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PY230 - Abnormal Psychology

Course Syllabus
Shatina Williams, MS
Welcome to the study of abnormal psychological phenomenon! This course will provide
you with a general overview of various mental health diagnoses, conditions, and concerns
with a focus on cultural, social, and historical contributions to the ways in which we
approach and understand mental health. We will engage in active discussions regarding
mental health diagnoses and treatment strategies and pay close attention to our own
reactions and thoughts toward health classifications and treatment modalities. This class is
quite interactive. Student will participate in class discussions, presentations, and complete
projects on various topics introduced in class.

This course and its various components are designed to facilitate the following goals:

To introduce students to theory and research regarding mental health and

conceptualizations of abnormal behavior.
To facilitate students knowledge and awareness of cultural, social, and historical
viewpoints of mental health.
To introduce students to bio-psycho-social perspectives of mental health.
To increase students ability to critically examine historical and current
conceptualizations of mental health.
To enhance students understanding toward the subjective experience of mental
health phenomena.
To increase students understanding of the intersection of mental health and social
and cultural contexts and contributions.

Class will include lectures, discussions, in-class exercises, speakers, and

Whitbourne, S.K. & Halgin, R.P. (2013). Abnormal psychology: Clinical perspectives on
psychological disorders (7TH ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Halgin, R. P. (2011). Taking sides: Clashing views in abnormal psychology (6TH ed.). New
York: McGraw-Hill.
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental
disorders (text revision). Washington, DC: Author

Attendance: Student participation and involvement in the course is essential to
understanding the course material and engaging in the critical thought and conversation
that is necessary to demonstrate competency in the course material.
Assigned Reading: Readings are assigned for each class. I will assume that you have
completed the necessary readings for before class. The class is designed to solidify and
build upon the reading materials.
Cell Phones and Computers: I ask that you show respect toward the class in regard to the
use of cell phones and computers. I recognize that many students benefit from the use of
computers. Therefore, I ask that computers solely be used for note-taking or classroom
related purposes during class time.
Returned Material: I will not retain a copy of returned papers and exams. It is the
responsibility of the student to keep returned materials in the event that a student requests
a grade change or appeal. Materials returned at the end of the semester will be placed in a
specific location at a certain time for students to retrieve. Students who choose to have
their materials mailed to them must provide the instructor with a stamped, self-addressed
envelope before the last class. Students who choose this option accept responsibility for
lost or damaged materials.
Late papers: Papers are considered late if they are not received by the end of the date in
which the assignment is due. Students will lose five points per day that a paper is
submitted late.
Missed exams: Students are given a midterm and final for the course. Only under extreme
circumstances will a student be given a makeup exam. In such circumstances, the student
must arrange alternative accommodations before the assigned exam. Such students must
submit documentation and a written (and signed) letter explaining their unique

circumstance. This exam may differ from the exam that is provided to students who take
the exam as assigned.
Students with Disabilities: Students with disabilities are entitled to appropriate
accommodations that can assist in their academic success. Consistent with university
policies, if you have an identified disability, I encourage you to follow the appropriate
recommendations offered by Boston College
(http://www.bc.edu/content/bc/offices/dos/disabilityservices/eligibility.html). Disabilities
include psychological and physical limitations. If you have a disability, I encourage you
to present the appropriate documentation early so that we may work to provide you with
the appropriate supports. If you suspect that you may have a limitation, I strongly
encourage you to seek the appropriate resources that can assist you (e.g.,
http://www.bc.edu/libraries/help/tutoring.html, http://www.bc.edu/offices/counseling/)
Academic Integrity: I expect a high level of academic integrity in all aspects of this class.
Cheating is an unacceptable practice and will not be tolerated in any capacity. Cheating and
plagiarism occur in various formats. Specific definitions can be found in the academic
integrity policies resources outlined by Boston Colleges Academic Services
(http://www.bc.edu/offices/stserv/academic/integrity.html). Plagiarism is defined as falsely
presenting others works as ones own. Students must appropriately credit others
contributions to their work, both written and orally presented. Plagiarism will result in an F
on the assignment and, depending on the level of severity, may be reported to the Committee
of Academic Integrity. Considering this class is a psychology course, we will use the
American Psychological Association, 6th edition citation format for all papers and
presentations (http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/)

Mid-term Exam
Final Exam
Group Activity or Personal Presentation
Primary Account Paper

Grades will be assigned as follows:


Below 60%

20 %
20 %
20 %
30 %


The mid-term exam will be given on February 27th
The final exam will be given on May 9th
The midterm and final will consist of short answer and multiple choice questions.

Group Activity: Critical Analysis of a Popular Movie:
This assignment gives you the opportunity to work with your classmates to critically
analyze a movie or television show that provides an accurate portrayal of mental illness.
The class will divide into groups. Each group should present on a different movie/show.
As a group, you must submit your first, second, and third choice topics by Class 6
on February 4th. I will then ensure that each group is presenting on something different.
A list of potential films can be found at McGraw Hills Abnormal Psychology Box Office
The assignment has two components:
1) An in-class 15-minute presentation with 5 minutes for questions and answers,
totaling a 20-minute presentation.
2) A 5-6 page (double-spaced) paper, due on the date of your presentation. Each
group will hand in one paper.
Your grade for this activity will be based on the groups ability to critically examine the
multiple aspects of mental illness presented in the movie/show and your ability to
translate your thoughts to the class and in your paper. I encourage you to practice with
your group to prepare a presentation that is thoughtful and consistent. Also, please do not
plan to read your presentation verbatim from a prepared text. Each group will be required
to provide the following:

A one-page summary of the movie/show. Most of the class, as well as myself, might
not be familiar with the movie/show. Provide enough detail so that someone who has
not seen the movie/show may understand it.
A description of the character and his or her symptom profile. Specify the disorder(s)
that your group believes the character exhibits. I encourage you to organize the
labeled disorders using each DSM-IV axis. For example,
Axis I:
Axis II:
Axis III:
Axis IV:
Axis V:

311 Depressive Disorder, NOS

299.80 Aspergers Disorder
Problems related to the social environment

You will need access to the DSM-IV for reference.

Provide an argument for how the character does or does not meet DSM-IV criteria for
the disorder you specify. You may have to research the disorder if it has not been
covered in class at that point. Your class text would be an appropriate resource.
Summarize the characters subjective experience of the mental illness. Provide
evidence for this experience using his or her actual words or incidences provided in
the movie/show.

Describe how the characters social location (e.g., race, gender, sexual orientation,
socioeconomic status) might affect the characters experience of mental illness.
Your groups response to the persons mental illness and the way it was portrayed in
the movie/show. That is, describe the groups reaction to the actual experience of
mental illness as well as the way in which the characters mental illness is portrayed.
For example, is the presented image accurate?
Anything else your group would like to share about the movie/show or reactions to
the movie/show.
Cite all of your sources, including the DSM-IV or the textbook in APA style.
For example, the DSM-IV-TR is cited as:
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of
mental disorders (text revision). Washington, DC: Author.

It can be difficult to determine each members contribution to a group project. Therefore,

I will ask each group member to rate every other group members contribution to the
project. If it appears that a particular student has done more or less than her share of the
work, this information will factor into his or her final grade.
Provide a one or two sentence description of each members contribution and use the
following rating scale:
1 - almost no work
2 - less work than some others in the group
3 - about average for the group
4 - more work than some others in the group
5 - much more work than some others in the group
You will submit this feedback via Blackboard
Lastly, the Writing Fellows (described below) are available to provide support and
feedback for both written assignments for the class. Although not required for this
assignment, I encourage you to seek their feedback to optimize the written portion of this
assignment. Please be sure to provide your Writing Fellow with a draft AT LEAST one
week before the due date.
Personal Experience Presentation:
As an alternative to the group activity, you can choose to present a personal account or
experience of mental illness. These 10 to 15 minute presentations remind us that we are
studying the experiences of real people that are not too different from ourselves. Past
presentations have included "How I overcame a drinking problem through participation
in AA," "My experience with obsessive compulsive disorder," and My mothers struggle
with depression. If possible and if you are willing, we will also include a short question
and answer period. You will also hand in an outline of your presentation in advance.

If you wish to do a class presentation, you should e-mail me your proposed topic
before class 3 on January 23rd. The proposal should include a one paragraph description
of what you would like to discuss in your presentation. I will let you know on or before
January 23rd as to whether or not your topic was selected. By January 30th, I will provide
you with the date would be appropriate for your presentation. I recognize that sharing
your experience can be uncomfortable. I also recognize the rewards of both sharing ones
experience and learning about another persons experience. I encourage you to think
carefully before choosing this option.
Primary Account Paper
This paper is designed to deepen your understanding about mental illness through a firsthand experience. You are required to read an autobiography of a person who has or is
struggling with a mental illness. You may choose your own book or choose from a list
that I will provide (below) for you. You must provide your choice by class 5, January
30th. You will write a 4-6 page (double space) paper that should include the following.

A summary of the authors experience of his or her mental illness. This should
include the proposed etiology, onset or precipitating experience, and treatment (if
A description of how the mental illness shaped the persons experiences. How did
the mental illness shape the persons relationships, daily functioning, and
perspectives on life?
Your thoughts to the persons experience of mental illness and the treatment (if
any) that was received.
A description of an alternative treatment strategy that you believe would have
been more beneficial. Why?
A summary of how the book enriched or changed your perspective on mental
illness and the specific disorder.

This course collaborates with the Boston College Writing Fellows Program. You will
work with an assigned Writing Fellow for your Primary Account paper in an effort to
enhance your writing skills. Your paper will be completed in at least two parts that will
be reviewed with your Writing Fellow. First, you will submit a preliminary draft to your
Writing Fellow by March 25th. You will meet with your Writing Fellow the following
week. You will submit a second draft (with revisions) to your Writing Fellow by April
10th. You will again meet with your Writing Fellow the following week. You may meet
with your Writing Fellow in addition to these REQUIRED meetings. You will upload
your drafts to Blackboard on or before the specified deadlines. Your final paper is due via
Blackboard on April 29th.
You will be graded on the content as well as the quality of your paper. Spelling and
grammar errors will be considered in grading.


Class Date




Defining Abnormal
University Holiday: No Class
Film: Out of the Shadow
Critical Analysis groups assigned
Culture and Abnormality
Primary Account book selection due
Theoretical Perspectives
Theoretical Perspectives & Treatment
Mood Disorders
Mood Disorders and Suicide

--W & H, pgs. 1-14
--McAlpine & Mechanic
Tanaka- Matsumi (2001)

W & H, Ch. 3
W & H, Ch. 4
Jordan (2001)
W & H, Ch. 8
W & H, Ch. 5
http://www.wbur.org/npr/163643370/ assistedsuicide-goes-to-vote-in-massachusetts




Movie Presentations: Groups 1 & 2

Midterm Exam
Spring Vacation: No Class
Spring Vacation: No Class
Personality Disorders
Gender and Sexuality







Movie Presentations: Groups 3 & 4

Developmental Disorders
Primary Account draft 1 is due
Aging in America
Easter Monday: No Class
Discrimination and Stigma
Eating and Body
Film: Thin
Primary Account draft 2 is due
Patriots Day: No Class
Alcohol and Drug Addictions
Movie Presentations: Groups 5 & 6
Ethical and Legal Standards
Primary Account Paper Due
Final Exam: Thursday, May 9th, 12:30pm


W & H, Ch. 9
------W & H, Ch. 10
W & H, Ch. 7
Halgin, p. 35-51
W & H, Ch. 11
Halgin, p. 162-183
W & H, Ch. 12
--Thompson & Neville (1999)
W & H, Ch. 14
Kempa and Thomas (2000)
--W & H, Ch. 13
W & H, Ch. 15
Barnett & Johnson (2011)

*Lectures and readings may change to provide students with the most optimal learning
experience. It is the students responsibility to attend class and adhere to those changes.


Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher (2006)
Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel Smith (2012)
Aspergers Syndrome:
Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Aspergers by John Elder Robison (2007)
Bipolar Disorder:
An Unquiet Mind by Kay R. Jamison (1997)
Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenberg (2008)
Madness: A Bipolar Life by Marya Hornbacher (2008)
Manic: A Memoir by Terri Cheney (2008)
Borderline Personality Disorder:
Get Me Out of Here: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder by
Rachel Reiland (2004)
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen (1994)
Blue Genes: A Memoir of Loss and Survival by Christopher Lukas (2009)
Darkness Visible by William Styron (1990)
Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America by Elizabeth Wurtzel (1999)
The Beast: A Journey Through Depression by Tracy Thompson (1995)
The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon (2001)
Dissociative Identity Disorder:
First Person Plural: My Life as a Multiple by Cameron West (1999)
I Never Promised You a Rose Garden: A Novel by Joanne Greenberg (1969)
Out of the Depths by Anton Boisen (1960)
The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn Saks (2007)
The Quiet Room by Lori Schiller (1996)
Substance Abuse:
Lit by Mary Karr (2009)
Memoirs Arent Fairytales: A Story of Addiction by Marni Mann (2011)
More, Now, Again: A Memoir of Addiction by Elizabeth Wurtzel (2002)
Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Scheff (2008)