Introduction to Abnormal Psychology

Course Number: PSY 239
Transcript Title: Intro to Abnormal Psychology
Created: September 1, 2012
Updated: June 7, 2017
Total Credits: 4
Lecture Hours: 40
Lecture / Lab Hours: 0
Lab Hours: 0
Satisfies Cultural Literacy requirement: No
Satisfies General Education requirement: Yes
Grading options: A-F (default), P-NP, audit
Repeats available for credit: 0


PSY 201A or PSY 202A

Course Description

Surveys the history, theories, etiology, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of the spectrum of psychological disorders. Prerequisites: PSY 201A or 202A. Audit available.

Intended Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Enhance personal and social interactions by using the knowledge of the history and major theories of abnormal behavior.
  2. Better understand one’s own and others’ behavior by applying the knowledge of assessment, diagnosis, classification systems and Diagnostic & Statistics Manual (DSM) categories.
  3. Be a more effective consumer of and advocate for mental health care services through an understanding of the various approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders.

Alignment with Institutional Core Learning Outcomes

In-depth 1. Communicate effectively using appropriate reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. (Communication)


2. Creatively solve problems by using relevant methods of research, personal reflection, reasoning, and evaluation of information. (Critical thinking and Problem-Solving)
3. Extract, interpret, evaluate, communicate, and apply quantitative information and methods to solve problems, evaluate claims, and support decisions in their academic, professional and private lives. (Quantitative Literacy)


4. Appreciate cultural diversity and constructively address issues that arise out of cultural differences in the workplace and community. (Cultural Awareness)


5. Recognize the consequences of human activity upon our social and natural world. (Community and Environmental Responsibility)

Outcome Assessment Strategies

Students may demonstrate learning outcomes by any, some or all of the following:

  1. Written assignments designed to integrate course material into personal experience, such as case studies, reflection paper etc.
  2. Attendance at, or participation in lectures, workshops, or other community or campus events related to the field of abnormal psychology.
  3. Exams consisting of objective and/or essay questions that require integration, application, and critical examination of course concepts.
  4. Whatever other methods the instructor deems appropriate, such as Service Learning options, interviews with practitioners etc.

Course Activities and Design

Students will demonstrate achievement of these outcomes by any of the following:

  1. Written assignments designed to promote integration of class material with personal reflection and experience.
  2. Written or oral assignments designed to stimulate critical thinking.
  3. Multiple choice, short answer, and essay questions that require integration, application, and critical examination of material covered in class.
  4. Active participation in class discussion.
  5. In-class participation in individual and group exercises, activities, or class presentations.
  6. Design and completion of research projects.
  7. Service learning activities.
  8. Participation in online discussions and/or completion of assignments through electronic media.
  9. Naturalistic (&/or thematic) observation of behaviors and interactions in different environments.
  10. Personal interviews and discussions with diagnostic professionals.
  11. Shadowing professionals &/or para-professionals providing therapeutic treatment of individuals diagnosed with one or more DSM disabilities.
  12. Diagnostic analysis of select characters in modern media (film, TV).

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

  1. Historical and Contemporary Views of Abnormal Behavior
  2. Theoretical Perspectives: Defining Abnormal Behavior
  3. Research Methods in Abnormal Psychology
  4. Nervous System, Endocrine System, and Abnormal Behavior
  5. Clinical Assessment, Interpretation and Diagnosis of Abnormal Behavior
  6. Classification of Abnormal Behavior (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders)
  7. Personality Disorders
  8. Anxiety Disorders
  9. Somatoform, Factitious, and Dissociative Disorders
  10. Sexual and Gender Disorders
  11. Mood Disorders
  12. Schizophrenia
  13. Developmental Disorders
  14. Delirium and Dementia
  15. Substance-Related Disorders
  16. Eating Disorders
  17. Sleep Disorders
  18. Impulse Control Disorders
  19. Treatment of Abnormal Behavior. Biological and psychological therapies.
  20. Legal, political, and cultural issues related to abnormal behavior.
  21. Economic and Insurance issues
  22. Professional licensing

Competencies and Skills

  1. Indicate the criteria currently used to define abnormal behavior.
  2. Discuss the biological, psychological, behavioral, cognitive, humanistic-existential and sociocultural models of abnormal behavior.
  3. Describe how abnormal behavior is assessed and diagnosed.
  4. Trace the development of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
  5. Compare and contrast the following research methods: experimental method; correlational method; case study method; survey method.
  6. Integrate the medical and psychological models of mental illness.
  7. Describe the principles of classical and operant conditioning and their contributions to understanding the development and treatment of psychological disorders.
  8. Demonstrate an understanding of the cognitive-behavioral perspective regarding the origins of psychological disorder and the application of cognitive-behavioral principles to treatment.
  9. Describe the basic structures and functions of the nervous system and the implications of brain-behavior relationships for psychological disorders.
  10. Discuss the influence of genetics on the development of psychological disorder, and the methods used to evaluate the relative contributions of genetics and the environment.
  11. Describe and give specific examples of personality disorders
  12. Describe and give specific examples of anxiety disorders.
  13. Describe and give specific examples of somatoform, factitious, and dissociative disorders.
  14. Describe and give specific examples of sexual and gender disorders.
  15. Describe and give specific examples of mood disorders.
  16. Describe and give specific examples of schizophrenia.
  17. Describe and give specific examples of developmental disorders.
  18. Describe and give specific examples of delirium and dementia.
  19. Describe and give specific examples of substance-related disorders.
  20. Describe and give specific examples of eating disorders.
  21. Describe and give specific examples of sleep disorders.
  22. Provide specific examples of how psychological disorders are treated.