The Functional Health Paradigm, as an Example
Functional Medicine recognizes that the body is made up of a number of tiny processes that relate to larger biological functions, and that all of these are influenced by genetic and environmental factors. When these factors become imbalanced, they lead to symptoms, which develop into diseases if effective interventions are not applied. When these imbalances of function are addressed in a way that restores optimum function of the organism as a whole, health improves and symptoms disappear.
Functional Medicine uses a systems-oriented approach to address the underlying causes of disease while the patient and practitioner work together in a therapeutic partnership. As an evolution of 21st century medicine, it shifts the classic disease-focused approach to a more patient-centered approach. Functional Medicine treats people, not symptoms. The patient’s history, genetics, environment and lifestyle all play a role in both health and complex disease in a Functional approach. As such, it seeks to support the unique expression of health or disease in each individual.
While Functional Medicine is pioneering a new evolution in health care, Psychology remains preoccupied with establishing itself as a legitimate, albeit parallel, field on par with traditional allopathic medicine. To prove itself, it organized around a cluster of discrete disorders and set out to demonstrate its capacity to “cure” symptoms of mental health disturbance. The unintended consequence of this mimicry is that the mind is seen as a system that is separate from the body. Whereas Functional Medicine understands the origins, prevention, and treatment of complex disease, Psychology remains organized around discrete sets of behaviors, masking symptoms rather than learning from them, let alone eliminating them.
The “bio-psycho-socio-spiritual” approach was Psychology’s response to a recognition that symptoms form from a complex of factors. Yet there remains a huge gap between research and the way mental health practitioners practice. Unfortunately, Psychology as a largely acute-care system, lacks the methodology and tools to prevent and treat complex and chronic disturbance in the function of mental-emotional faculties. If the bio-psycho-socio-spiritual approach is to achieve its goal to predict and change dysfunctional behaviors, it too will need to make a similar evolution to a more function-focused paradigm.
Functional Psychology, a New Paradigm
As a new paradigm, Functional Psychology would promote health as a positive vitality beyond the mere absence of symptoms or disease. As a client-centered approach, it would recognize that, like the body, the psyche is designed for optimum function that is less subjective, and more predictable than the traditional philosophy would allow.
Functional Psychology would employ an integrative, science-based total healthcare approach that collaborates with practitioners from a variety of complementary medical practices in recognition of the complex web of interactions between a client’s internal and external factors affecting total functioning. In addition to history, factors such as diet and exercise, laboratory testing, botanical medicines and supplements, detoxification, environmental influences, culture, and stress-management skill building.
Practitioners of Functional Psychology would be retrained to treat the psyche as a mirror of the body, thus dissolving the dysfunctional split between practitioners of medical and mental health. The collaboration would involve understanding, prevention, and treatment of complex dysfunction leading to healing over cure.
Core Principles of Functional Psychology
Taking its cues from Functional Medicine, Functional Psychology would be guided by 7 core principles that are to be its hallmarks:
- A client-centered approach that is responsive to and respectful of client differences and preferences, needs, values, and natural abilities.
- A therapeutic partnership that empowers individuals to take ownership of their own healing.
- Acknowledgment of the psyche as a functional system that parallels that of the biophysiology, that is both patterned and predictive of health and disease.
- Respect for, and integration of, both allopathic and naturalistic approaches as equal partners in the promotion of total heath and optimal functionality, while yielding to nature as the prima facie of health-building exemplars.
- An understanding of the psychological, social, biochemical, and energetic individuality of each human being, based on recognition of the interaction between genetic and environmental factors.
- An emphasis on health as a positive vitality, and more than an absence of symptoms and disease, emphasizing those factors that encourage the enhancement of a vigorous psychology.
- Establishment and integration of a multiplex of disciplines and strategies devised to address the specific web-like interconnections among both internal and external factors in an individual’s unique circumstance.
The Problem: A Global Healthcare Crisis
- An epidemic of chronic mental and physical disease that has compromised our current healthcare system, threatening to bankrupt individuals, and both national and global economies.
- Risk that future generations will experience degradation in the length and quality of life compared to the adults of today.
- Current models of clinical treatment are outdated and do not adequately address the interconnected and underlying causes of chronic disease.
The Solution: Functional Psychology That Changes the Way We Practice
- Functional Psychology offers a powerful clinical model for assessment, treatment, and prevention of chronic disease intended to augment the outdated acute-care models organized around symptom clusters and discrete behavior sets.
- Functional Psychology incorporates input from the latest in science, systems, biology, psychology, naturalistic, environmental and lifestyle factors that influence the emergence and progression of disease and dysfunction.
- Functional Psychology enables counselling psychologists, physicians and other health professionals to practice proactive, predictive, and personalized health care intended to optimize function and promote vitality.
Our Strategic Plan
The key to predicting, preventing, treating, and ultimately reversing the epidemic of chronic physiological and psychological disease is in recognizing the underlying causes driven by lifelong and multigenerational interaction between genetic expression, environmental dynamics, and individual lifestyle choices. Functional Psychology enables physicians and other health professionals to practice proactive, personalized treatment approaches that empower clients and encourage them to take an active role in constructing their own health.
We are working towards the following objectives in the establishment of a new paradigm in the evolution of a functional Psychology:
- Train professionals across the spectrum of the healthcare workforce in the recognition, effective treatment, and prevention of chronic mental and physiological disease
- Set best-practice and proficiency standards for the practice of Functional Psychology.
- Diversify educational models and use technology to teach students and practicing clinicians how to integrate Functional Psychology into the current health paradigms.
- Adapt research models and findings for assessing whole-systems practices.
- Establish practice-bases research networks to validate and share the most successful applications of Functional Psychology.
- Ensure that emerging scientific evidence on new approaches to chronic mental and physical disease is continuously and promptly integrated into the Functional Psychology model.
- Collect, synthesize, and disseminate research in genetics, systems, biochemistry, naturalistic, physiological psychological, and spiritual medicine models.
- Collaborate with the leaders in academic psychology to ensure the integration of Functional Psychology into universities and internship programs.
- Work with employers, insurers, government agencies, non-profits, and educators to implement pilot programs to demonstrate how the Functional Psychology model will improve outcomes, reduce recidivism, and diminish costs in the health marketplace.
- Educate and collaborate with policymakers to support initiatives that are aimed at transforming education, research, and practice of physical and psychological medicine.
What will it Take?
- The establishment of an integrated wellness clinic providing education, research, and treatment in a collaborative and cooperative setting that supports allopathic and naturalistic therapeutic approaches.
- The establishment of a replicable system for providing wholistic and integrative health management resulting in lower health care costs, better outcomes, and broader reach among the spectrum of health services providers.
- The establishment of a Functional paradigm to parallel and partner with the Functional Medicine movement.
Join the Movement
- Demand treatment that integrates psychology, physiology, and ecology organized around a Functional paradigm as the standard of care.
- Spread the word to family, friends, and colleagues, making use of Social Media platforms.
- Become educated in the implementation of Functional Psychology into your current model of psychological and/or physiological health care.
- Collaborate with complementary practitioners with the common aim to provide better health care, lower costs, and a more client-centered and proactive approach.