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  • Term Mode
  • Semester 2Campus Attendance
  • Term Mode
  • Semester 2Campus Attendance
  • Term Mode
  • Semester 2Campus Attendance


PSYC100 Foundations of Psychology AND PSYC101 Applications of Psychology

Teaching organisation

3 contact hours per week over 12 weeks or equivalent.

Unit rationale, description and aim

A key area of research and practice within psychology is the domain of abnormal behaviour and psychological distress. Abnormal behaviour is therefore a fundamental topic within the broad body of knowledge of psychology.

This unit examines theory and research in the field of abnormal psychology and investigates contemporary understandings of the concept of abnormality. The unit covers diagnostic systems frequently used to classify disorders, methodologies used to research psychopathology, and presents models of aetiology in abnormal behaviour. The major mental disorders are introduced and their primary diagnostic features described. Treatment issues are also discussed insofar as they relate to aetiology.

The aim of this unit is to introduce and describe key concepts within abnormal psychology, including the classification, diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders. This introduction is designed to highlight key theories and seminal research, thus providing an overview of current understandings of abnormal psychology.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Describe major theories and research in abnormal behaviour as well as identify historical and modern concepts of normality, abnormality, psychopathology, deviance and mental illnessGC1, GC3, GC9, GC11
LO2Explain the aetiology, diagnosis and treatment of the major mental disorders affecting emotional, social and behavioural functionGC1, GC2, GC3, GC11
LO3Recognise ethical issues and problems of diagnosis and treatmentGC1, GC2, GC3, GC7
LO4Communicate a basic understanding of psychopathology and its treatmentGC1, GC3, GC11
LO5Apply knowledge of psychology in a manner that is sensitive to working with diverse populations, in particular with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoplesGC2, GC5


Topics will include: 

  • Definition and history of concepts of abnormality, mental disorder and psychopathology
  • Cultural and historical notions, and models of psychopathology
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ social and emotional wellbeing
  • Formal and informal classification systems, common misconceptions and myths
  • Models of and research in etiology, including neuroscience and biological basis of behaviour 
  • Ethical and legislative frameworks (including privacy and human rights).
  • Problems of childhood and adolescence
  • Major mental disorders e.g. schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, S.A.D., eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders, phobias, sexual disorders, dissociative syndromes, personality disorders, somatoform disorders, stress and illness, addictions, neurological disorders
  • Therapies in abnormal psychology and consumer and carer participation in the care of psychological disorders

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit has the equivalent of 3 contact hours per week over 12 weeks which includes lectures and tutorials. Students benefit from active participation in class and the opportunity to discuss the various issues that arise in the course of this unit, including some of the complexities associated with the conceptualisation and diagnosis of psychological disorders. The tutorial classes are structured to ensure active participation from all students, whereby students are expected to contribute to class discussions on a regular basis. This format provides opportunities for peer-led discussions and learning, in addition to the teaching provided by staff. These guided discussions are beneficial in assisting students to attain the learning outcomes of this unit.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to successfully complete this unit, students must:

  • complete and submit all of the assessment tasks listed in the table below
  • obtain an aggregate mark of at least 50%
  • demonstrate achievement of each learning outcome

The assessment strategy for this unit allows students to demonstrate their acquisition of knowledge, as well as the application of that knowledge. Recall of key knowledge concepts is assessed via multiple choice questions in the final exam. Short answer questions in this exam provides students with an opportunity to demonstrate their grasp of key concepts and their ability to synthesise information learnt throughout the course in meaningful ways. The written assignments provide a valid and authentic learning and assessment opportunity. The film critique utilises feature films depicting psychological disorders as a stimulus for students to apply their knowledge of abnormal psychology to “real-world” situations. Referral letters are used by practitioners in various settings to refer individuals for specialised assistance; in this task students will demonstrate their ability to write professionally, identify key issues and incorporate appropriate knowledge. Taken together, these assessment tasks facilitate the demonstration of each of the learning outcomes of this unit.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Assessment Task 1: Film Critique

Provides students with an opportunity to evaluate depictions of psychological disorders in light of theory, research and societal influences.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

Assessment Task 2: Referral Letter

Provides students with an opportunity to apply their knowledge of theory and research to a fictional client.


LO3, LO4, LO5

Assessment Task 3: Final Exam  

Assesses knowledge and understanding of course content.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

Representative texts and references

American Psychological Association (2019). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). Author.

American Psychiatric Association (2022). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. (5th ed., Text Revision). Author.

Australian Psychological Society. (2012). Guidelines for the provision of psychological services for, and the conduct of psychological research with, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia. Ethical Guidelines (11th ed.), 7-14, Melbourne, Australia: Australian Psychological Society.

Barlow, D. H., Durand, V. M., & Hofmann, S.G. (2022). Psychopathology: An integrative approach to mental disorders (9th ed.). Cengage. 

Bloch, S. (2014). Understanding troubled minds: A guide to mental illness and its treatment. (2nd ed.). Melbourne University Press.

Brown, T. A., & Barlow, D.H. (2016). Casebook in abnormal psychology (5th ed.). Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.

Comer, R. J. (2018). Abnormal psychology (10th ed.). Worth Publishers. Kearney, C.A. (2010). Casebook in childhood behaviour disorders (4th ed.). Wadsworth/Cengage Learning. 

Dudgeon, P., Milroy, H., & Walker, R. (2014). Working together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and wellbeing principles and practice (2nd ed). Commonwealth of Australia.

Gee, G., Dudgeon, P., Schultz, C., Hart, A., & Kelly, K. (2014). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional well-being. In P. Dudgeon, H. Milroy, & R. Walker (Eds.), Working together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and wellbeing principles and practice (2nd ed.). (pp. 55-68). Commonwealth of Australia.

Oltmanns, T. F., & Emery, R. (2019). Abnormal psychology (9th ed.). Pearson.

Rieger, E. (2017). Abnormal psychology: Leading researcher perspectives (4th ed.). McGraw Hill.

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