Elisabeth Anne Parrott, PsyD, is a 2011 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University New England.

Dissertation Committee

  • Theodore Ellenhorn, PhD (Committee Chair)
  • Colborn Smith, PhD (Committee Member)
  • David Junno, PsyD (Committee Member)


self psychology, biopsychosocial model, multiple sclerosis, doctor-patient relationship

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This theoretical dissertation constructs a new frame of reference for understanding relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) using self psychology to develop a biopsychosocial formulation of the illness in order to better inform the medical treatment of patients. After conducting a critical exploration of MS in its historical context and providing a brief overview of the etiology of MS, this paper examines the phenomenology of the illness using the concepts of self psychology to further develop the theory of Engel’s (1977) biopsychosocial model. The relationship among biological, intrapsychic, and social factors and coherent conceptualization and medical treatment of multiple sclerosis is addressed. This project examines the ways that experiencing the symptoms of MS, undergoing diagnosis, and seeking treatment for the illness disrupt individuals’ sense of self. In particular, it considers the role and impact of the doctor-patient relationship as it relates to the patient’s experience of wholeness. Patient accounts illustrate and humanize the theoretical concepts as they are presented. Through a self psychology-elaborated biopsychosocial lens, this paper also explores the ways that mainstream medical treatment can inadvertently strain patients. Finally, with this new frame of reference, this project suggests approaches to better supporting patients’ psychological needs through a self-psychology informed approach.