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Abnormal Psychology

Two Sections Available to Choose From:

Course DatesWeeksMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRN
June 22, 2015 - July 10, 20153M-F 8:30A-11:20AOpenHeather Schatten10791
July 13, 2015 - July 31, 20153M-F 8:30A-11:20AOpenKasey Claborn10358

Course Description

Have ever wondered if your friend has an eating disorder, if your uncle is an alcoholic, or if your math teacher is depressed? Have you ever thought about why a behavior that is normal in one culture might be considered a disorder in another culture? If so, you have already thought about abnormal psychology. Abnormal psychology involves understanding the nature, causes, and treatment of different mental disorders. We are exposed to issues related to the field of abnormal psychology every day, whether it’s hearing about a celebrity with a drug problem, or learning that your best friend is depressed. Researchers in this area seek to learn more about what causes these problems and how to treat them effectively, and clinicians learn how to implement treatments to help people lead mentally healthier lives. In this course, students will learn what abnormality means, how and why we classify mental disorders, and how these disorders are understood and treated.

This is an introductory seminar that will provide a broad survey of mental health problems, including anxiety disorders, depression, addictive disorders, psychosis, eating disorders, and personality disorders. This course will not simply present a list of “facts” about different forms of psychopathology; rather, students will develop critical thinking skills as applied to theories, assessment, and treatments relevant for each disorder. Students will also be encouraged to consider the role of stigma in mental illness.

In this course students will:

  • Understand how abnormality is defined and understood in various cultures.

  • Learn how to read and critically evaluate how mental illness is presented in popular culture (e.g., did Bradley Cooper play a convincing role in Silver Linings Playbook?).

  • Broadly understand the clinical characteristics of mental disorders and how they are assessed (i.e., when someone has an anxiety disorder versus being shy, when someone is depressed versus being a little “blue”).

  • Gain a general understanding of the role of theory in developing treatments for psychological disorders (e.g., how therapists know what to say to a patient to help him or her change).

  • Learn how to de-bunk myths about psychological disorders (e.g., is it true that people act “crazier” when there is a full moon?).


This is a three-week course that will include lectures, videos, small and large group discussions, and clinical case examples. Students will learn to think critically about issues in abnormal psychology, and will be encouraged to ask questions and discuss their viewpoints about different topics.

No prerequisites are required. Material will be presented at the level of one who does not have any prior didactics in psychology or clinical science.