Apr 23, 2021
Mental Health

Mental Health and Spirituality: The Biopsychosocial Spiritual Model

Lane Fischer, PhD
What You'll Learn
Addressing the Whole Person Understanding the ConnectionA Shared Element Among Mental Health DisordersReferences

Most psychologists recognize the interconnectedness of all the aspects of human life. But do we really need to address all parts of the human if only one part is suffering? Especially spirituality. How can my belief system impact the overall wellness of my human being?

Addressing the Whole Person

In acknowledging how biological, psychological, social, and spiritual factors present in a person’s  life, both medical doctors and psychiatrists can conceptualize patient problems, come to greater understanding, and effectively develop a treatment plan. At Hope Recovery and Healing, we hark to a bio-psycho-social-spiritual model. We acknowledge and approach all aspects of human being. We have a consulting psychiatrist to address medication and biological factors. We provide yoga and body awareness sessions to foster physiological regulation. We provide individual psychotherapy and group psychotherapy to address both psychological and social processes. We provide weekly psycho-educational session to address those issues. We offer spirituality awareness classes to foster development and nourishment of spiritual wellbeing.

Understanding the Connection

But is our being really that interconnected? Do we really need to address all parts of the human if only one part is suffering?

Here’s an example from University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry, where the biopsychosocial model was first developed:

Think of a map. If you look at the border between California and Arizona on the map there is a black lined border. But if you actually go to the physical location of the state line between California and Arizona, there is no border.  The same is true with the mind-body-spirit-social connection.

Depression is a good example of the integration of biology, psychology, sociality, and spirituality. The classic symptoms of depression are Sleep Disruption (hype- or hypo-somnia), Anhedonia (loss of interest in previously enriching activities or relationships, loss of pleasure), Negative Self-Referential Ideation (shame, anger turned inward), Concentration Disruption, Appetite Disruption (hyper- or hypo-appetite), Mood Disruption (intractable blue, sadness), Psychomotor Slowing, Suicidal Ideation. Depression is often associated with social withdrawal or hostility as well as disruption of religious and spiritual processes.

It does not matter where the depression begins. Whether it’s biological, social rejection trauma, sexual trauma, cognitive distortions, or spiritual disruptions, there tends to be a downward spiral effect. Wherever the depression sets in first, it will progressively affect every other aspect of human being. Biological – Psychological – Social – Spiritual – Biological – Psychological – Social – Spiritual…  The hopeful aspect of the interrelated nature of depression is that we do not have to isolate a single cause to address. We can enter the healing process at any point in the spiral. We can also address all aspects simultaneously. Improvements in any of the aspects of human being tend to have an upward spiral effect. Biological – Psychological – Social – Spiritual – Biological – Psychological – Social – Spiritual…

Vietnamese Zen Buddhist spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh said, "No mud, no lotus." Without suffering through the mud, you cannot find the happiness of the lotus.

A Shared Element Among Mental Health Disorders

Hence, at Hope Recovery and Healing we acknowledge and approach all aspects of human being and mental health. Most mental illnesses have a similar interconnectedness. One of the most fascinating recent developments in the assessment of psychopathology has emerged from the refinements in the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). More refined analyses of original subscales of the MMPI have identified the most powerful shared component of the subscales. The subscales estimated psychopathology (mental health conditions) which ranged from depression and anxiety to psychosis and antisocial tendencies.  Research  revealed the powerful shared element among all of these conditions is demoralization.

Regardless of what a person may be diagnosed with, all aspects of life tend to  become progressively more difficult. And that increasing difficulty leads to demoralization. Hence, we approach treatment to all aspects of life, including the spiritual side which is so vital in recovery from any addiction. Addressing all aspects of the human being can indeed lead to greater healing and wellness. Regarding the bio-psycho-social-spiritual model, an international group of researchers concluded in 2017:

A sincere and profound application of this new view of the human being would bring remarkable transformations to the concepts of health, disease, treatments, and cure (Saad et al, 2017).



Saad, Marcelo & Medeiros, Roberta & Mosini, Amanda. (2017). Are We Ready for a True Biopsychosocial–Spiritual Model? The Many Meanings of “Spiritual”. Medicines. 4. 79. 10.3390/medicines4040079.

University of Nevada, Reno, Bio-Psycho Social-Spiritual Model,

University of Rochester, Biopsycosocial Model,

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Lane Fischer

Lane Fischer is an associate professor of counseling psychology and special education. He is department chair of the Counseling Psychology and Special Education deparmtent at Brigham Young University. In his academic work he has focused much of his writing on the spiritual aspects of psychotherapy.

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