Credit points


Campus offering

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PSYC621 Professional Practice in Psychology , PSYC630 Psychological Assessment

Unit rationale, description and aim

In order to address the increasing prevalence of psychological disorders in adults around the world and in our communities, the practice of clinical psychology requires an in-depth and critical understanding and application of the principles and methods of psychological diagnosis, assessment, formulation and intervention of psychological disorders in adults. This unit is designed to provide a detailed study of diagnostic criteria, aetiological factors (including epidemiological, risk, protective and maintenance factors) and psychological models relevant to assessment and intervention of psychological disorders. There will be a particular focus on empirically validated interventions for severe, complex, and chronic disorders diagnosed in adults, including anxiety and mood disorders, and disorders associated with eating, addictive behaviours, personality and psychosis. Students will acquire knowledge of assessment and intervention skills with a particular focus on evidence-based assessment, formulation and intervention for psychological disorders in adults. The aim is to provide students with essential knowledge and practical skills to support their clinical work with adults with psychological disorders.

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.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Describe the diagnostic criteria, aetiological factors, assessment methods, and empirically validated treatments for psychological disorders typically seen in adulthood (GA5, GA6); 

LO2 - Integrate, interpret, and synthesize psychological assessment data with knowledge of psychopathology to inform clinical formulations, diagnoses and intervention plans for disorders typically seen in adulthood, and explain the link between diagnosis, formulation and intervention plans, goals and strategies for disorders typically seen in adulthood (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9); 

LO3 - Apply culturally responsive clinical evaluation skills – particularly in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples - to identify, select, implement, tailor and evaluate a range of empirically validated treatments for disorders typically seen in adulthood (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9). 

Graduate attributes

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include: 

  • Current diagnosis and classification systems 
  • Diagnostic criteria, aetiological factors, assessment methods, and psychological models for common psychological disorders typically seen in adults 
  • Conducting clinical assessment and diagnosis of disorders typically seen in adults 
  • Empirically validated treatment for disorders typically seen in adults 
  • Identifying, selecting and implementing a range of empirically validated treatment for disorders typically seen in adults 
  • Justifying the link between diagnosis, formulation and intervention plans, goals and strategies 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Postgraduate students in psychology are expected to be independent learners; this is reflected in an approach which puts students at the centre of their learning through participation in discussions. This unit therefore uses an active learning approach presented through a combination of lectures, workshops and web-based learning delivered in face-to-face mode for 3.5 hours per week. Students will be expected to take responsibility for their learning and to participate actively within class activities. Learning and teaching strategies used in lectures and workshops include case-based learning, demonstrations, role plays, web-based learning, and reflective/critical thinking activities. Lectures and demonstrations are structured to deliver essential content, while workshops and role plays provide students with opportunities to practice and discuss assessment and intervention strategies. Web-based learning and reflective/critical thinking activities will enhance learning and provide opportunities for students to take responsibility for their learning and to participate actively. This range of strategies will provide students with appropriate access to required knowledge and understanding of unit content, and opportunities for development of competency in clinical adult psychology.   

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy for this unit allows students to collaborate with each other and demonstrate their acquisition and critical application of evidence-based assessment and intervention skills. In order to best enable students to demonstrate unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes, standards-based assessment is utilised, consistent with university assessment requirements. The written assignment is designed to assess students’ ability to critically analyse and synthesize information relevant to diagnosis, assessment and formulation of an adult psychological disorder. The skills demonstration is designed to assess students’ ability to develop a treatment plan and demonstrate their therapeutic skills. The exam is designed to assess students’ knowledge in assessment and diagnosis of psychological disorders in adults. Students must pass all assessment tasks in order to pass the unit as it is critical that students demonstrate an appropriate level of knowledge and skills related to diagnosis, assessment, formulation and intervention in adults which is essential to the practice of clinical psychology. A failure in any of these tasks is likely to translate to an unacceptable level of risk to clients the student will come into contact with on subsequent practicums. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes


Requires students to demonstrate their knowledge in assessment and diagnosis of psychological disorders in adults, including culturally responsive practice particularly in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 


LO1. LO3 

GA5, GA6, 

Written Assignment:  

To assess students’ ability to critically evaluate and integrate the literature on evidence based assessment and diagnoses 


LO1, LO2 

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8,GA9, 

Skills demonstration:  

Requires students to demonstrate their competencies in specific intervention strategies 


LO1. LO3 

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9 

Representative texts and references

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. 


Barlow, D. H. (2014). Clinical handbook of psychological disorders: A step-by-step treatment manual. New York: Guilford.  


Barlow D. H. (2014). The Oxford handbook of clinical psychology. New York: Oxford University Press. 


Beidel, D. C., & Frueh, B. C. (2018). Adult psychopathology and diagnosis (8th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. 


Carr, A., & McNulty, M. (2016). The handbook of adult clinical psychology: An evidence-based practice approach (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge 


First, M. B. (2013). DSM-5 Handbook of Differential Diagnosis. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. 


Persons, J., & Tompkins, M. (2007). Cognitive-behavioral case formulation. Handbook of psychotherapy case formulation (2nd ed.) (pp. 290-316). New York: The Guilford Press. 


Sommers-Flanagan, J., & Sommers-Flanagan, R. (2017). Clinical interviewing (6th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. 


World Health Organisation (2018). International statistical classification of diseases and related health problems (11th revision). Retrieved from:  

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