Document Type


Publication Date

February 2007


This article has been peer reviewed. It is the author's final version prior to publication in Journal of general internal medicine : Official journal of the Society for Research and Education in Primary Care Internal Medicine 22(2):280-285, February 2007. The published version is available at


Complexity theory has been used to view the patient-physician relationship as constituted by complex responsive processes of relating. It describes an emergent, psychosocial relational process through which patients and physicians continually and reciprocally influence each other's behavior and experience. As psychosocial responses are necessarily biopsychosocial responses, patients and physicians must likewise be influencing each other's psychobiology. This mutual influence may be subjectively experienced as empathy, and may be skillfully employed by the clinician to directly improve the patient's psychobiology.