The Importance of a Biopsychosocial Approach to Interventions for Students with Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties

Authored by: Paul Cooper , Katherine Bilton , Michalis Kakos

The Routledge International Companion to Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties

Print publication date:  August  2012
Online publication date:  October  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415584630
eBook ISBN: 9780203117378
Adobe ISBN: 9781136303111


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The term ‘biopsychosocial’ is often considered to have originated in the later 1970s in work of Engel (1977, 1980), who argued for a ‘new paradigm’ in medicine that went beyond a purely biomedical approach to take account of the role of psychological and social factors in physical health. The approach has been developed to apply to a wide range of issues. For example, it has been used to develop understanding of interactions between psychological stress and physiological factors in the causes and management of physical illness, such as cancer, AIDS, and general pain management (Gatchel et al. 2007). The biopsychosocial approach has also been applied to psychological therapies (Stern 2002) and social work approaches (Corcoran and Walsh 2009; Wong 2006) in relation to mental health. It has also played a significant role in furthering understandings of the ageing process (Whitbourne 2005). In the broad area of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties (SEBD) among children and young people, the biopsychosocial approach can be seen at work as a underpinning to multi-systemic therapy (MST) (Henggeler et al. 1996; Henggeler et al. 1997), which has been found to be a highly effective multi-agency and multi-modal intervention for problems such as conduct disorder in older adolescents (Kazdin 2002).

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