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Biopsychosocial Perspectives

Components of the Ecological Perspective

Select each of the lenses below to learn more about them, and then answer the following questions that apply to the Sanchez family.

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.

  • What is the impact of stress upon our well-being?
  • Hector Sanchez has many stressors in his life: a child with disabilities, a grandchild to raise, a nephew whose presence puts his family at risk, and tension on the job. What might be the biologic signs and the effects of such stress?
  • How does the health status of members of the Sanchez family impact their well-being? How might the health of the Sanchez family be affected by the stressful work conditions in undervalued occupations and by the disadvantages they experience as members of an often-marginalized ethnic group?
  • What other environmental justice concerns, such as air pollution, hazardous waste in their neighborhood, unsafe living conditions, may be impacting their health?
  • From your own experiences with adults, describe what physical effects people have when they are in these stressful situations? With children?

  • How does the biological impact of disaster affect the health and well-being of the 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.

  • Stress: Stress is a normal response to a physical or emotional challenge and occurs when demands are out of balance with resources for coping. Reactions to stress may differ and depend upon the severity of the duration, as well as upon the individual’s characteristics and previous experiences.
  • Resilience: Resilience is the ability to respond to and recover from a disaster quickly, effectively and efficiently. Many people will be resilient and will return to pre-incident functioning in a relatively short period of time with no intervention whatsoever. Early intervention reduces risk.
  • Severe Reactions: Most people experience normal stress reactions which fade and gradually disappear. Some people may find that these reactions persist over a longer period of time and worsen, resulting in the need for professional help. The tree most common disorders are anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Anxiety: People who feel anxiety experience muscle tension, restlessness, panic, or a sense of impending doom. They often also have anxious thoughts, such as fears of dying of a heart attack, fears of embarrassment or humiliation, or fears of something terrible happening. In addition, they often have uncomfortable physical sensations, including heart palpitations, sweating, dizziness, or shortness of breath. (American Psychological Association, 2012, www.apa.org).
  • Depression: People with depression may experience a lack of interest and pleasure in daily activities, significant weight loss or gain, insomnia or excessive sleeping, lack of energy, inability to concentrate, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide. (American Psychological Association, 2012, www.apa.org).
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): An anxiety problem that develops in some people after extremely traumatic events, such as combat, crime, an accident or natural disaster. People with PTSD may relive the event via intrusive memories, flashbacks and nightmares; avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma; and have anxious feelings they didn’t have before that are so intense their lives are disrupted. (American Psychological Association, 2012, www.apa.org).
  • How does the presence of social support function in our lives? What are the risks that accrue to people who have low levels of social support?

  • What are the current best practices in enabling people like Vicki, who has autism, become as independent as she can be? What kinds of contingencies (i.e. systems of reinforcement) in the environment does Vicki need to be able to achieve her potential?

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, 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 can social workers advocate for social and economic justice in the lives of clients?

  • How can you, as a social worker, help the family as they try to support Roberto, and remain mindful of the law at the same time?

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

  • How do religious institutions provide people with essential emotional and social support? What role have religious institutions played in helping immigrants adjust to life in the United States, throughout history?

  • How can religious institutions and spiritual beliefs sometimes burden individuals, by introducing dissonance between individuals’ opinions or life experiences and the teachings of their faith? Where do you see this happening in the Sanchez family?

  • What is the role of religious institutions in addressing addiction in their communities? What could the role of the church be in helping Emilia with her addiction, and her family who must support her through this process?

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My Values

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