AQAL: Beyond the Biopsychosocial Model

Baron ShortArticle, Cognitive, Integrative Metatheory, Journal of Integral Theory & Practice, Psychiatry 1 Comment

The biopsychosocial model promised a more integrated psychiatric approach to patients. It assumed biological and psychosocial factors were paramount to effectively treat human disease and suffering. It has not, however, influenced conventional psychiatry as George Engel had envisioned. This article describes many of the strengths and weaknesses of the biopsychosocial model, as well as how AQAL and Integral Methodological Pluralism include the model’s partial truths and transcend its shortcomings.


This article was sparked by a conversation with a psychiatric colleague of mine, wherein we briefly discussed the AQAL model. Near the end of our discussion (mostly about the four quadrants), she said that AQAL was interesting but not much different from the biopsychosocial model. My understanding is that there are some similarities, as both call for a more comprehensive approach; however, there are clear differences and significant advancements in the AQAL model.

In this article, I will first review the biopsychosocial model and its more recent critiques. I will then offer a more advanced formulation using the AQAL model, which addresses several theoretical shortcomings of the biopsychosocial model. Subsequent articles will further explore the theoretical and practical implications of an AQAL psychiatry.


About Baron Short

BARON SHORT, M.D., has studied Integral Theory and its application in medicine and psychiatry since 2000. He is in his fifth year of residency training in internal medicine and psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina. He is a primary investigator in a pilot study, “Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Meditation.” Dr. Short hopes to better understand the neurophysiology involved in the meditative experience as such knowledge could influence future clinical treatments and our ideas on the philosophy and spirituality of mind. In addition to his clinical rotations, academic presentations, and research interests, he is an avid teacher for medical students and new residents. He hopes to collaborate and offer one of the first Integral Medicine courses accessible at a medical university in the near future.