Biopsychosocial Interview: Definition & Uses in Counseling

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  • 0:04 Biopsychosocial Interviews
  • 2:05 A Biopsychosocial Assessment
  • 3:58 Treatment Planning
  • 4:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor
Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

Expert Contributor
Jennifer Levitas

Dr. Levitas has a Ph.D. in psychology from George Mason University. She has taught myriad psychology courses for 30 years on both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

In order to fully understand a client's problems, a therapist can conduct a biopsychosocial interview that assesses the client on three different dimensions: biological, psychological, and social. In this lesson, learn about the biopsychosocial interview with sample scenarios and interview questions.

Biopsychosocial Interviews

Otis is a 12-year-old middle schooler who is having severe behavioral issues with teachers at school. A clinical social worker visits Otis' home and conducts a biopsychosocial interview, first with Otis, and then with his parents. The social worker is not only interested in Otis' mental and behavioral health, she also wants to know about any physical problems and social/familial problems as well. After all, behavioral problems at school could be caused by familial problems at home (social) or even medical issues like poor hearing, eyesight, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), etc.

The biopsychosocial interview is an assessment typically conducted by therapists and counselors at the beginning of therapy, and it assesses for biological, psychological, and social factors that can be contributing to a problem or problems with a client. It's considered a holistic assessment, looking at a client on all different levels.

The biopsychosocial interview is utilized because problems usually don't exist in a vacuum - they all influence each other in different ways. It's not enough just to look at a person; you have to look at his or her environment as well. Here are some other examples of how biological, psychological, and social factors are all interrelated:

  • Grandma Mary Lou is displaying anger that makes her family members really nervous. After conducting a biopsychosocial, the family therapist can see that Mary Lou may be experiencing early symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer's (bio), making her so frustrated and angry (psycho) that she can't remember things she once could.

  • Ernie is bullying other kids at school (social). After the clinical social worker conducts a biopsychosocial interview, she realizes that Ernie is bullied by his father and that he's displacing anger (psycho) towards his father on kids on the playground.

  • Michelle has just lost custody of her children due to her alcohol abuse (bio) and driving drunk with the children in the car. When the mental health therapist conducts the biopsychosocial interview, he discovers that Michelle drinks because she is depressed (psycho) and is abused by her controlling husband (social and familial).

A Biopsychosocial Assessment

The biopsychosocial interview may be different depending on the agency or counseling center that's administering it, but all biopsychosocial interviews try to be as comprehensive in assessing possible roots to problems as possible.

Biological

First, let's look at the biological element of this assessment. The biological (or 'bio') of the biopsychosocial entails questions about medical or genetic issues, age, developmental milestones, or physical characteristics. Questions targeting the 'bio' aspect on the biopsychosocial assessment may be:

  • Do you drink or do drugs? How often?
  • Do you have a personal or family history of drug or alcohol abuse?
  • Do you have a family history of suicidal or homicidal ideations (creation of ideas and concepts)?
  • Do you have any medical problems that are negatively impacting your life?
  • Are you on any medications? If so, what are they?

Psychological

Now, let's take a look at the psychological aspect of this assessment. The psychological (or 'psycho') of the biopsychosocial entails questions about a person's mental status, thoughts, behaviors, feelings, emotions, history of trauma, or abuse.

  • How would you describe yourself? (as in assessing for self image)
  • What would you consider your strengths? Your weaknesses?
  • Have you ever seen a therapist or had counseling in the past?
  • Have you ever had suicidal or homicidal thoughts, a plan or intent?

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The Biopsychosocial Interview

Activity 1:

Develop your own biopsychosocial interview to give to a willing family member. Make sure that you address each element (biological, psychological, and social). Your interview should be a minimum of thirty questions, with at least ten questions for each section of the interview. After creating the interview, give it to a family member. Write a two to three paragraph essay on this experience. Was it difficult to generate the questions? Was one section particularly difficult? Did anything in the interview itself surprise you?

Activity 2:

In the lesson you read how the biopsychosocial interview is a holistic assessment. Issues do not arise in a vacuum, so it is very important to assess as many elements of a person's life as possible. Where children are concerned, a counselor sometimes experiences resistance by the parents regarding the social aspect of the interview. Some parents tell a counselor to "fix" their child, and strongly opine that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the environment. If you were a counselor, what would you say to parents who resist the social portion of the interview? How could you influence the parents so that they would provide the holistic information you need? Write a two to three paragraph paper discussing how you might approach and interact with reluctant parents.

Activity 3:

For this activity, you need to examine how you might experience the biopsychosocial interview if you were a client. No person is perfect and no life is perfect; there is always room for insight and improvement. Given that reality, think about the different elements of the interview. In which elements do you think you are particularly strong? In which elements might you be a bit weaker? Taking it a step further, what do you think you could do to improve the element(s) in the interview wherein you are a little weaker? Write a reflective journal entry on your thoughts, impressions, and answers to these questions.

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