Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Psychotherapeutic Approaches: CBT, Ethics and Psychopharmacology

UM LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course




DESCRIPTION The unit builds on Psychotherapeutic Approaches I, which is a prerequisite, and considers two further interventions to psychopathology and psychological distress as well as considering the ethical issues related to both psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacological treatment. It presents a fourth intervention approach, namely cognitive behavioural therapy. The theory will be illustrated by case studies.

A complementary, although medical approach, will also be presented, namely psychopharmacology.This study-unit aims to provide a sound understanding of the principles underlying basic concepts in psycho-pharmacology. It also gives the basis of the therapeutic action of drugs in the various phases of drug action, from the molecular level to general pharmacological activity. It will also consider the mode of action of specific drug classes used in the treatment of mental disorders affecting behaviour. Indications will be given of instances when individuals may benefit from the concomitant use of both psychotherapy and psychopharmacology.

Finally, this study-unit will help participants to consider the ethical issues and dilemmas that arise in therapeutic and psychopharmacological interventions from a practical perspective. On a personal level it encourages students to identify and deal with their strengths and weaknesses, assets and liabilities in the area of ethics. In addition the study-unit informs students about National and International Professional standards.

Study-unit Aims:

This study-unit aims to consolidate students' understanding of the various theoretical underpinnings of the various psychotherapeutic approaches dealt with in Psychotherapeutic Approaches I, through the consideration of the cognitive behavioural therapeutic approach. It will teach students how to conduct a formulation from the cognitive behavioural perspective on the basis of case studies provided. It will strengthen students' understanding of how this conceptual framework informs the implementation of specific therapeutic techniques.

It will also provide students with a basic understanding of the therapeutic action of drugs, from the molecular level to general pharmacological activity. Specific drug classes used in the treatment of mental disorders affecting behaviour will be considered and how this may be complementary to psychotherapeutic intervention.

Finally students will be given the opportunity to consider the ethical issues involved in the role of psychologist particularly in relation to psychotherapeutic intervention as well as in relation to referral for psychopharmocological support.

Learning Outcomes:

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

- Evaluate the theoretical underpinnings of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy in relation to other forms of psychotherapy;
- Make a comprehensive formulation integrating various aspects of the client's life history, symptoms and contextual information from the theoretical framework of Cognitive Behaviour therapy;
- Analyse the theoretical and technical divergences between schools of psychotherapy and the varying methods of integration;
- Differentiate between the specific drug classes and drugs used in the treatment of mental disorders as well as the therapeutic action of drugs in the various phases of drug action;
- Determine instances where the use of psychoparmacology may be indicated as a supplement to psychotherapy;
- Evaluate ethical dilemmas in psychotherapy;
- Compare the different psychological ethical codes in Malta and Europe.

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

- Discern which method of psychotherapeutic intervention is applicaple for specific clients and conditions;
- Implement relevant therapeutic techniques and strategies whilst drawing from the Cognitive Behavioural theoretical framework and whilst referring to formulation;
- Evaluate progress in therapy and make recommendations regarding follow-up;
- Build a meaningful and collaborative therapeutic relationship with clients;
- Approach clients non-judgmentally with sensitivity to issues of gender, class and culture in psychotherapy;
- Focus on the uniqueness of the person and tailor the approach to the individual’s unique needs rather than to attempt to fit the client to the specific approach;
- Differentiate between diverse action of drugs when administered for specific mental disorders;
- Evaluate instances requiring the use of psychopharacology as a supplement to psychotherapy;
- Demonstrate the application of ethical standards in psychotherapeutic intervention;
- Analyse the different aspects of ethical dilemmas that professionals should consider in taking decisions about clients.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Barlow, D.H., Cerny, J.A. (1988). Psychological treatment of panic. The Guilford Press.
Beck, A.T. (1976). Cognitive herapy and emotional disorders. New York: International University Press.
Beck, A.T., Emery, G., Rush, A.J., Shaw, B.F. (1979). Cognitive therapy of depression. Guilford Press.
Bennett-Levy, J. (2004). The Oxford guide to behavioural experiments in cognitive therapy. Oxford University Press.
Chadwick, P.D.J. (2006). Person-based cognitive therapy for distressing psychosis. Wiley.
Dallos, R. & Johnstone, L. (Eds.). (2006). Formulation in psychology and psychotherapy: Making sense of people's problems. Uk: Routledge.
Linehan, M.M. (1993). Cognitive behavioural treatment of borderline personality disorder. The Guilford Press.
Segal, Z.V., Williams, J.M., & Teasdale, J.D. (2002). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression. New York: Guildford Press.

Professional Ethics

Bersoff, D. N. (1995). Ethical Conflicts in Psychology. Washington: American Psychological Association.
Howitt, D. (2006). Introduction to Forensic and Criminal Psychology. Pearson Education Limited: Essex.
Wolber, G.J.& Carne W.F. (1993). Writing Psychological reports. Professional Resource Press: Florida.

Bass, L. J. et al (1996). Professional Conduct and Discipline in Psychology. Washington: AmericanPsychological Association.
Corey, G., Corey, M. S., & Callanan, P. (1998). Issues and Ethics in the Helping Professions. London: Brooks/Cole.
Feltham, C. (Ed.) (1999). Controversies in Psychotherapy and Counselling. London: Sage.
Madden, R. G. (1998). Legal Issues in Social Work, Counselling and Mental Health. London: Sage.
Nagy, T. F. (2000). Ethics in Plain English: An Illustrative Casebook forPsychologists. Washington: American Psychological Association.
Pope, K. S., & Vasquez, M. J. T. (2001). Ethics in Psychotherapy and Counselling. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Bennett, P.N., Brown, M.J. (2009). Clinical pharmacology. 10th ed. Oxford: Churchill Livingstone.
BNF. British national formulary. London: Pharmaceutical Press.
Neal, M.J., (2009). Medical pharmacology at a glance. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.
Nestler E.J., Hyman S.E., Malenka R.C. (2009). Molecular Neuropharmacology – A Foundation for Clinical Science. New York: Mc-Graw-Hill.
Stahl S.M. (2008). Essential Psychopharmacology –Neuroscientific Basis and Practical Applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

ADDITIONAL NOTES Pre-Requisite qualifications: BPsy (Hons)

Pre-Requisite Study-units: Psychotherapeutic Approaches 1


Assessment Component/s Sept. Asst Session Weighting
Multiple Choice Questions Examination (1 Hour) Yes 20%
Assignment Yes 40%
Presentation Yes 40%

LECTURER/S Stephen Attard
Stephanie Bartolo
Maria A. Cordina
Janet Mifsud
Christopher Role
Charles Scerri
Sandra Scicluna Calleja


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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 2023/4. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.