Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Introduction to Critical Psychology

LEVEL 03 - Years 2, 3, 4 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION Critical psychology examines critical perspectives within psychology. It highlights ways in which mainstream psychology has reinforced unjust practices, impacting people in general, and historically marginalized groups in particular. Traditional psychology has historically stopped with analysis at the level of the person. Any discussion of society is generally related to the individual's functioning in society or how they are affected by society. In this unit students will have the opportunity to explore and contrast the values, assumptions and objectives of mainstream psychology with critical psychology. In particular students will explore the ways in which traditional psychological approaches hinder well-being and social justice, detrimentally impacting individuals and communities. Through critical psychology students will learn skills for engaging in emancipatory practices that promote human welfare and social justice Critical psychology draws heavily from a multifaceted analysis that takes into consideration: society, systems of power, environment and activism.

Study-unit Aims:

The study-unit aims to critically examine the history of Psychology, to explore the development of theory, research and practice in psychology and to pave the way for transformative social action.

Some critical psychology themes students will explore include:

- The history of psychology: a critical perspective;
- Philosophical concerns in critical psychology;
- Discourse and Psychology;
- A critical look at theories of personality;
- The politics of clinical psychology and psychiatry – perspectives on mental illness, diagnostic categories and nomenclatures, critiquing the DSM;
- Critical social psychology/critical health psychology/critical organisational psychology;
- Crucial social issues; race, class, gender, disability liberatory practices for well-being;
- Critical practice: theory: methodology; therapy;
- Community psychology: transformative social action.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

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

- examine the practical and philosophical implications of debates between mainstream and critical approaches to psychology;
- demonstrate understanding of how by focusing on the individual rather than the group and larger society, mainstream psychology overemphasizes individualistic values, hinders the attainment of mutuality and community, and strengthens unjust institutions;
- demonstrate understanding of how mainstream psychology’s underlying assumptions and institutional allegiances disproportionately hurt members of powerless and marginalized groups by facilitating inequality and oppression; and
- develop alternate understanding of theory, research methodology and practice;
- engage in critical debate on mainstream perspectives in psychology;
- broaden one’s viewpoint beyond the focus on the individual.

2. Skills:

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

- develop skills that allow for transformative action in the profession such as critical research skills, redirecting the focus from the individual level of analysis to the social, learning to advocate for minority groups, redressing inequality through addressing power relations in the profession of psychology..

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- Fox, D., Prilleltensky, I. and Austin, S. (2009) Critical Psychology: An Introduction London: Sage Publications


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment SEM1 Yes 100%


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It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2021/2. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.