Abnormal Psychology

Curriculum Guideline

Effective Date:
Course Code
PSYC 2341
Abnormal Psychology
Humanities & Social Sciences
Start Date
End Term
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
Lecture: 4 hrs. per week / semester
Method(s) Of Instruction
Learning Activities

This course will employ a number of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives which will include some of the following:

  1. Lectures.
  2. Seminar presentations.
  3. Audio-visual materials.
  4. Small group discussion.
  5. Research papers.
  6. Volunteer projects.

Course Description
Students are introduced to basic issues in the study of abnormal psychology and to a selection of mental disorders. Topics include the history of psychopathology, paradigms, classification, assessment, research methods, theories of etiology, and approaches to treatment.
Course Content


  1. Historical and Scientific Considerations
    • The nature of abnormality.      
    • The mental health professions.
    • History of psychopathology.
  2. Current Paradigms in Psychopathology and Treatment
    • Biological paradigm.
    • Psychoanalytic paradigm.
    • Learning paradigm.
    • Cognitive paradigm.
    • Consequences of adopting a paradigm.
  3. Classification and Diagnosis
    • Classification and DiagnosisDiagnostic system of the American Psychiatric Association.
    • Issues in classification.
    • Criticisms of diagnosis.
  4. Clinical Assessment Procedures
    • Reliability and validity.
    • Biological assessment.
    • Psychological assessment.
    • Cultural diversity and assessment.
  5. Research Methods in the Study of Abnormal Psychology
    • Science and scientific methods.
    • Research methods of abnormal psychology.
  6. Anxiety Disorders
    • Description.
    • Theories of etiology.
    • Therapies.
  7. Somatoform and Dissociative Disorders
    • Description.
    • Theories of etiology.
    • Therapies.
  8. Mood Disorders
    • Descriptions.
    • Theories of etiology.
    • Therapies.
  9. Personality Disorders
    • Description.
    • Theories of etiology.
    • Therapies.
  10. Substance Use Disorders (Focus on Alcohol)
    • Description.
    • Theories of etiology.
    • Therapies.
  11. Sexual Disorders
    • Description.
    • Theories of etiology.
    • Therapies.
  12. Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders
    • Description.
    • Theories of etiology.
    • Therapies.
  13. Childhood Disorders
    • Description.
    • Theories of etiology.
    • Therapies.
  14. Legal and Ethical Issues
    • Civil commitment.
    • Criminal responsibility.
    • Ethical issues.
Learning Outcomes
  1. Define abnormality.
  2. Describe the perceived causes and treatments of abnormal behaviour prior to the twentieth century.
  3. Describe the biological, psychoanalytic, behavioural, cognitive, and diathesis-stress paradigms of psychopathology. 
  4. Describe the therapies associated with each paradigm.
  5. Evaluate each paradigm with regard to its strengths and weaknesses.
  6. Describe the current DSM system of classifying mental disorders, the reason for using a classification system, and the reliability of psychiatric diagnosis.
  7. Describe clinical assessment techniques including unstructured and structured interviews, psychological inventories, projective tests, intelligence tests, neuropsychological assessments, psychophysiological assessments, behavioural assessments, and brain imaging techniques.           
  8. Evaluate each assessment technique in terms of its reliability and validity.
  9. Describe the case study, correlation, and experimental methods of scientific investigation.
  10. Evaluate each method of investigation with regard to its strengths and weaknesses.
  11. Describe the symptoms and associated features of anxiety disorders, somatoform disorders, dissociative disorders, mood disorders, personality disorders, substance use disorders, sexual disorders, schizophrenia, and childhood disorders.
  12. Describe and evaluate the theories of etiology for each disorder.
  13. Describe and evaluate the psychological and biological therapies for each disorder.
  14. Describe and discuss issues relating to civil commitment and criminal responsibility.
  15. Describe and discuss ethical dilemmas in therapy and research.
Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. Evaluation will be based on the course objectives. The instructor will present a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester. Evaluation will be based on some of the following:


  1. Multiple-choice tests.
  2. Written-answer tests.
  3. Final exam.
  4. Oral presentation.
  5. Research project/term paper.
  6. Volunteer project.


An example of one evaluation scheme:

4 tests  40%
Mid-term exam  15%
Term paper  15%
Oral presentation  10%
Final exam  20%
Total 100%
Textbook Materials

Textbook(s) such as the following, the list to be updated periodically:

  • Barlow, D. H., Durand, V. M., & Stewart, S. H. (2012). Abnormal psychology: An integrative approach (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Nelson Education.
  • Butcher, J .N., Mineka, S., Hooley, J. M., Taylor, S,. & Anthony, M. (2010). Abnormal psychology (1stCanadian ed.). Toronto, Canada.: Pearson Education Canada.
  • Davison, G., Blankstein, K., Flett, G., & Neale, L. (2010). Abnormal psychology (4th Canadian ed.). New York, NY: Wiley. 

Which Prerequisite