The terms disease and illness are often used interchangeably, yet they are conceptually very different. Illness refers to the human experience of disease. Disease, on the other hand, refers to a structural change in the body or mind. Traditionally, the primary focus of the medical model has been the disease and the diagnosis and treatment of the disease. In 1977, George Engel argued that the medical model “leaves no room in its framework for the social, psychological, and behavioral dimensions of illness” (p. 130).
A primary goal of medical social work is to address illness. Medical social workers are charged with evaluating and analyzing how illness impacts the social, emotional, psychological, and behavioral realms of individuals and groups—that is, the “person-in-environment” perspective. Since its inception, medical social work has been rooted in the person-in-environment perspective and has relied heavily on the principles of the biopsychosocial model. The biopsychosocial model, a pinnacle of social work practice, systematically considers biological, psychological, and social factors and their complex interactions in understanding health, illness, and health care delivery. Thus, medical social workers must consider all systems in a patient’s life when assessing a patient’s needs and suggesting interventions.
To prepare for this Discussion, consider the medical social worker’s practice from the “person-in-environment” perspective. Review both the disease and biopsychosocial models of disease and health. Examine the posts your colleagues share about the future perspectives of the profession in this week’s Discussion 1.
By Day 4
Post a brief description of the “person-in-environment” perspective. Compare and contrast the medical model and the biopsychosocial model. Be sure to describe the advantages and disadvantages of both models in the delivery of medical social work services. Explain how the person-in-environment perspective relies heavily on the principles of the biopsychosocial model. Explain whether the biopsychosocial model might continue to be compatible with the future of the social work profession. Provide a rationale. Finally, explain whether the person-in-environment perspective might rely heavily on the principles of the biopsychosocial model in the future.
Beder, J. (2006). Hospital social work: The interface of medicine and caring. New York, NY: Routledge.
- Chapter 1, “About Medical Social Work” (pp. 1–8)Beder, J. (2006). Hospital social work: The interface of medicine and caring. New York, NY: Routledge.
- Chapter 1, “About Medical Social Work” (pp. 1–8)
Gehlert, S., & Browne, T. (Eds.). (2012). Handbook of health social work (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
- Chapter 1, “Conceptual Underpinnings of Social Work in Health Care” (pp. 3–19)
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