SELA MISSION STATEMENT: Knowledge, skills, life long learners• Thoughtful collaborators• Inspiring leaders in chosen field• Valuable contributors to community• Critical thinkers• Creative thinkers •Appreciate multiple perspectives •Communicate effectively• Self reflection •Embrace diversity• Act with purpose and vision

John F. Kennedy University
Abnormal Psychology
Fall, 2010
October 4 – December 16
Dr. Steven A. Del Chiaro


Contact Information
Email:                                Phone: 408.874.7741

Word Document of Syllabus, Click here
Office Hours: For this course, I will be available by appointment and after class.

Office hours are “drop in” times and are on a first come, first served basis. If you cannot make these times, you can call, e-mail, or see me after class to set an appointment.  I want to be available to you.  During office hours we can discuss questions about the course, psychology as a career, or topics of interest to you.  Please understand that I, just like you, have a busy schedule, but will do my best to be available.

If you send me an e-mail, I will usually get back to you within 24 hours and I will always respond to let you know that I have received your message.  As a general rule, if you do not hear from me, chances are I did not get the message, so you need to re-send it. 

Teaching Assistant(s):
Sue Haynes-Douglas, MA.  Email:
Kathy Gamble, BA.  Email:

Course Description
This course is designed to introduce you to some of the major topics in clinical psychology.  This course will help you begin to appreciate the complexity of thought, feelings and behavior through an examination of what can happen when these processes become dysfunctional. We will look at historical theories as well as new research and findings. Emphasis will be placed on psychological, biological, and environmental factors that interact to create symptoms and behaviors associated with specific disorders.  Students are encouraged to think critically about stigmas and labels associated with the mentally ill.  Societal and cultural norms influence what is considered “abnormal”; however, psychologists strive to empirically arrive at diagnostic criteria, etiology, prognosis, and treatments of mental disorders.  Since many behaviors and symptoms we will address may seem familiar (e.g., checking to see if you locked your door 5x), you are forewarned NOT to self-diagnose. By the end of the course, you should be more sensitive to issues pertaining to psychological dysfunction, and more knowledgeable about the industry of mental illness and in modern America and its impact on individuals and society.

Learning Outcomes

The two goals of the course are to provide students with a broad understanding of psychological problems and develop critical thinking skills applicable to the study of abnormal behavior.

Specifically, our course objectives are as follows:

  1. To understand the importance of history and context when examining and classifying psychological distress;
  2. To familiarize students with diagnosable psychopathologies;
  3. To be familiar with and critical of different types of assessment of abnormal behavior;
  4. To present some theories of etiology and have students come to their own conclusions of the nature and causes of specific psychopathologies;
  5. To introduce some clinical therapies that have been proven useful in the treatment of specific disorders.

Required Texts
Barlow, D.H. & Durand, V.M. (2008). Abnormal psychology: An integrative approach, 5th Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning. 

ISBN 10: 0495095567 / 0-495-09556-7
ISBN 13: 9780495095569

You can use the older edition to save money.

Barlow, D.H. & Durand, V.M. (2005). Abnormal psychology: An integrative approach, 4th Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning. 

ISBN 0-534-63362-5

The Durand & Barlow text comes with some ancillaries that should help you learn more about abnormal psychology.  First of all, each new text comes with a CD-ROM with short video clips, often of real clients with disorders. Each video clip includes several questions to test your understanding of the disorder.  In addition, the CD has practice quizzes for each chapter and an E-study center that connects you to the web site for the text and provides more practice tests, additional study aids, and extensive web links.

Access to the web site (without the CD) is available at: (click on link to student resources, and then our textbook).

Rosenhan, D.L. (1973). On being sane in insane places. Science, 179, 250-258.  Can be accessed on the web:

Additional Readings:

There are extensive reading assignments listed in the course outline. Additional reading assignments will be made throughout the course as warranted.

Student Responsibilities
Syllabus Policy:
The course syllabus presented in this document will be followed as closely as possible. However, the course syllabus, schedule, policies, and procedures are subject to change at the discretion of the instructor or in the event of extenuating circumstances. This includes the tentative dates listed. Possible changes will be announced in advance by the instructor as if possible. Since such announcements are typically made during class, it is the student’s responsibility to clarify any of these changes that may have been made when the student is absent.

Although you will be responsible for all of the material in the assigned readings, some of the information may not be covered in class. Therefore, if there is material that is unclear to you it is highly recommended that you discuss this material with me at an appropriate time (e.g., during office hours). It is your responsibility to read the syllabus and ask questions about it so that you have a clear understanding of the expectations. If you are unclear about any of the requirements/expectations, then please set up a time to speak with me. I will be grading as though you have a clear understanding of the course requirements and material.

Diversity Statement:
Consistent with the mission of John F. Kennedy University, I welcome persons of differing backgrounds and experiences including but not limited to age, disability and health status, ethnicity and race, family structure, geographic region, language, religious/spiritual and secular beliefs, resident status, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, and socioeconomic status.

It is my goal to foster an environment in which diversity is recognized and embraced and every person is treated with dignity, respect, and justice. I hope that your academic experience in this course and at John F. Kennedy University will provide the opportunity to gain knowledge and experiences necessary to thrive in a diverse, global environment.

Plagiarism is the presentation of words, ideas or views of someone else as if they were one’s own. Plagiarism is intellectual dishonesty and, as such, is a serious academic offense. The potential penalties range from an unsatisfactory grade in the course (an ‘F” or ‘no credit’), a letter of sanction placed in the student’s permanent academic file, or even dismissal from the university. Plagiarism includes:

bulletpassing off another’s written work as your own
bulletfailing to give credit to your sources for the ideas, information, and words you have borrowed from them
bulletnot quoting when you use another’s exact  words
bulletnot  changing the wording or sentence structure significantly enough when you paraphrase a source

Incomplete Policy

Incomplete (I) grade is given only to a student who has maintained satisfactory attendance and work throughout most of the course but, due to extraordinary circumstances, is unable to complete the required work by the end of the quarter. The granting of an ”I” grade is at the discretion of the instructor and must be approved by the dean. It is the student’s responsibility to provide an incomplete grade form and to request an “I” from the instructor in writing prior to the last class meeting, stating briefly but specifically the reasons for the request. The due date to complete work is determined by the instructor but may not exceed two quarters.

Disability Accommodations
If you need accommodations for this class due to a documented disability, please see Lisa Noshay-Petro in the Office of Disability Services for Students (ODS) in Room S220, 925.969.3447, All students who need accommodations should meet with the ODS early in the quarter, and utilize the support services they offer. Accommodations cannot be made until students are registered with the ODS, and have received an Accommodation letter. All information is kept confidential.

Academic Support Center (ASC)
The ASC provides once a week session in instruction in writing, study skills, and APA citation style. Appointments can be held in person or via phone, fax or email. Students who are registered with the Office of Disability Services are entitled to 2 appointments per week. All ASC services are free to registered students, faculty, and staff. Students can make an appointment by calling 925.969.3530 or emailing

This course involves extensive use of the Internet for student research and assigned readings. All students are required to have access to the Internet via some means as well as an active/current e-mail address.  If you do not have a computer or access to the Internet, you can use the computers in the computer lab on campus.



American Psychological Association

Beginner's Guide to Abnormal Psych

APA Diagnostic Classification


Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology

Abnormal, Clinical, and Counseling Resources


Weekly Topics, Activities and Assignments: (Tentative Schedule- subject to modification)




On-line Assignment

Week 1

Class Business/Syllabus
Movie “Madness"


Introduction, History and Definitions, Chapter 1





Week 2

Approaches to Psychopathology

Chapter 2

Clinical Assessment and Diagnosis, Chapter 3





Week 3

Research Methods

Chapter 4

Rosenhan Assignment





Week 3

Anxiety Disorders

Chapter 5

Assignment 1





Week 4

Somatoform/Dissociative Disorders

Chapter 6


Week 5

Examination 1







Week 6

Somatoform/Dissociative Disorders

Chapter 6

Eating and Sleep Disorders, Chapter 8





Week 7

Mood Disorders

Chapter 7

Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders, Chapter 11





Week 8

Personality Disorders    

Chapter 12

Assignment 2 Due





Week 9


Chapter 13










Week 10

Developmental Disorders

Film Review Paper Due

Chapter 14

Cognitive Disorders, Chapter 15





Week 11

Final Examination



Power Points:




Introduction, History and Definitions

Chapter 1

Quiz 1




Approaches to Psychopathology

Chapter 2





Clinical Assessment and Diagnosis

Chapter 3

Quiz 2




Research Methods

Chapter 4





Anxiety Disorders

Chapter 5





Somatoform/Dissociative Disorders

Chapter 6





Mood Disorders

Chapter 7


Eating and Sleep Disorders

Chapter 8

Quiz 3



  Chapter 9  




Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders

Chapter 10


Substance-Related Disorders

Chapter 11

Quiz 4




Personality Disorders 

Chapter 12



Chapter 13


Developmental Disorders

Chapter 14





Cognitive Disorders                 

Chapter 15

Quiz 5




Mental Health Services: Legal and Ethical Issues

Chapter 16



You will take a quiz for each chapter in the on-line portion.  These quizzes will cover the text reading and will be aimed at helping you understand and think about the material covered.  Your quizzes will constitute 50 points towards your final grade.

Exams will be multiple-choice, short-answer and fill in.  The tests will have questions from the text, lectures and videos.  Each exam will be given during the lecture period, and you will have the class period to complete the exam



Please see course website: for writing assignments and the on-line component notes.  This semester there will be four writing projects:  Rosenhan study, Assignment 1: Current Psychology Research Chapters 1 – 8, Assignment 2: Current Psychology Research Chapters 8 – 16, and the Film Review. . I WILL NOT ACCEPT LATE WORK.  An assignment is considered late if a hard copy is not turned in by the end of the class period it is due.  I do not accept electronic copies of assignments.

Grading will be based on the sum of the following: 

  1. 2 exams covering lectures, films, guest speakers, outside readings and the text are worth 100 points each (200). 
  2. Five quizzes will be worth 10 points each (50). 
  3. The Rosenhan Article Write up will be worth 10 points (10).
  4. Two current research assignments will be worth 10 points (20).
  5. Film Review Paper will be worth 50 points (80).

The grade scale is as follows:



94 – 100%



77 – 79%




90 – 93%



73 – 76%




87 – 89%



70 – 72%




83 – 86%



67 – 69%




80 – 82%



60 – 66%


Writing Projects:
This semester there will be four writing projects:  Rosenhan study, Assignment 1: Current Psychology Research Chapters 1 – 8, Assignment 2: Current Psychology Research Chapters 8 – 16, and the Film Review. . I WILL NOT ACCEPT LATE WORK.  An assignment is considered late if a hard copy is not turned in by the end of the class period it is due.  I do not accept electronic copies of assignments.

Structure for Assignments

  1. Your papers need be organized - you should be developing a central idea in each section and the reader should be able to follow the logic of your argument.  Each paragraph should have a coherent theme and paragraphs should follow each other in an organized manner. Read over your papers to be sure that there is a logical order to them. 
  1. Watch for grammatical errors, particularly sentence fragments and run-on sentences. More than five spelling or grammatical errors will result in points deducted from final grades.  More than ten will result in a zero (0).  I encourage you to have your paper proof read.
  1. Your papers will be typewritten, double-spaced, one-inch margins, using Times New Roman (or VERY similar) font.
  1. On a sheet attached to the front of all your papers, type the Title of your paper. In addition you must include Name, Course, Course Number, Semester/Year, and Due Date.
  1. Citations/references included in your paper are to be done according to APA style as described in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 4th Edition, which is available in the library, the campus bookstore, and on-line. 


Read the Rosenhan (1973) paper and answer the questions below. Click here for link to paper.
1. Describe the purpose of the study:
    1a. What is the main question that Rosenhan raised about the concept of ‘sanity’?
    1b. Describe labeling, depersonalization and generalization.

2. Briefly describe the procedures of this study:
    2a. What did the eight ‘pseudopatients’ do?
    2b. Describe the settings they went.
    2c. Describe how the pseudopatients behaved in the institutions.

3. Briefly describe the results of this study:
    3a. How often were the pseudopatients detected?
    3b. What were their diagnoses?
    3c. How long were their stays in the hospitals?
    3d. How did other patients respond to the pseudopatients?

Assignment 1: Current Psychology Research Chapters 1 – 8, Assignment 2: Current Psychology Research Chapters 8 – 16
Choose two (2) areas of interest from the chapters designated.  Find an empirical peer reviewed article on the topic and complete an article summary.  For Assignment 1 you will turn in two (2) article summaries.  For Assignment 2 you will turn in two (2) article summaries.  Please see description below.

How to write an Article Summary
Purposes:  To understand the research on your topic, to develop the backbone of your paper, and to learn to apply APA style.


Put your name, class time, date and the number of the article summary (AS#__) at the top right hand corner.


Put a complete APA reference for the article at the beginning of your summary.


Each summary is 2 paragraphs long and approximately 200 - 250 words total.  The first paragraph summarizes the authors’ purpose (~1 sentence) and methods (~3-5 sentences).  The second paragraph summarizes the results (~2-4 sentences) and the authors’ discussion and conclusions (~2-3 sentences). 


After the initial sample article summary, attach a copy of the first page of the article (including the abstract) to your summary.



Website to Help with Writing Article Summaries


Select a popular film (NOT A Beautiful Mind, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, American Psycho, Secret Window or any other stupid movie) that depicts one of the mental illnesses covered in class.  Please make this a film that is enjoyable to you!  Critically review the film’s portrayal of the mental disorder noting the accuracy with which it is presented given your knowledge of the disorder’s etiology, clinical presentation, prognosis, and treatment (where applicable).  Film Reviews must be no greater than six typewritten pages of text and include Parts A, B & C as described below.  Please have your film selected by the first exam. 

Part A:  It may help to narrow your description to how this person acts in a certain situation or a specific aspect of their psychopathology.  This part should be a strictly descriptive, without any interpretation. That is, describe what this person does, says or feels, not why that is.  At the end of this section, a DSM Multi-Axial Assessment should be given. (Assessment)

Part B:  Go back over the description in the first part and provide empirical evidence for this psychopathology.  The DSM-IV lists disorders and gives a list of symptoms.  This should be the “meatiest” part of your paper. In this section, discuss the disorder’s etiology, clinical presentation, prognosis, and treatment (where applicable). Additionally, for this section I want you to read one additional source and use that source in your description. You can use the references at the end of each chapter and choose a source from among them. Be sure to provide references for your sources. (Diagnosis)

Part C:  State your opinions and the reasons behind them.  This is your opportunity to have a voice; there are no wrong opinions.  Just be sure to provide the reasons for what you think so that the reader can understand your thinking.  (Your thoughts)

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