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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

John Eric Stewart
BIS 477
Bothell Campus

Abnormal Psychology

Interdisciplinary exploration of topics in abnormal psychology. Examines common mental illnesses through the use of film and literature. Also presents epidemiological data.

Class description

Abnormal Psychology: Typically, this course familiarizes students with current and historical understandings of abnormal behavior, etiology, diagnostic categories and systems, and the characteristic behaviors and experiences associated with these diagnoses. This class will cover these topics, along with the standard treatment/management approaches, but we will also critically address the more fundamental assumptions and values of medicine/psychiatry and psychology that shape the practices and theories of, in fact, the concept of “abnormal psychology.” We will also consider alternative models and understandings (e.g., feminist, queer, cultural, social constructionist and community perspectives).

Course Description: This course will familiarize students with the various perspectives scientists (and others) have taken in trying to understand and treat various kinds of severe behavioral and/or psychological problems, and the implications of these perspectives for thinking about people, problems, and change more generally (and, in some ways, the kind of world we live in). (Ab)normal, DSM, testing, diagnosis, disorder and pathology, medications, genetics, attention deficit disorder, eating disorder, conduct disorder, addiction, depression, identity, self esteem, anxiety, therapy, sensitivity, healthy, parenting, issues; these are terms that have become very much a part of our regular discourse and popular culture, as well as our own self- and other-understandings. Furthermore, government, business, and education are deeply invested in the construction, control and deployment of knowledge about abnormal psychology and the treatments of it. We will address these topics from both the “regular” science (psychiatry, psychology) perspectives and several more “critical” perspectives (including those of the people contending with one or more diagnoses). Students will become knowledgeable about the DSM, its diagnostic systems and categories (i.e., the disorders), etiological models and theories, and treatment approaches, but will also become better able to question the costs and benefits of these models. Teaching methods include lecture, class discussion and small group activities, films, readings (canonical and non-canonical), and guest lectures.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Some background in Psychology (Intro, Biological) helpful, but not a necessity; social theory, biology, medicine, nursing, likewise helpful, but not requisite.

Class assignments and grading

Students will be graded on participation, short response papers, a critical case study, a hermeneutically developed paper, and/or short (relatively low-stakes) exams.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Pamela A. De Priest
Date: 08/31/2006