Introduction to Abnormal Psychology

Course Number: PSY 239
Transcript Title: Intro to Abnormal Psychology
Created: September 1, 2012
Updated: August 15, 2019
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

Major 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)

Not addressed

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. Use an understanding of cultural differences to constructively address issues that arise in the workplace and community. (Cultural Awareness)


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

To establish an intentional learning environment, Core Learning Outcomes (CLOs) require a clear definition of instructional strategies, evidence of recurrent instruction, and employment of several assessment modes.

Major Designation

  1. The outcome is addressed recurrently in the curriculum, regularly enough to establish a thorough understanding.
  2. Students can demonstrate and are assessed on a thorough understanding of the outcome.
    • The course includes at least one assignment that can be assessed by applying the appropriate CLO rubric.

Minor Designation

  1. The outcome is addressed adequately in the curriculum, establishing fundamental understanding.
  2. Students can demonstrate and are assessed on a fundamental understanding of the outcome.
    • The course includes at least one assignment that can be assessed by applying the appropriate CLO rubric.

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

The determination of teaching strategies used in the delivery of outcomes is generally left to the discretion of the instructor. Here are some strategies that you might consider when designing your course: lecture, small group/forum discussion, flipped classroom, dyads, oral presentation, role play, simulation scenarios, group projects, service learning projects, hands-on lab, peer review/workshops, cooperative learning (jigsaw, fishbowl), inquiry based instruction, differentiated instruction (learning centers), graphic organizers, etc.

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.