Health Health & Well-Being Psychology

The biopsychosocial model in disease management

The biopsychosocial model of approach emphasises illness and health as two communicating vessels or two opposite sides of the same coin. According to this model, the human being is seen as a single entity whose physical, emotional and mental aspects function as a whole and are in constant interaction with each other and with the physical and social environment.

Ioanna Alperti

Ioanna Alperti

Counselling psychologist - Synthesis psychotherapist, adult trainer, scientific manager of the Iasis NGO day centre

Health psychology is based on the principles of the biopsychosocial model according to which all the causes of the patient’s clinical picture are sought, at the organic-psychological and social level, in order to create the most appropriate therapeutic intervention plan. The individual’s clinical picture is the visible point of interaction of the different factors that interact and are interdependent in the organism and define health or disease.

The biopsychosocial model of approach emphasises illness and health as two communicating vessels or two opposite sides of the same coin. According to this model, the human being is seen as a single entity whose physical, emotional and mental aspects function as a whole and are in constant interaction with each other and with the physical and social environment.

As we can understand it, health disorders result from the imbalance of these factors and appropriate treatment must be developed based on all these factors and not only the physical one. Modern interventions must follow a holistic model, both in collaboration with specialised therapists and the ill person must understand the influence of the factors as a whole.

The active participation of the person suffering from a disease is considered to be one of the most important practices to improve health or even cure it completely. The active role of therapists and the patient’s awareness that his or her physical health is influenced by the behaviours he or she adopts and by the ‘health’ of his or her wider environment are therefore considered to be very important factors in the progression of any disease from which he or she suffers. 

The aim of the biopsychosocial model is to maintain the maximum quality of life and functionality of the affected person. 

In the case of an autoimmune disease, in addition to the treating physicians (e.g., psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, etc.), who also need to communicate with each other to follow the patient, it is important to cooperate with a mental health specialist for support and psychotherapy, compliance with medication, and management of emotions, which, when somatised, have been shown by research to be able to erupt and trigger the autoimmune disease. 

A key step in treating a disease is to psycho-educate the individual about what they need to deal with in order to understand what is happening to them and what is affecting their progress. The information provided by the treating physician and the individual’s own awareness (how does the body feel, do I feel changes, from time to time, what might be affecting it, whenever there are flare-ups, what might be associated with it, etc.) should be the two main elements of discussion between the two parties. 

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (psychotherapeutic approach) can help to detect the trigger of an autoimmune disease, which may not be the causal factor in its genesis but is a reinforcing factor in the onset, flare-up and progression of the disease. Psychological support aims at reconciliation with the disease and its proper management. 

 Through a wide range of techniques and methods, MDT can help the patient to manage emotions (anxiety, anger, sadness), to stop negative thoughts (cognitive reconstruction) and, consequently, to change behaviour (breaking vicious cycles).   Through relaxation and mindfulness techniques, the client will be able to regain control of their life, improve their level of well-being and build a better quality of life.

In addition to accepting the disease and how to manage it, the therapist must, as mentioned above, see and reprogram his or her way of behaving by adopting a healthy eating pattern (many recipes can be found in the relevant section of Madame Courgette), daily exercise and socialisation through various activities.

Bibliography : 

  1. Engel GL. Psychological Development in Health and Disease. Philadelphia: WB Saunders; 1962. 
  2. Engel, GL and Morgan ML. Interviewing the Patient. Philadelphia: WB Saunders. 1973. 
  3. Engel GL. The Need for a New Medical Model: A Challenge for Biomedicine. Science. 1977; 196: 129-36.
  4. Borrell-Carrió F, Suchman AL, Epstein RM: The biopsychosocial model 25 years later: principles, practice, and scientific inquiry. Ann Fam Med 2004;2:576-582.
  5. Engel GL: The clinical application of the biopsychosocial model. Am J Psychiatry 1980;137:535-544.
Alperti Ioanna graduated from the Department of Psychology of the University of Social and Political Sciences Panteion (degree no. 24271/08), with a specialization in compositional psychotherapy -TEC Advanced Professional Diploma in Integrative Counselling and with a postgraduate training in clinical psychopathology -Diathesis (Aegineteio University Hospital). In addition, she has been trained in the patient-centred approach (Kapodistrian University), has participated in numerous seminars on child and adolescent psychology and parenting psychology, and has received training from KEDE and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung on violence-free communication.

She has been working as a scientific officer-psychologist at Amke IASIS since March 2008 until today. In the course of her work, she has managed a boarding house for people with mental illness and intellectual disabilities, a semi-autonomous sheltered flat for people with mental illness and is the scientific director of the Amke IASIS day centre. She is the head of the institution’s team of psychologists and has worked as the head of the internal ISO quality system in the institution’s structures and services. She is actively involved in the design and implementation of the European projects Erasmus + Key action 1 and 2.She is a Certified Adult Educator with A.M. She designs and implements psycho-educational workshops for staff, volunteers and the community and acts as a trainer/supervisor of young psychologists doing their internship in the structures and services of Amke IASIS.

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