Special Topics in Applied Psychology/Social Sciences

Humanities & Social Sciences
Course Code
PSYC 3901
Semester Length
15 Weeks
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This course examines a special topic or emerging questions in the fields of applied psychology and social sciences. Readings and topical content will include theory, research, critical debate, and applications relevant to the specific topic.
Course Content

The general framework of an upper-level special topics course in psychology can be represented as below:

  1. Historical Context
  2. Theories
  3. Mechanisms and Processes
  4. Critical Analysis and Remaining Questions

A specific example of topics for a course on Systemic and Sociocultural Bases of Psychology (all topics as they apply within the disciplinary realm of psychology):

  1. The ways in which societal structures, and the complex systems they comprise, impact psychology, mental health and personal wellbeing
  2. How structures and systems such as public policy, institutional behaviors/practices and macrotrends, differentially impact health/wellbeing and social identity groups, and confer privilege or disadvantage
  3. Theories, concepts, and paradigms that do not account for the impact of structural and systemic factors on mental health and on human well-being, and alternative paradigms or ways of thinking about these factors
  4. Systemic and structural approaches to mental health (e.g., policy, programmatic, or precedence) and the personal responsibility and individualistic approach, and their relative strengths and weakness
  5. The practical challenges to assuming a more structural or systemic orientation in the analysis and resolution of mental health and other psychological and social problems
  6. What is means to be socially responsible in terms of psychology and mental health
  7. Social Justice models, Liberation perspectives, and Post-colonial/Post-modern perspectives on psychology and mental health
  8. Intersectionality, power, privilege and oppression in the disciplinary realm of psychology
  9. Feminism, Race, Culture and Ethnicity, Sexuality and Gender, Ableism, Religion: applications to psychology and mental health
  10. Impact of globalization and education systems on health, mental health, and public policy relevant to the field of psychology

A specific example of topics for a course on Positive Psychology:

  1. Historical perspectives on well-being 
  2. History of positive psychology
  3. Research methods in positive psychology
  4. Subjective well-being: Measurement, correlates, influence, and outcomes
  5. Humanistic perspectives on optimal functioning: Eudaimonia, wisdom, self-actualization, transcendence, and other humanistic ideals of well-being
  6. Scientific perspectives on human strengths
  7. Cultural factors in well-being
  8. Well-being across the lifespan
  9. Mindfulness: Traditions, research, outcomes, and limitations
  10. Institutional influences on well-being: The impact of workplace and governmental policies on well-being
  11. Critical perspectives on positive psychology
  12. The future of positive psychology

A specific example of topics for a course on Psychology of Intimate Relationships:

  1. Attraction & Social Cognition
  2. Communication
  3. Interdependency
  4. Friendships
  5. Love
  6. Sexuality
  7. Stresses & Strains / Conflict
  8. Power & Violence
  9. Dissolution & Loss of Relationships
  10. Maintaining & Repairing Relationships
Learning Activities

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following:

  • Lecture
  • Audio-visual materials
  • Small group discussion
  • Problem-based learning
Means of Assessment

The course evaluation will be in accordance with Douglas College and Psychology Department policies. Evaluations will be based on the course objectives. The specific evaluation criteria will be provided by the instructor at the beginning of the semester.

An example of a possible evaluation scheme would be:

  • Small group assignments 10%
  • Term project paper 20%
  • Term project presentation 10%
  • Midterm exams 40%
  • Final exam 20%
Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the successful student will be able to:

  1. Identify and describe relevant theoretical influences on current scholarship relating to the specific topic of the course.
  2. Define and apply key terms and concepts relating to the specific topic of the course.
  3. Analyze, synthesize, and critically evaluate scholarly research relating to the specific topic of the course.
Textbook Materials

Example readings (for topic Systemic and Sociocultural Bases of Psychology):

  • Prilletensky, I. (1989). Psychology and the status quo. American Psychologist, 44(5), 795-802.
  • Hare-Mustin, R. T., & Marecek, J. (2009). Clinical psychology: The politics of madness.  In D. Fox, I. Prilleltensky and S. Austin (Eds.), Critical psychology: An introduction.  p.75-92. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Smedley, A., & Smedly, B.D. (2005). Race as biology is fiction, racism as social problem is real: Anthropological and historical perspectives on the social construction of race. American Psychologist, 60(1), 16-26.
  • Watts, R. J. (2004). Integrating social justice and psychology. The Counseling Psychologist, 32 (6), 855-865.
  • Prilleltensky, I., & Nelson, G. (2002). Clinical and counseling settings: Making a difference with disadvantaged clients. Doing psychology critically: Making a difference in diverse settings. p.79-91. New York: Palgrave.
  • Bishop, A. (2002). Understanding different oppressions (Chp 5). Becoming an ally: Breaking the cycle of oppression in people. p.78-95.
  • Gove, W.R. (2004).  The career of the mentally ill: An integration of Psychiatric, labeling/social construction, and lay perspectives. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 45 (4), 357-374.
  • Santiago-Rivera, A., Talka, K., & Tully, A. (2006). Enviromental racism: A call to the profession for community intervention and social action. In R. Toporek, L. Gerstein, N. Fouad, G. Roysircar and T. Israel (Eds.), Handbook for social justice in counseling psychology: Leadership, vision and action.  p.185-199. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Gruba-McCallister, F. (2007). Narcissism and the empty self: To have or to be. Journal of Individual Psychology, 63(2), 183-192.
  • Arnett, J.J. (2002). The psychology of globalization. American Psychologist, 57(10), 774-783.
  • Harper, G. (2005). A journey towards liberation: Confronting heterosexism and the oppression of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. In G. Nelson & I. Prilleltensky (Eds.), Community Psychology: In pursuit of liberation and well-being. p.382-404. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
  • McIntosh, P. (1988) White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.
  • Jones, C.P. (2000). Levels of racism: A theoretic framework and a gardener’s tale. American Journal of Public Health, 90(8), 1212-1215.
  • Gewirtz, S. (2001). Rethinking social justice: A conceptual analysis. In. J. Demaine (Ed.), Sociology of education today (p.49-64). Palgrave: New York.
  • Prilleltensky, I., & Nelson, G. (2002). Psychologists and the object of social change: Transforming social policy. Doing psychology critically: Making a difference in diverse settings. p.167-176. New York: Palgrave.

Example text (for topic Positive Psychology):

Lopez, S. J., Pedrotti, J. T., & Snyder, C. R. (2018). Positive psychology (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.   

Example text (for topic Psychology of Intimate Relationships):

Miller, R.S. (2017). Intimate relationships (8th ed.). Toronto, ON: McGraw-Hill.

Additional readings may also be curated by the instructor and students.



Courses listed here must be completed prior to this course:


Courses listed here must be completed either prior to or simultaneously with this course:

  • No corequisite courses


Courses listed here are equivalent to this course and cannot be taken for further credit:

  • No equivalency courses

Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for PSYC 3901
College of New Caledonia (CNC) CNC PSYC 2XX (3)
College of the Rockies (COTR) COTR PSYC 2XX (3)
Columbia College (COLU) COLU PSYC 2nd (3)
Emily Carr University of Art & Design (EC) EC SOCS 300 lev (3)
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU PSYC 2XXX (3)
LaSalle College Vancouver (LCV) LCV PSY 2XX (3)
University Canada West (UCW) UCW PSYC 3XX (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC PSYC 3XX (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV PSYC 2XX (3)
Vancouver Community College (VCC) VCC CNSK 1502 (2.5)

Course Offerings

Fall 2023

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