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A Psychological Model of Mental Disorder

Kinderman, Peter PhD1†

doi: 10.1080/10673220500243349

A coherent conceptualization of the role of psychological factors is of great importance in understanding mental disorder. Academic articles and professional reports alluding to psychological models of the etiology of mental disorder are becoming increasingly common, and there is evidence of a marked policy shift toward the provision of psychological therapies and interventions. This article discusses the relationship between biological, social, and psychological factors in the causation and treatment of mental disorder. It argues that simple biological reductionism is not scientifically justified, and also that the specific role of psychological processes within the biopsychosocial model requires further elaboration. The biopsychosocial model is usually interpreted as implying that biological, psychological, and social factors are coequal partners in the etiology of mental disorder. The psychological model of mental disorder presented here suggests that disruption or dysfunction in psychological processes is a final common pathway in the development of mental disorder. These processes include, but are not limited to, cognitive processes. The model proposes that biological and social factors, together with a person's individual experiences, lead to mental disorder through their conjoint effects on those psychological processes. Implications for research, interventions, and policy are discussed.

1From the Division of Clinical Psychology, University of Liverpool.

Correspondence: Peter Kinderman, Prof., Division of Clinical Psychology, University of Liverpool, Whelan Building, Quadrangle, Brownlow Hill, Liverpool, L69 3GB, United Kingdom.

Original manuscript submitted 20 June 2004; revised manuscript received 29 March 2005, accepted for publication 8 April 2005.

© 2005 President and Fellows of Harvard College
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