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The Biopsychosocial Model


Dr. Patel
The biopsychosocial model is a framework for understanding well-being, as well as the development and treatment of medical and mental health conditions. Dr. Phillips, can you tell us more about this approach?

Dr. Phillips
Of course, Dr. Patel. The biopsychosocial approach refers broadly to the many biological factors, psychological factors, and social factors that interact to influence our health and well-being. However, many mental health professionals use an expanded definition to cover five domains, including:

  • Physical
  • Cognitive
  • Emotional
  • Behavioral, and
  • Environmental

Physical factors have to do with the physical state of the body. They can include things like genetics and internal, biochemical processes, as well as the way illness and injury affect the body. The body's response to quality of sleep, diet, exercise, medications, substance use, and physical abilities and disabilities are also physical factors.

When we talk about cognitive factors, we're referring to thoughts. Our minds are constantly remembering, judging, interpreting, predicting, and "filling in the gaps" to help us understand and respond to experiences.

Emotional factors have to do with feelings or mood. Behavioral factors refer to actions, particularly habits or patterns of behavior, as well as the way we respond to thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and events that happen in the world.

Environmental factors are external to our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. They include interpersonal relationships, such as friendships, romantic relationships, family relationships, and relationships with coworkers and neighbors. Environmental factors also include things like culture, finances, access to care, socioeconomic status, and situational stress.

The biopsychosocial model considers the influence of all these factors, as well as how these factors interact with one another. Well-being results from the ability to make strategic changes in each of the five domains to maximize health and happiness. Because a problem in one domain can negatively affect each of the others, understanding the factors at play and how they interact can help providers identify the most effective treatment for a particular problem or condition.