An Overview of Behavioral Medicine


Behavioral medicine is an interdisciplinary field combining both psychology and medicine and is concerned with the assimilation of knowledge in the behavioral, biological, social, and psychological sciences relevant to illness and health. These sciences include anthropology, epidemiology, sociology, pharmacology, psychology, nutrition, physiology, neuroanatomy, immunology and endocrinology. The word is often used incorrectly, and interchangeably, with health psychology. The practice of behavioral medicine incorporates health psychology, but also embraces applied psychophysiological therapies such as hypnosis, biofeedback, and aspects of occupational therapy, bio-behavioral therapy of physical disorders, rehabilitation medicine, and preventive as well as medicine physiatry. In disparity, health psychology characterizes a stronger emphasis principally on psychology’s role in both behavioral health and behavioral medicine.

Behavioral medicine must also be distinguished from behavioral health, which centers on deterrence of disease, while behavioral medicine emphasizes healing and remediation of illness. In the United States, behavioral medicine is particularly relevant where many of the health problems are chiefly viewed as behavioral in nature, as contrast to medical. For instance, smoking, leading an inactive lifestyle, and alcohol misuse or other substance exploitation are all factors in the primary causes of death in the United States. Physicians of behavioral medicine consist of appropriately trained nurses, psychologists, social workers, and physicians (including residents and medical students), and these specialists often act as behavioral change agents, even in their medical roles. Dr. Curtis Cripe holds a PhD in behavioral medicine and psychology from Northcentral University of Arizona. He initiated this path when he first earned a Bachelor’s then a Master’s degree in engineering from California State Polytechnic University.

Instead of the medical model, behavioral medicine uses the biopsychosocial model of illness. This model incorporates psychological, biological, and social elements into its approach to disease in place of relying only on a biological aberration from the standard or ordinary functioning.

Medicines work best for regulating prolonged illness when the patients use them as recommended and do not diverge from the general practitioner’s instructions. This is true for both mental and physiological illnesses. Nevertheless, in order for the patient to abide by a treatment program, the physician must provide an adequate explanation of what the patient must do, correct information about the regimen, and should also offer more recurrent strengthening of appropriate compliance. According to Dr. Curtis Cripe, patients with solid social support systems, principally through families and marriages, usually exhibit better amenableness with their treatment regimen.

It is significant for doctors to make meaningful relationships and connections with their patients, instead of simply having communications with them, which often transpires in a system that depends heavily on specialist care. For this reason, behavioral medicine emphasizes clear and honest communication between the patient and the doctor in the successful treatment of any ailment, and also in the maintenance of an optimum level of mental and physical health. Obstacles to effective communication include vulnerability, power dynamics, and feelings of fear or helplessness. Physicians and other healthcare providers also scuffle with interviewing uncooperative or difficult patients, as well as giving detrimental medical news to patients and their relatives.