. Print.

Benning, Tony B. “Limitations of the Biopsychosocial Model in Psychiatry.” Advances in Medical Education &
Practice 6 (2015): 347–52. Academic Search Complete. Web. 23 June 2015.

“The Biopsychosocial Approach.” University of Rochester Medical Center. U of Rochester Medical Center, n.d.
PDF file.

Cohen, Jules, and Stephanie Brown Clark. John Romano and George Engel: Their Lives and Work. Rochester:
Mellora P of Rochester U, 2010. Print.

Debb, Scott M., and David L. Blitz. “Relating Ethnic Differences and Quality of Life Assessment to Individual
Psychology through the Biopsychosocial Model.” Journal of Individual Psychology 66.3 (2010): 270–89. Print.

Ebert, Michael H., and Kerns, Robert D., eds. Behavioral and Psychopharmacologic Pain Management. New
York: Cambridge UP, 2011. Print.

Engel, George. “The Need for a New Medical Model: A Challenge for Medicine.” Science 196 (1977): 129–36.
Print.

Frankel, Richard M., Timothy E. Quill, and Susan H. McDaniel. The Biopsychosocial Approach: Past, Present,
Future. Rochester: U of Rochester P, 2003. Print.

Ghaemi, Seyyed Nassir. “Paradigms of Psychiatry: Eclecticism and Its Discontents.” Current Opinion in
Psychiatry 19.6 (2006): 619–24. Print.

Kiesler, Donald J. Beyond the Disease Model of Mental Disorders. Westport: Praeger, 1999. Print.

Miller, Suzanne M., ed. Individuals, Families, and the New Era of Genetics: Biopsychosocial Perspectives. New
York: Norton, 2006. Print.

Silk, Kenneth R. Biology of Personality Disorders. Washington: APA, 1998. Print.

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Stewart, Moira, et al. “The Impact of Patient-Centered Care on Outcomes.” Journal of Family Practice 49.9
(2000). Web. 25 July 2013.

Wainwright, Thomas W., and Matthew Low. “Why the Biopsychosocial Model Needs to Be the Underpinning
Philosophy in Rehabilitation Pathways for Patients Recovering from COVID-19.” Integrated Healthcare Journal,
vol. 2, no. 1, Sept. 2020, doi:10.1136/ihj-2020-000043. Accessed 20 Dec. 2021.

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Source: Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2022, 3p
Item: 89677525

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