• The Nature of Problems: Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual

    The Nature of Problems: Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual

    One of my first exposures to studying psychology was my Introduction to Psychology class in my freshman year of college. Admittedly, I cannot describe many of the specifics of this class, but one general theme stayed with me throughout the rest of my formal training:

    The cause of mental health problems can be found in biological, psychological, and social factors. 

    My years of clinical practice have continued to strengthen this conviction and I continue to educate my clients on this concept.
    Drawing a triangle with a circle around it, I begin my introduction:

    Most people have a bias about where they believe mental health problems come from;
    I assume you have one, and the people in your life have one. Some people believe these problems are biological … when this is the primary view, people often focus on medication as the treatment of choice. Some people believe these problems are psychological … often the focus is on telling the individual to stop thinking a certain way and start thinking a new way. Some people believe these problems are social … when this is the primary view people put priority on changing the externals in a person’s life – relationships, environment, or systems. Some people believe these problems are spiritual … when this is primary the individual is often encouraged towards certain religious beliefs, practices, or connection to God or a higher power.
    My bias is that while these may hold different weight in the lives of people,
    problems often stem from a combination of each of these four spheres for the individual.  


    I have come to believe that clients are best served
    when we together look at causes and solutions as multifaceted.
    We may see positive change and increased health after addressing one or two spheres,
    but we will likely see the most positive results when treatment addresses the person holistically,
    recognizing the many dynamics at play and the ways these are interconnected.   

    concerned with physical body, genetics, brain chemistry
    Possible Difficulties / Problems: 

    • difficulties with sleep
    • poor nutrition
    • lack of exercise
    • substance abuse
    • family history of mental illness
    • imbalance of hormones
    • trauma’s effect on the brain
    • ongoing physiological arousal
    • deficits in the body
    • physical illness, pain, or stress on the body
    • brain injury
    Opportunities / Possible Solutions:

    • getting adequate sleep
    • obtaining healthy nutrition
    • exercising consistently
    • practicing good hygiene
    • treating trauma & heightened arousal with holistic methods
    • mindfulness, yoga, or other body practices
    • taking medication as prescribed & monitored by health care professional
    • treating imbalances or deficits in the body
    • treating physical illness and pain
    • collaborating with health care providers to treat underlying problems or disease
    concerned with the mind or the way one thinks
    Possible Difficulties / Problems: 

    • maladaptive/unhelpful ways of thinking
    • negative self-esteem or hatred of self
    • inaccurate or incomplete beliefs about self, others, the world
    • believing situations are hopeless and cannot change
    • distorted thinking
    • dysfunctional schemas
    Opportunities / Possible Solutions:

    • looking at the whole picture or story
    • finding, building on, and developing strengths
    • developing resilience
    • developing adaptive views of self, others, and the world
    • building hope
    • noticing positives
    • challenging cognitive distortions
    • identifying, exploring, and choosing schemas
    concerned with relationships, environments, events, situations, systems, culture
    Possible Difficulties / Problems: 

    • lack of healthy relationships or support
    • social isolation or rejection
    • cruelty, violence, or abuse
    • unhealthy or toxic relationships
    • dangerous environments
    • oppressive cultures or unstable conditions
    • signifiant losses & traumatic events
    • shame or discrimination
    • unstable family or living situation
    • lack of various resources (poverty)
    Opportunities / Possible Solutions:

    • healthy relationships and intimacy
    • gaining emotional and practical support
    • having social acceptance and community supports
    • securing safety of many kinds
    • finding stable places and people
    • processing trauma
    • grieving significant losses with validation, empathy, and support
    • having worth and dignity recognized and respected
    • increasing access to resources
    belief or connection to God, humanity, or life meaning (may/may not include religious practice, belief, or community)
    Possible Difficulties / Problems: 

    • lacking a life of meaning
    • being disconnected from others, the universe, or God
    • loss of faith or hope
    • living out of line with one’s values
    • spiritual abuse
    • disconnection from communities of faith
    • lacking inner or outter peace
    Opportunities / Possible Solutions:

    • finding and creating meaning
    • connecting with others, the universe, or God
    • increasing hope
    • living in line with one’s values
    • healing from the trauma of abuse
    • creating one’s own Good Life
    • belonging to community
    • seeking peace in our selves, relationships, and world
    © Copyright 2018 Rochelle Matthews Stoltzfus
    Licensed Professional Counselor and Owner of In Process Counseling
    (providing mental health services including therapy, EMDR, and psychoeducational services)