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Clinical problem solving and the biopsychosocial model
Am J Psychiatry 1992;149:1315-1323.
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Engel's biopsychosocial model, while unifying the sciences relevant to medicine under general systems theory, is of limited utility in organizing bedside clinical problem solving. The authors consider this issue in light of the structure and goals of the clinical encounter. The biopsychosocial model is a model for organizing the sciences relevant to medicine; however, medical/psychiatric practice poses problems both within and outside the scientific realm. Since the biopsychosocial model cannot account for clinical problems to which the methods of science do not apply, the authors seek to facilitate biopsychosocial problem solving by proposing a clinical decision-making model that complements the biopsychosocial model. Their model directs the clinician's attention to three core aspects of the clinical encounter: problems of knowledge, ethics, and pragmatics. The authors reconsider Engel's case of Mr. Glover to demonstrate the anticipatory emphasis of the model. Other clinical examples are used to demonstrate the difficulties arising from mistaking one kind of aspect of medicine for another. When these three aspects of medicine are respected equally, a biopsychosocial practice is unavoidable.

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