Biomedical vs. biopsychosocial models
Articles / Blog

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07-06-15 Category: Mental Health, Therapy


When a person visits a mental health professional to receive a diagnosis for his or her symptoms, the clinician identifies which specific condition or multiple conditions affect the client. However, a fact that goes unnoticed during this procedure is that, depending on who examines the body and brain, the clinician will make a diagnosis influenced by the health care treatment model he or she adheres to. Every clinician or mental health professional learns about health and illness in a certain conceptual way, but there is the chance that this view does not align with how the practitioner’s patients view mental health. Thinking about these clinical variables is important when a smooth and successful recovery is the end goal.

There are two major models concerning mental health, let alone illnesses of any kind:


The biomedical model of illness was established in the early 20th century and posits that all diseases are explainable through some sort of cellular abnormality. Also, this particular framework views health as the complete absence of disease, pain or defect. The biomedical perspective accurately represents the time of the model’s establishment, as the largest threats to a healthy life were purely bacterial and viral ailments, such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, influenza and diarrhea.

The treatment of this model works to remove illnesses by analyzing the pathology of the disease. Then by following a method of narrowing down possible causes and strategies for recovery, the best plan of action is administered. Similar to a lock and key, the biomedical model seeks to find a solution that fits the respective problem.


The biopsychosocial model is aptly named because of its three essential components: biological, psychological and social ideologies. As a result, the concept of health is viewed as a balance between these three sectors. In addition to encompassing a variety of different processes involved in the human body, this framework also includes the wide spectrum of psychological conditions and the vast variety of social elements like cultural and economic backgrounds.

The biopsychosocial perspective is also reflective of the time it was conceived. By the late 1970s, a number of trends started to take a noticeable effect on national health care systems. Decades of war and conflictive civil movements contributed to the diagnosis of many new psychological disorders. Psychiatric facilities were negatively viewed by society due to strict and traumatic treatment methods. Due to these facts, an increased attention to a person’s thoughts, emotions and behaviors became a primary new focus of care.

A necessary transition

Due to the shifting concern in health care from infectious disease to mental affliction, the biopsychosocial model has gradually become the new standard of viewing illness. With such a diverse set of influences, the new framework seeks to explain more rather than narrow explanations down. It also promotes the idea of the “mind-body connection,” which highlights the interplay between physical and mental processes in the case of illness, recovery and overall health.

Mounting research throughout the decades has detailed the flaws of the biomedical model. The traditional view is regimented in empirical evidence, so it has pushed the development of scientifically supported methods and modalities like experimental drug trials. However, this strictness is also responsible for a lack of innovation in the medical field. It has even created a prominent division between scientists and practitioners. Despite these limitations, many clinicians and other professionals still use this model due to its long history and more focused reasoning. Although a simple solution is more manageable and digestible, trying to simplify a person’s problems to a single cause excludes too much valuable information about one’s overall health.

There is also an opposition to the biopsychosocial perspective, which claims that the new framework is too broad and complicated. Research shows that many studies do not follow a strict definition of health and many other elements are more subjective than measurable. Others believe that the biopsychosocial model was necessary for innovation, but a new model needs to refocus treatment and move away from more eclectic ideologies.

The inclusive nature of the biopsychosocial point of view may be a direct response to the limited scope of the biomedical model. While a strict focus on cellular and chemical factors is tailor-made for treating observable, bodily dysfunctions, mental illness is a much more intangible and complex ordeal. A biological focus also relies on pharmaceutical solutions for effective treatment, as these medications target specific chemical imbalances. However, medications are also tied to numerous side effects and can even jeopardize psychological and social health in the process of improving biological health.

Sovereign Health Group is an advocate of viewing mental health in a comprehensive manner. Our seasoned staff is well aware of where biological and medicinal avenues end and where other contributing factors begin. Treatment facilities around the state are committed to creating an integrative space where both evidence-based and holistic strategies are utilized. Regardless if you or a loved one suffers from a serious mental disorder or substance addiction, seeking out Sovereign is an important first step towards healing. Contact a representative online or call (866) 819-0427.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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