Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Understanding Psychopathology: A General and Systemic Approach

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT Family Studies

DESCRIPTION This unit will help students engage with knowledge of psychopathology, primarily depression, anxiety, personality disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, addictions and trauma. It will also assist students to look at the development of psychopathology in children and younger persons. Students will be expected to also critically appraise the medical - psychiatric model, especially the use of diagnostic language. They will be expected to look more widely to family, context, relationships, culture and community, rather than locate psychological disorders or pathology in individuals. They will be expected to take a non-pathologising stance at people having mental health issues and give priority to the concerns and understanding of such clients and their families. In so doing, they will also be expected to evaluate the best treatment of choice for specific psychological disorders in children, young adults and adults from an individual and family perspective. Finally, students will be expected to become aware of their own biases and attitudes towards mental illness through a process of self-reflexivity.

Study-unit Aims:

This unit aims to assist students in understanding the suffering and the various signs and symptoms of psychic and behavioural problems in persons in order to enable an accurate assessment and formulation. A systemic perspective will be taken as a theoretical framework - that is one that looks at social, cultural and evironmental factors to better comprehend and analyse different presenting problems of psychopathology both in how these problems impact the family members and how the family can have an impact on the psychological suffering. Case examples will be used.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- describe and differentiate between signs and symptoms of psychological and behavioural problems in psychological disorders;
- evaluate the best treatment of choice for specific psychological disorders in adults, young persons and children both from an individual and family perspective;
- understand the tensions that the medical -psychiatric model presents to family therapists, when it marginalises the concerns and understandings of clients and families and ignores the relational aspects of therapeutic practice.

2. Skills: By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- critically evaluate family situations where there is psychopathology;
- conduct a thorough systemic formulation which takes into account the understanding of the individuals' difficulties in the context of their family, and other life contexts such as their culture, race, gender and class;
- evaluate appropriate treatment methods in the light of evidence- based research and also practice -based evidence and client-informed outcomes including what is effective in family therapy research;
- become aware of own biases and attitudes towards mental illness through self-reflexivity.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main text:

- Oyebode, F. (2014). Sims' symptoms in the mind: A textbook of descriptive psychopathology. (5th ed). London: Saunders Elsevier.

Supplementary readings:

- Abela, A., Farrugia, R., Vella, A., & DeGiovanni, K. (2015). Familialistic countries needs a family inclusive service when caring for people with mental health problems- the case of Malta. Families, relationships and Societies. Online First.
- Coates, D. & Howe, D. (2015). Working with families who experience parental mental health and/or drug and alcohol problems in the context of child protection concerns: Recommendations for service improvement. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 36, 341.
- Larner, G. (2012). Family Therapy in Mental Health. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, Vol. 33. No. 2, pp. 99-100. doi 10.1017/aft. 2012.12.
- Mcllwaine, F., & O' Sullivan, K. (2015). Riding the wave: Working systemically with traumatised families. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 36, 310- 324.
- Weaver, A., Greeno, C.G., Marcus, S.C., Fusco, R. A., Zimmerman, T. & Anderson, C. (2013). Effects of Structural Family Therapy on child and Maternal Mental Health Symptomatology, Vol. 23(3) pp. 294-303.


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment SEM2 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Charlene Borg
Claire Casha
Audrey-Ann Falzon
Roberta Farrugia Debono (Co-ord.)
Maria Lisa Gilson
Paulann Grech
Daniel Mercieca
Elaine Schembri Lia

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.