Medical and social models of orphanhood

Resilience of adopted children and adoptive families 1

Authored by: Alexander V. Makhnach

The Routledge International Handbook of Psychosocial Resilience

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138954878
eBook ISBN: 9781315666716
Adobe ISBN: 9781317355946


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Through all 140 years of its history, scientific psychology was focused on what was going wrong with the human being. That emphasis explains the major role of clinical psychology that was traditionally focused on the treatment of mental illnesses. Scientific research and the practice of the pioneers of the field aimed to cure psychopathology. The practice of treating mental illnesses triggered the development of independent methods and forms of pharmacological and psychotherapeutic approaches. Some of them proved efficient in treating certain types of illnesses. However, regarding mental illnesses as diseases fostered the medical model of treatment, which in its turn inspired further scientific research in the area of mental illnesses and psychiatric disorders. Yet the psychological functioning of a sane person and the question of the normal well-being were disregarded (Seligman, 2003). The term medical model, coined by R. D. Laing, is an umbrella notion that implies the whole set of procedures to be studied in universities by the future physicians, medical psychologists and psychotherapists (Laing, 1971). This set presupposes the case-record, analyses and necessary clinical procedures. In this case, the prognosis for a proper treatment is made from the perspective of deficiency. The medical model is a dominant approach to the person and its illness (physical suffering, mental disorder, social problems) with the major goal of unveiling symptoms and syndromes and treating the body (individual or social) as a highly complex mechanism. According to S. Curtis and A. Taket (1996), the medical model is now dominating the world of science. Within this model, the body is regarded as an operative machine, and disorders are compared to disrepairs that should be fixed, i.e. cured. The emphasis is put on diagnosis and treatment, not prevention, which in itself can be a deterioration factor (Curtis & Taket, 1996). Even the language of the medical model reflects its nature: the most commonly used words are diagnosis, disease, illness, symptoms and intervention. The results can be attained only with the help of interventions, procedures and tests, which may improve health or cure illness through medication, hospitalization or surgery.

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