The clinical application of the biopsychosocial model in mental health: A research critique

Ana Sabela Álvarez, Marco Pagani, Paolo Meucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Engel applied the term biopsychosocial to medicine to emphasize the need to take into account the psychologic and social aspects of medical practice. After an overview of the history of the biopsychosocial (BPS) model, we review criticisms of the model to reformulate its deficiencies and then analyze its application in mental health care. The objectives of this paper are 4-fold: (1) to examine the use of the BPS model since Engel's 1977 article to the present; (2) to examine the reasons for the popularity of the BPS model as well as the problems it faces when applied to mental health care; (3) to introduce two instruments, the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health and the INTERMED, which implement the BPS model; and (4) to show why the BPS model is not yet a model of mental health practice. A total of 62 publications were retrieved and reviewed in the ScienceDirect, PubMed, and Scopus databases, and 32 of them were eventually included in this review. This is the first review of the studies published that applied the BPS model in mental health in the last 33 yrs. These criticisms are used to construct a more workable vision of the BPS model of clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number13 SUPPL.1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012


  • Interdisciplinary studies
  • Mental health
  • Professional practice
  • Psychiatry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Medicine(all)


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