Contemporary Treatment of Sexual Dysfunction: Reexamining the Biopsychosocial Model


  • Michael D. Berry PhD candidate,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London, London, UK
    • Corresponding Author: Michael D. Berry, PhD candidate, Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London, 5th Floor, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ, UK. Tel: +44-(0)78-4202-7626; Fax: +44-(0)20-7916-8502; E-mail:

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  • Philip D. Berry MBBS

    1. Pfizer Australia and New Zealand, Sydney, NSW, Australia
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The introduction of phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors has revolutionized the armamentarium of clinicians in the field of sexual medicine. However, pharmacotherapy as a stand-alone treatment option has been criticized, particularly by psychosocial therapists, as incomplete. Specifically, it is widely argued that drug treatment alone often does not meet the standards of biopsychosocial (BPS) therapy.


A literature review was performed to explore the role of the biopsychosocial paradigm in the treatment of sexual dysfunction and outline some of the key challenges and possible shortcomings in the current application of biopsychosocial treatment.

Main Outcome Measure

Published treatment outcomes of integrative biopsychosocial clinical practice, including medical outcomes, psychological and relational factors, treatment of comorbid conditions, cost of treatment, and treatment efficacy, were investigated.


Using Medline, PubMed, and EMBASE databases, a literature search for articles published from January 1, 1980, to March 1, 2013, was performed, examining current approaches to the biopsychosocial model of sexual dysfunction and sexual medicine. Data were reviewed and combined, allowing characterization of current treatment approaches and recommendations for clinical practice and future research.


The biopsychosocial model of treatment appears to have an intuitively obvious meaning (i.e., treatment of all three facets of the patient's biological–psychological–social condition). However, research suggests that clear treatment algorithms are still in development. By virtue of the ongoing development of biopsychosocial methods in sexual medicine, new models and research initiatives may be warranted. The evidence identified allows for characterization of some of the current clinical, professional, financial, and systemic challenges to biopsychosocial treatment, with the aim of helping identify possible directions for future research.


Implementation of biopsychosocial treatment, though mandated by process-of-care guidelines, may be limited in the field of sexual health owing to resource limitations, limitations in physician training curricula, and structural obstacles preventing interdisciplinary collaboration. Nonetheless, a number of current treatment developments are biopsychosocially integrative, and a number of established models are biopsychosocially informed. These models and concrete strategies may provide a way forward for developing further initiatives to advance BPS treatment. Berry MD and Berry PD. Contemporary treatment of sexual dysfunction: Reexamining the biopsychosocial model. J Sex Med 2013;10:2627–2643.