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The psychosocial approach looks at individuals in the context of the combined influence that psychological factors and the surrounding social environment have on their physical and mental wellness and their ability to function. This approach is used in a broad range of helping professions in health and social care settings as well as by medical and social science researchers.
A psychosocial intervention aims to reduce complaints and improve functioning related to mental disorders and/or social problems (e.g., problems with personal relationships, work, or school) by addressing the different psychological and social factors influencing the individual. For example, a psychosocial intervention for an older adult client with a mental disorder might include psychotherapy and a referral to a psychiatrist while also addressing the caregiver's needs in an effort to reduce stress for the entire family system as a method of improving the client's quality of life.
Psychosocial support is an approach to victims of disaster, catastrophe or violence to foster resilience of communities and individuals. It aims at easing resumption of normal life, facilitating affected people's participation to their convalescence and preventing pathological consequences of potentially traumatic situations.
People may not be fully aware of the relationship between their mental and emotional wellbeing and the environment. It was first commonly used by psychologist Erik Erikson in his description of the stages of psychosocial development. It is contrasted with diverse social psychology, which attempts to explain social patterns within the individual. Problems that occur in one's psychosocial functioning can be referred to as "psychosocial dysfunction" or "psychosocial morbidity." This refers to the lack of development or diverse atrophy of the psychosocial self, often occurring alongside other dysfunctions that may be physical, emotional, or cognitive in nature.
The Association for Psychosocial Studies is a learned society, bringing together researchers, academics and practitioners who are interested in contributing to the development of this inter/trans-disciplinary field of study. The Association for Psychosocial Studies organize regular conferences, seminars and workshops that explore a wide range of psychosocial phenomena and perspectives. The Journal of Psychosocial Studies is a peer reviewed journal available online.
However, not all psychosocial activity is therapeutic. In some environments and social movements, such as with post-WW2 East Germany Stasi's zersetzung, which has been called psychosocial crime, the development of the individual is intentionally exploited to cause damage to the individual's ability to form social bonds. This is especially true in the case of manipulation, people take advantage of their underdeveloped social skills and exploit them for selfish gain.
Committee on Developing Evidence-Based Standards for Psychosocial Interventions for Mental Disorders; Board on Health Sciences Policy; Institute of Medicine (2015). England, Mary Jane; Butler, Adrienne Stith; Gonzalez, Monica L., eds. Psychosocial Interventions for Mental and Substance Use Disorders: A Framework for Establishing Evidence-Based Standards. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. ISBN 978-0-309-31694-1.