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PSYC5042 Lifespan Psychopathology: Adulthood and Ageing

Graduate Course Unit

PSYC5042 Lifespan Psychopathology: Adulthood and Ageing

Duration: One trimester

Level: Five

Credit points: 4

Prerequisites: None

Mode(s) of delivery: On-campus

Core/elective: Core

Unit description

This unit prepares students to understand major classificatory systems, aetiology, assessment, and psychological and psychopharmacological interventions for major adult psychopathologies, such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, psychosis and personality disorders. The focus of the unit is understanding psychopathology, understanding the client on the basis of psychological formulation as well as diagnosis; developing an understanding of the major psychological interventions and their evidence-base, barriers and facilitators to the use of effective interventions with particular disorders and client populations; consideration of the complexities of co-morbidity and context. This application of fundamental aspects of professional psychology practice to a range of non-clinical settings, including educational, workplace and sport settings is also considered.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit students should be able to:

  • demonstrate an understanding of psychological theories and models of psychopathology related to adults and the ageing, and of the empirical findings that support them
  • use the current DSM criteria to accurately classify psychopathology based on symptom profiles
  • identify appropriate assessment tools to assist differential diagnosis
  • demonstrate understanding of evidence-based psychological and psychopharmacological interventions
  • describe applications of fundamental aspects of professional psychology practice to a range of non-clinical settings, including educational, workplace and sport settings
  • demonstrate understanding of the legal, professional and ethical implications of using psychological interventions with clients in a range of settings
  • explain and justify choice of a psychological intervention for use with a specific client presentation based on empirical research
  • demonstrate skills for implementing cognitive behaviour therapy and other evidence-based therapies
  • demonstrate skills in information literacy and academic writing
  • demonstrate skills in communication appropriate for level of professional development

Unit content



Week 1

CBT 1: Introduction to basic CBT theory

Week 2

CBT 2: Introduction to basic CBT skills

Week 3

Review of key concepts in psychopathology, Co-morbidity; Psychopathology across the
lifespan: adjustment disorders, relational and family problems; ageing-related problems

Week 4

Mood disorders: Depressive Disorders, Bipolar Disorders

Week 5

Anxiety disorders 1: Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Specific Phobia, Social Phobia, Panic

Week 6

Anxiety disorders 2: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder


Mid-Trimester Study Week

Week 7

Psychosis; Dissociative Disorders

Week 8

Eating Disorders

Week 9

Personality Disorders

Week 10

Substance-related Disorders; Sexual Disorders

Study Week

Exam Week

Learning and teaching process

The unit requires students to attend and participate in five hours of classes scheduled weekly from Week 1 to Week 10 of trimester. The seminar will include a lecture component and a range of student-focused, active, learning activities. Students will be expected to prepare for each seminar by completing specified activities, such as reading journal articles and book chapters, as appropriate. Students are expected to actively participate in seminar activities and it is assumed that students will spend a further 12 hours in private study including reading, preparation, and completing assessments for each scheduled class.

Graduate attributes

The material covered in this unit will contribute to the development of the following graduate attributes:

  1. Knowledge and understanding of core topics in psychology. These topics include abnormal psychology, biological bases of behaviour, cognition, information processing and language, learning, lifespan developmental psychology, perception, social psychology and intercultural diversity and indigenous psychology.
  2. Research methods in psychology. This attribute covers an understanding of the characteristics of the science of psychology and the different and varied research methods used by psychologists. It also includes the acquisition of practical skills in laboratory-based research and other methods, the design of studies to address psychological questions, critical analysis, the formulation of testable hypotheses, the choice of an appropriate methodology, the question of reliability and validity and their meanings and operations, the analysis of data, and the writing of reports.
  3. Critical thinking skills. The attribute includes the application of scientific method to the study of mental and behavioural problems, the examination of other modes of understanding the world and the development of other world views, and a recognition of the fallacies and the biases that can affect human thinking and analysis.
  4. Values, research and professional ethics. This attribute includes the evaluation of the behaviour of psychologists in psychological research and other professional contexts and is in the context of the Australian Psychological Society “Code of Ethics” and the Australian “National Practice Standards for the Mental Health Workforce”. Values and professional ethics must also be understood and evaluated in the context of social ethical principles and ethical conduct in legal, medical and institutional behaviour.
  5. Communication skills. Students need to learn how to communicate effectively orally in various settings (group discussion, presentations, both formal and informal) for various purposes. Written communication, in the form of written reports, should be according to professionally accepted formats. In psychology we follow the American Psychological Association structure and formatting conventions.
  6. Learning and the application of psychology. This attribute includes the application of knowledge of legislative frameworks and the application of knowledge about laws and conventions in work settings, consumer and carer participation and in the general matter of the conduct of application of psychology. It also considers how there may be variation of legislation across different areas of application. 
    Students also need to be cognisant of the need to sustain independent learning for professional and personal development over their life, in the changing social and cultural practices in society and in the practice and development of the scientific basis of psychology.

Assessment summary



Word Count

Submission Week

Written clinical case discussion

Basic case discussion of two case vignettes, including diagnosis, initial
psychological formulation and recommended treatment plan.

Learning outcomes: a, b, d, e, h, i, j





Short answer and essay examination assessing understanding of all
material presented in the unit, including material presented in 
seminars and in prescribed reading.

Learning outcomes: a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h


2 hours


Special provisions

Students are expected to attend, prepare for, and contribute to each scheduled class.

Recommended text

Beck, J. (2011). Cognitive behaviour therapy: Basics and beyond (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.

Lindsay, S., & Powell, G. E. (Eds.). (2007). The handbook of clinical adult psychology (3rd ed.). Hove, UK: Routlege.

Other significant references

Additional references will be provided for each class

American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Blackledge, J., Ciarrochi, J., & Deane, F. (eds.). (2009). Acceptance and commitment therapy: Contemporary theory, research and practice [electronic resource]. Brisbane, Australia: Australian Academic Press.

Goodheart, C. D., Kazdin, A. E., & Sternberg, R. J. (Eds.). (2006). Evidence-based psychotherapy: Where practice and research meet. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Hagen, R., Turkington, D., Berge, T., & Grawe, R. (2010). CBT for psychosis: A symptom-based approach. London, England: Routledge.

Hersen, M. (Ed.). (2005). Encyclopedia of behavior modification and cognitive behavior therapy (Vols. 1-3). London, England: Sage.

Ingram, R. E., & Price, J. M. (Eds.). (2010). Vulnerability to psychopathology: Risk across the lifespan. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Marlatt, G., Chawla, N., & Bowen, S. (2010). Mindfulness-based relapse prevention for addictive behaviors: A clinician's guide. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Millon, T., Krueger, R. F., & Simonsen, E. (Eds.). (2010). Contemporary directions in psychopathology: Scientific foundations of the DSM-V and ICD-11. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Roth, A., & Fonagy, P. (with Parry, G., Target, M., & Woods, R.). (2005). What works for whom? A critical review of psychotherapy research (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Sturmey, P. (Ed.). (2007). Functional analysis in clinical treatment. Boston, MA: Academic Press.

Woo, S. M., & Keatinge, C. (2008). Diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders across the lifespan. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Zarit, S. H., Zarit, J. M. (2007). Mental disorders in older adults: Fundamentals of assessment and treatment (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Relevant journals

Readings will be available for class discussion throughout the trimester. Online access to a range of psychological journals is available through EBSCOhost, through the library eResources tab in the ACAP Current Students website

Important journals include:

American Journal of Psychiatry
Australian Psychologist
British Journal of Clinical Psychology
British Journal of Psychiatry

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
Developmental Psychology
Eating Disorders
Journal of Abnormal Psychology
Journal of Clinical Psychology
Journal of Mental Health
Psychology and Ageing
Psychosis: Psychological, Social and Integrative Approaches

Academic misconduct

Ethical conduct and academic integrity and honesty are fundamental to the mission of ACAP. Academic misconduct will not be tolerated by the college. This includes plagiarism of any nature. It is your responsibility to make sure that you understand what constitutes plagiarism in order to ensure that you do not engage in it. Please refer to the Academic Misconduct Policy for full details.


This unit outline may be updated and amended from time to time. To ensure you have the correct outline please check it throughout the trimester. Your lecturer will advise when there are updates on the site and also when readings are available for class discussion.