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Biopsychosocial Perspectives

Components of the Ecological Perspective

Social workers work from an ecological perspective. They understand that, regardless of origin, all problems are systemic, i.e. that they are maintained by an imbalance within and between systems, and contain biopsychosocial/spiritual elements, although the salience of any one of these will change, depending on the problem itself. An example of the ubiquity of the biopsychosocial /spiritual model can be seen in the questions that follow, all of which are relevant to the case at hand.

The biological dimension refers to the role of biological systems—be they within our bodies (e.g. genetic predispositions), or outside (e.g. airborne pathogens that impact our functioning), upon our health and well-being.

  • The popular conception of addiction is that it is an illness, like diabetes or cancer, and requires treatment. What makes the disease model of addiction compelling? In other words, what is the evidence for this position?

  • How does the biological impact of addiction on the body cost an entire community?

The psychological dimension refers to the role of thoughts, emotion, and behavior on individual, group, or community functioning. Inclusion of this dimension also requires us to look at the mind-body connection in the assessment of a variety of common social work phenomena such as the emotional regulation of stress.

  • One of the psychological elements related to the motivation to drink is poor impulse control. Briefly, impulse control refers to the degree to which a person can control the desire for immediate gratification. Poor impulse control is usually a function of an inherent trait in a person, combined with situational variables that potentiate the expression of that trait. Thus, if alcohol is easily available (a situational trait), it is more likely that the person with poor impulse control will take advantage of the opportunity, even if the consequences are negative. Given that many situational variables are beyond our control, are there psychological interventions that can help people better control their impulses?

  • With so many different attitudes about the problem of the homeless addicts in the neighborhood, it is going to be difficult to come up with a solution that is satisfactory to everyone. What principles of community conflict resolution that you think would be most helpful?

The social dimension refers to how individuals relate to various groups and institutions in society–and how groups and institutions relate to individuals, or classes of individuals. Our mission to assist not only the client system, but all others who might be similarly affected is one of the things that separates social work from the other helping professions.

The Social Lens allows us to:

  • See the impact of "isms" such as racism, sexism, and ageism on the ability of people to reach goals;
  • Look at such bonds of affinity as church or other group memberships as sources of strength and social support;
  • See clients both as individuals and as likely representatives of others with the same problem.
  • How has organized religion shaped our attitudes towards persons with addictions?

  • Look at the risk/protective factors model created by SAMHSA, and located in the “resources” section. This is an evidence-based model of factors that impede (“risk factors”) and support (“protective factors”) community safety. The goal, then, is to reduce the former and build up the latter. Given what you know, make a community assessment of Riverton on these dimensions

The spiritual dimension refers to the role of religious or spiritual belief on well-being.

  • What is the role of faith-based organizations in addressing addiction in their communities?

  • What do we know about (i.e. is there evidence for) linkages between spirituality and recovery? Is a person with no belief in a higher Being (or God) equally likely to recover effectively?

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