The Medical Model of Mental Illness

In this talk, Bruce Di Marsico discusses the mythologies behind the medical model of mental illness.

The medical model is the framework of diagnosis and treatment to achieve a healthy state. When used in the psychotherapeutic context, the medical model proposes that there are behavioral or attitudinal pathologies, that there is a healthy state that is free of these pathologies, and that there is a treatment regime to cure the pathologies.

Observing that what is considered pathological in one cultural may not be considered pathological in another, he points out that the medical model is a method of imposing social standards. History is full of social standards that were considered illnesses, but no longer are. In contemporary times in the west, many sexual behaviors are losing their status as illnesses, for example, homosexuality, nymphomania, and masturbation.

He discusses the goals of therapy. The purpose of therapy is for the patient to be happy, not to achieve any ideal way of being, such as being “well-adjusted”. The patient’s happiness is whatever it is for them, and the patient is the sole decider of what his or her problem is. When the therapist believes the patient has a problem, and the patient does not, this is usually because the therapist is finding the patient’s attitude or behavior is a reason for their own (the therapist’s) unhappiness. This is the therapist’s issue, not the patient’s.

Option Method – The Medical Model of Mental Illness