Explanatory Models for Psychiatric Illness

Virginia Institute of Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical School, Richmond, VA 23298-0126, USA.
American Journal of Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 13.56). 07/2008; 165(6):695-702. DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2008.07071061
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT How can we best develop explanatory models for psychiatric disorders? Because causal factors have an impact on psychiatric illness both at micro levels and macro levels, both within and outside of the individual, and involving processes best understood from biological, psychological, and sociocultural perspectives, traditional models of science that strive for single broadly applicable explanatory laws are ill suited for our field. Such models are based on the incorrect assumption that psychiatric illnesses can be understood from a single perspective. A more appropriate scientific model for psychiatry emphasizes the understanding of mechanisms, an approach that fits naturally with a multicausal framework and provides a realistic paradigm for scientific progress, that is, understanding mechanisms through decomposition and reassembly. Simple subunits of complicated mechanisms can be usefully studied in isolation. Reassembling these constituent parts into a functioning whole, which is straightforward for simple additive mechanisms, will be far more challenging in psychiatry where causal networks contain multiple nonlinear interactions and causal loops. Our field has long struggled with the interrelationship between biological and psychological explanatory perspectives. Building from the seminal work of the neuronal modeler and philosopher David Marr, the author suggests that biology will implement but not replace psychology within our explanatory systems. The iterative process of interactions between biology and psychology needed to achieve this implementation will deepen our understanding of both classes of processes.

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    ABSTRACT: Multilevel explanations abound in psychiatry. However, formulating useful such explanations is difficult or (some argue) impossible. I point to several ways in which Lane et al. successfully use multilevel explanations to advance understanding of psychotherapeutic effectiveness. I argue that the usefulness of an explanation depends largely on one's purpose, and conclude that this point has been inadequately recognised in psychiatry. How to Cite This Article Link to This Abstract Blog This Article Copy and paste this link Highlight all Citation is provided in standard text and BibTeX formats below. Highlight all BibTeX Format @article{BBS:9749968,author = {Roache,Rebecca},title = {How does psychotherapy work? A case study in multilevel explanation},journal = {Behavioral and Brain Sciences},volume = {38},month = {1},year = {2015},issn = {1469-1825},doi = {10.1017/S0140525X14000284},URL = {},} Click here for full citation export options. Blog This Article Copy and paste this code to insert a reference to this article in your blog or online community profile: Highlight all How does psychotherapy work? A case study in multilevel explanation Rebecca Roache (2015). Behavioral and Brain Sciences , Volume 38 , January 2015e23 The code will display like this How does psychotherapy work? A case study in multilevel explanation Rebecca Roache (2015) Behavioral and Brain Sciences, , Volume 38, January 2015e23 Rebecca Roache (2015). How does psychotherapy work? A case study in multilevel explanation. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 38, e23 doi:10.1017/S0140525X14000284 Metrics Related Content Related Articles
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