Psychiatry's status as a medical discipline stems in large part from its adherence to the medical model. The controversy over whether psychiatry should adhere to the medical model epitomizes the crisis of identify the profession faces. To clarify the medical-model concept and assess its relevance for the field, the author focuses on the clinical medical model, the differences between it and several other models, and its applicability to the four kinds of tasks psychiatrists engage in: medical, rehabilitative, societal-legal, and educative-developmental. He finds the clinical medical model appropriate in varying degrees for all four task areas; however, sometimes the tasks require accepting the primacy of other authority, such as legal authority, or adding other models, as in work with chronic patients. Although some clinical activities may warrant departure from the medical model, it should not be discarded. Instead psychiatry must strengthen and clarify its appropriate use.