September 6, 2008

The Biopsychosocial Model of Health & Illness

Ideas never happen in isolation. Many people in the Integral Movement like to think of Ken Wilber's work as a stunningly original approach in Western culture and thinking; however, many significant ideas within science and theory have developed over the years which also tap into the deeper 'integral' zeitgeist present in human cultures since before even the Ancient Greeks.

In the article below the author briefly outlines the Biopsychosocial approach to medicine pioneered by George Engel in the mid-seventies, right around the time Ken Wilber was writing The Spectrum of Consciousness.

From BrainBlogger:

The Biopsychosocial Model of Health & Illness
By Shaheen E Lakhan

Health is traditionally equated to the absence of disease. A lack of a fundamental pathology was thought to define one’s health as good, whereas biologically driven pathogens and conditions would render an individual with poor health and the label “diseased”. However, such a narrow scope on health limited our understanding of wellbeing, thwarted our treatments efforts, and perhaps more importantly, suppressed prevention measures.

Many institutions and medical doctors have managed to incorporate a holistic view of health in sound medical application, primarily based on the Biopsychosocial (BPS) Model of Health and Illness. The concept of wellness is particularly stressed, where the state of being in good health based on the biopsychosocial model is accompanied by good quality of life and strong relationships.

In 1977, American Psychiatrist George Engel introduced the major theory in medicine, the BPS Model. The model accounted for biological, psychological, and sociological interconnected spectrums, each as systems of the body. In fact, the model accompanied a dramatic shift in focus from disease to health, recognizing that psychosocial factors (e.g. beliefs, relationships, stress) greatly impact recovery the progression of and recuperation from illness and disease.

Engel eloquently states:

To provide a basis for understanding the determinants of disease and arriving at a rational treatments and patterns of health care, a medical model must also take into account the patient, the social context in which he lives and the complementary system devised by society to deal with the disruptive effects of illness, that is, the physician role and the health care system. This requires a biopsychosocial model.

Today, individuals are living with diseases that would have taken their lives in the past. We see health and wellness is a broader forum. Medical practitioners are more frequently adopting the biopsychosocial form in their clinician practice.

The following outline compares the presentation, diagnosis, and treatment used by Physicians who follow the biomedical and biopsychosocial model.

Read More: Here

In the past 25 years, Engel’s portrayal of the biopsychosocial model has attempted to significantly redefine psychiatry, medicine, and psychology. The more humanistic view of healthcare has observationally improved patient quality of life and wellness, but long-term empirical studies are necessary to fully solidify the role of 'integrated health' treatments and models. Social workers, health professionals and psychologist of all kinds would do well to promote such studies and help move healthcare practices and policy discussions towards more holistic and comprehensive approaches.

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