Monday, August 09, 2021

Scientific validity of a pragmatic biopsychosocial model

The Academia platform has reminded me of a paper by Bradley Lewis on ‘The biopsychosocial model and philosophical pragmatism: Is George Engel a pragmatist?’. Like me (eg. see previous post), Brad argues that “Engel’s model is worth revitalising” (p. 299). I’m not as convinced as him that Engel “based the model on Von Bertalanffy’s biological systems theory” (p.300) (eg. see my article). General systems theory was a suitable conceptual basis for discrediting a reductionistic approach to biology for Engel but I don’t think he was necessarily making the biopsychosocial model dependent on it. As Brad points out, Engel saw the biopsychosocial model as more scientifically valid than biological reductionism. I agree with Brad about the similarities between Engel’s model/philosophy and pragmatism. Of course, Adolf Meyer, whom Engel also quotes, was very influenced by American pragmatism (eg. see my book chapter). 

Brad is interested in postpsychiatry (see his guest blog in a previous post). Postpsychiatry is perhaps the best known version of critical psychiatry (see another guest post from Pat Bracken and Phil Thomas). As I’ve been saying (eg. see previous post), a more truly biopsychosocial model, which critiques the biomedical model to produce a more relational practice, is needed not only for psychiatry but also for medicine in general. This was what George Engel meant when he proposed his biopsychosocial model.

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