Biopsychosocial model: what is it and how does it understand mental health?
What is the biopsychosocial model and how does it define the purpose of psychology?
The concepts (and states) of illness and health can be understood from different models or approaches. Until a few years ago, the predominant model in the field of medicine and psychology was the biomedical model, focused on the disease itself and the "mind-body" dichotomy.
However, in 1977, a new model emerged from the hand of psychiatrist George L. Engel, which came to stay in many areas of health: the biopsychosocial model, which takes into account the biological, psychological and social factors of the person when it comes to explaining, understanding and understanding the individual. when it comes to explaining, understanding and dealing with a given state of health or disease, disability or disorder.
Biopsychosocial model: definition and characteristics.
The biopsychosocial model is one of the models found in the field of psychology and even psychotherapy. It is an approach that establishes that there are various factors that influence the development and well-being of a person, in the context of an illness, disorder or disability.
These factors, as the name of the model itself indicates, are of three types three types: Biological (genetics, heredity...), psychological (behaviors, emotions, thoughts...) and social (educational opportunities, poverty, unemployment...). (educational opportunities, poverty, unemployment...).
Origin: George L. Engel
The origin of the biopsychosocial model is to be found in the ideas of the American psychiatrist and internist George L. Engel. (December 10, 1913 - November 26, 1999), who in 1977 proposed a model based on the idea that in all phases of a given disease, disorder or disability, the three types of factors mentioned above coexist (to which we can also add spiritual factors).
This is extrapolated to the state of health; that is, all these factors combine to influence both health and disease. Thus, the biopsychosocial model introduced by Engel moves away from the "mind-body" dichotomy postulated by the traditional medical model (which we will see a little later), and considers the functioning of people from a holistic and integral point of view.
Thus, in this complex system of factors of various kinds, other subsystems interact and interrelate through a dynamic process.
Beyond the biomedical model
The biopsychosocial model represents a breakthrough in the understanding of health in general, and mental health in particular, since the previous model was the medical or biological model. the preponderant model was the medical or biological model (a traditional reductionist model, where only biological factors matter). (a traditional reductionist model, where only biological factors are important).
Thus, the biopsychosocial model goes further, and argues that we should understand health and disease as two states that arise from the combination of these three types of factors in a person's life. In addition, this approach we work not only for the wellbeing of the person or patient, but also for that of his or her family and community..
Traditional biological model vs. biopsychosocial model
As we have seen, the traditional biological model has a reductionist character.It suggests that a person's disease is explained solely in medical and biological terms, with the disease being understood as a mere deviation from the person's normal functioning, caused by a certain pathogen, genetic mutation, etc.
Moreover, in this model the patient is not part of the healing process, which can lead to resistance to change.
This model is also known by other names, such as the "biomedical model", and was introduced by the English physician Richard Bright (1789-1858) in the 19th century. Thus, this model is based on a pathological approach, where the disease acquires great relevance, forgetting other factors that have a great influence on its origin, development and cure. On the other hand, it is a model based on the "mind-body" dichotomy.
On the other hand, it is a model based on the "mind-body" dichotomy, in the biopsychosocial model, there is a belief in the power of the person to counteract the effects (or obstacles) derived from his or her disorder, disability or disease.disability or disease. In other words, in this model the patient takes on a more active role, since he himself is an agent of change, and for this reason he is empowered - as far as possible - from the three aspects: biological, psychological and social.
Thus, according to the biopsychosocial model, in contrast to the traditional medical model, it is no longer the body that is ill, but the whole person, with all that this implies.
Factors of the biopsychosocial model
As we have seen, the biopsychosocial model breaks with the traditional medical model because it takes into account factors that, until now, had not been taken into account when understanding a disease process or a state of health. Let us see, in brief, what each of these factors consists of.
1. Biological factors
Biological factors have to do with the biology of the person, i.e. with his or her anatomy, genetics, the cause of the disease in the case of a disease, mobility, physiology, etc.the cause of the disease in the case of suffering from one, mobility, physiology, etc. These are the predominant factors in the biomedical model.
The psychological factors of the biopsychosocial model have to do with the most personal sphere of the person, and include his or her thoughts, emotions, behaviors, cognitive processes, coping styles, coping styles, psychology and other psychological factors.coping styles, psychopathologies, personality, illness behavior....
In this group of factors, we could also include the more spiritual side of the person (or even place it outside it), as it also plays a key role in many disease processes and in health itself.
3. Social factors
Finally, among the social factors that the biopsychosocial model establishes to be taken into account in the development and coping of a given disease or disability condition, we find stress, the perception of stress, the economic and labor situation (e.g. unemployment), the (e.g. unemployment), the perception of the daily burden, whether family or work, etc.
Areas of application
The biopsychosocial model is an approach that has been on the rise for some years now, and which can be found not only in psychology (and consequently, in psychotherapy), but also in other sciences and fields of knowledge, especially in the field of health, such as: pedagogy, psychiatry, social work, occupational therapy, sociology, physiotherapy...
On the other hand, in the field of intellectual disability and chronic diseases, the biopsychosocial model takes on a special prominence.. This is due, among other reasons, to the fact that in this field work people who are dedicated to the attention and care of these people, and that from this model can address their needs giving the necessary importance to all these factors for the rehabilitation or improvement of the person, who, remember, is sought to have an active role in their welfare and / or healing.
- Amigo, I. (2012). Manual de Psicología de la Salud. Madrid: Pirámide.
- Dowling, A. S. (2005). George Engel, MD (1913 - 1999). American Journal of Psychiatry, 162(11): 2039.
- Engel, G. L. (1977). The need for a new medical model: A challenge for biomedicine. Science, 196: 129-136.
- Oblitas, L. (2006). Psicología de la salud y calidad de vida. 2nd Ed. Mexico: Thomson.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)